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Manhattan Beach: Dining Area on Manhattan Ave. to Reopen for Traffic

Feb 23, 2021 12:44PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Manhattan Ave. will reopen to regular traffic today (Tuesday, February 23), following a two-week experiment with a street closure to allow for outdoor dining spaces.

The closure began on February 12, and was extended for an additional weekend.

Councilmember Richard Montgomery, a member of the city council subcommittee that approved the street closure, told DigMB on Tuesday that the city had received both positive and negative comments on the issue.

"The closure was a trial. And some downtown residents were unhappy with the closure - traffic was one of the complaints - along with a retail store and other downtown restaurants as they believe the closure was not 'equitable," Montgomery told DigMB.

"Other residents wanted the closure to remain and the Downtown Business Association informed us that all retail stores - except one - had positive sales since the closure was installed," he added.

DigMB received further comment from Councilmember Steve Napolitano, the other councilmember on the subcommittee. In an email to DigMB, also on Tuesday, Napolitano wrote: 

"Unfortunately, the set up of our downtown leaves limited opportunities for street closures that don't have major impacts on residents, businesses and visitors. We have just two main arteries running north and south through our downtown and both carry a heavy load of traffic. The location we chose to try a closure is flat, next to a high concentration of restaurants, and was on a stretch with slightly less traffic than other sections. Unfortunately, the impacts were still huge and it took the equivalent of the workforce we apply to special events to manage it. We also had major complaints from those living in or near the downtown, as well as folks who travel through it. Issues of equity and fairness were also raised by our other restaurants that are in areas that would create even worse impacts if they were closed. All these factors combined proved the concept to be unsustainable. So we met yesterday with our business representatives and city staff and made the decision to end the experiment. We learned some invaluable lessons, including the extent to which we can probably reconfigure things for the moment. At the same time, we went over the area block by block to see what can be done to make sure our restaurants can achieve seating parity to the extent possible and hope to nibble around the edges more to add some tables here and there without major shutdowns. Closing our streets to through traffic anywhere has major impacts, and shutting down streets in our downtown or other commercial areas, while idea, also demand a commitment by all involved to say 'Yes, this is what we want, this is what we're willing to give up, and even if I don't benefit it's still better overall,' but we found we're just not there yet. While everyone wants that European feel, it will require a reset of expectations, transportation habits and acceptance. I believe we'll get there one day, but with our businesses still struggling and frustrations at an all time high with so many things, we're not there yet."

Official Statement from the City

The full statement from the city is below:

"In the late afternoon today, the city will restore two-way traffic on Manhattan Avenue in Downtown Manhattan Beach after a two-week trial closure to facilitate additional social distancing at restaurants offering outdoor dining in the public right-of-way. Upon assessing impacts and carefully considering community input, the city has decided to reopen the affected areas to vehicular traffic. 

"The city continues to allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining in the public right-of-way and actively works to minimize impacts to residents and businesses as a result of COVID-19 operating restrictions. Additionally, staff will review the equitable allocation of outdoor dining areas for restaurants in the public right-of-way.

"The city thanks residents and the business community for their patience during the trial closure. As the community has done throughout the coronavirus pandemic, residents are encouraged to shop and dine local."

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