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Burlingame to Begin Charging Businesses That Keep Parklets

BURLINGAME (KPIX) -- The city of Burlingame is moving forward with a plan to put a fee structure in place for businesses that want to continue operating parklets.

Starting April 1, businesses that choose to keep parklets will be responsible to pay the city a $1,500 annual rent fee along with a $250 monthly cleaning fee. In total, it would cost a business around $4,500 to have a parklet.

"We set up the parklets as an emergency measure to allow businesses some relief during the pandemic," said Mayor Ricardo Ortiz. "That was an emergency measure. Now, we're coming up for a more permanent arrangement."

However, some business owners tell KPIX they'll have to stop using their parklets because it will cost too much.

"After this decision came up from the city council, we looked at our budget and our numbers -- we really couldn't afford it," said Kemal Polat, of Il Piccolo Caffe. "It's like $4,500 a year. It was a lot for us. Still, we're struggling. Our business is not like it's pre-COVID. We had to make the decision to give up on the parklet."

John Kevranian, the president of the Broadway Burlingame Business Improvement District tells KPIX he and the business owners don't have a problem with the $1,500 rent fee but they disagree with the $250 cleaning fee. He projects that four out of seven businesses that utilize parklets on Broadway will end up dismantling them.

In a letter to the city council, Kevranian wrote:

"Some of you may perceive and have the impression that our restaurants are doing very well. Well, the bottom line is, they are not doing the business they had pre-COVID. The staffing shortages, increase cost of products, supply chain issues has taken a toll to their bottom line profit. Also, I would like to remind all of you that the majority of the business landlords did not discount rent the past 22 months during the pandemic.

"This year, the increase in minimum wage, sewer rate increases, extra cost of composting, new food-to-go container mandates in March 2022 and other cost increases in the food industry will take a chunk of profit away from our restaurants. Also, not to mention COVID issues and less indoor dining.

"The cleaning fee of $250 has to come from somewhere such as reducing the hours of workers or increasing prices on customers. The cost of chicken has tripled and the cost of beef and other products have skyrocketed. How much can you increase on a customer?"

The mayor says the city wants to ensure businesses are truly utilizing the parklets that take up valuable parking spaces. He also asserts parklet maintenance requires the use of city services, and the city can't continue to pay for those services.

"We have complaints from many merchants around the area that the restaurants are taking up the parking spaces that their patrons would normally use," Ortiz said. "The cleaning fee is simply recovering the city's cost for cleaning these parklets. The same idea of when you're using city services, we should be compensated. We shouldn't be giving free city services to people so they can benefit financially from them."

Polat says he's in a tough spot. He felt it was too expensive to pay for a parklet with the new fees but he's concerned tearing it down will also be detrimental to his business.

"Losing this parklet -- it's going to affect my business more in the future because people come in and see they don't have a parklet, they don't see outside seating and they'll probably go somewhere else," he said.

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