Long Beach officials are moving forward with a plan to open up some of the city’s streets, sidewalks and parking lots for public use in an effort to help businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
The City Council approved the Open Streets Initiative at its Tuesday meeting.
“Tonight, Long Beach moved forward on an Open Streets Initiative that will make it possible to give our local small businesses more support while giving residents more space to physically distance,” Mayor Robert Garcia said.
The plan “will make it possible to temporarily re-purpose some of our public spaces — think sidewalks, off-street parking and large parking lots — into safe spaces for physically distanced retail, dining, and potentially even entertainment,” Garcia said.
“Over the last few weeks, we have heard from so many small businesses which are hurting and want to reopen but are worried about how to do so safely. All across the world, we are seeing cities and small businesses work together on outdoor dining and other uses of open space to spur economic activity, support community building and a sense of normalcy we all crave while physically distanced,” Garcia said.
City traffic engineer Carl Hickman told the panel about different options for reducing vehicle traffic to make way for businesses and pedestrians.
Hickman said streets could be closed to all vehicles except for local traffic, and arterial streets could be partially closed by implementing a temporary “road diet,” allowing businesses to expand partway into the road and slimming down the number of lanes available to vehicles, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported.
Major streets, meanwhile, could be completely closed to all vehicle traffic except for emergency use.
Hickman said the city would approach the idea with an emphasis on flexibility that would include input from business owners and residents alike.
The item did not include a timeline for when Long Beach should implement such a plan, but Garcia said he hoped the city would “move quickly” on the idea.