station 55 parklet downtown gilroy
The Gilroy City Council soon plans to extend Station 55 Seafood and Mexican Cocina’s permit for a parklet in front of its business at 55 Fifth St. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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After hearing from many people in recent weeks who criticized its decision not to extend a downtown restaurant’s permit for an outdoor dining area, the Gilroy City Council on Jan. 22 agreed to pursue a parklet program and allow Station 55 Seafood and Mexican Cocina to keep its seating area.

On a unanimous vote, the council directed its downtown committee to draft a parklet program, and agreed to put an extension of Station 55’s parklet on the next meeting agenda.

Located at 55 Fifth St., Station 55’s parklet was constructed in 2020 after the council approved a temporary program that would allow businesses to set up such seating areas to serve guests outdoors in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The program was extended multiple times through Dec. 31.

But on Dec. 11, a split council elected not to extend the parklet. At that meeting, the council directed city staff to conduct a survey of downtown eating and drinking establishments and building owners to gauge their interest in constructing a parklet at their expense.

On Jan. 2, supporters staged a rally outside of Station 55 calling on the council to reverse its decision, while many showed up in support of Station 55 during the council’s Jan. 8 meeting.

Economic Development Manager Victoria Valencia presented the results of the survey during the Jan. 22 meeting.

Of the 20 food and drink establishments in downtown Gilroy, located between Seventh and Fourth streets from Eigleberry to Railroad streets, 16 responded. According to the survey, nine said they didn’t feel a parklet would be successful for their business, while four said yes and three were neutral.

Among the results, only one business said they would be willing to install a parklet at their own expense, while five said they were concerned about the cost to construct and maintain a parklet.

Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz said she was concerned that the survey focused on the “financial burden” of parklets, saying it was “full of loaded questions” that weren’t impartial.

Councilmember Fred Tovar added that he couldn’t support the survey, saying it would have been better for businesses to answer the questions online rather in person or by phone to give them more time to think about their answers.

In addition, Tovar said he heard from some businesses that they felt rushed or “pressured to answer in a certain way” when they took the survey, and background information needed to be included to allow for more educated answers, such as downtown parking availability and construction costs for parklets.

Mayor Marie Blankley said the council had earlier directed the survey to focus on the finances of a parklet, as the survey’s purpose was to gauge interest among business owners willing to front those costs. She noted that the first page of the survey does list the average cost of constructing a parklet as between $15,000-$50,000, according to data from the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

Nine people spoke to the council during the public comment period, with all either expressing support for a parklet program, Station 55 or both.

Station 55 owner Teo Castillo said it’s been a difficult year for her business, and the parklet is crucial for the restaurant’s future.

“We need your support,” she said in Spanish. “Not only for my business, but for many more businesses.”

Evelyn Hudson said the parklet at Station 55 was a “lifeline” for the business and its customers, and continues to be as the effects of the pandemic are still being felt.

“Keeping the parklet at Station 55 is vital to this business’ survival,” she said. “We do not need another vacant building.”

Dan Nelson, owner of Tempo Kitchen & Bar on Monterey Street, said the customers utilize the parklet in front of his business at very high numbers. That parklet was approved in 2017 under a different program when another business occupied the spot.

“For us to have a vibrant downtown, parklets are a necessity,” he said. “If you say no, that would be very crippling for us and others.”

Armendariz said the council should take heed of the city’s parking study consultant, who recommended parklets as a way to drive foot traffic downtown. She added that Station 55 deserves to keep its parklet while officials draft a program.

“Station 55 bent over backwards to comply with what we’ve asked of them,” she said.

Councilmembers agreed that the two parklets would likely have to be updated in order to comply with standards to be determined in the future policy.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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