The owners of the Up & Under Pub say they have been told by the City of Richmond staff that, after much debate, their popular parklet has to go.
"Despite our efforts to engage in constructive dialogue and find a mutually beneficial solution, the city has chosen to shut us down completely," owner Nathan Trivers wrote on social media last Thursday.
"They have refused to grant an extension of the encroachment permit and renew the parklet permit, and they are proceeding with their demand for the immediate removal of the parklet, Trivers said. "At this time, we are exploring all possible options to challenge the City's decision and fight for the preservation of the parklet," Trivers said.
Daniel Butt, President of the Point Richmond Business Association, confirmed the parklet seems to be headed toward removal.
"It appears as though the city is planning to make a timeline to take down the parklet after indicating they would work with the pub at a meeting last month," Butt said. "The city isn't going to do what they said they would, which is to work with the pub,"
The parklet was originally constructed in 2020 and, according to city records, underwent a number of revisions in an attempt by the owners to meet the city's requirements. However, some neighbors in Point Richmond have been vocal in their opposition to the parklet, with many citing safety issues and the parklet's design as top concerns.
Trivers acknowledges he has a few critics. "There's about six people in this town that just hate the pub," he said.
Trivers also says he has spent a considerable amount of time talking with the city and trying to abate one issue after another in an attempt to comply with all the city's requirements for the parklet.
"This is the most proper, legal thing I've done. I did everything legally, talked to the city for six months, and spent a ton of money," Trivers said.
Trivers also said the parklet was his restaurant's lifeline during the Covid pandemic.
"It was the only place we could serve people," Trivers said.
Former City of Richmond Associate Planner Kieron Slaughter said the parklet was originally slated to become Richmond's first parklet back in 2020.
"Up & Under was approved to be Richmond's first parklet," Slaughter confirmed.
Slaughter worked with city staff and others to develop Richmond's burgeoning parklet program a few years back.
City records illustrate a complex permitting process where the city has required the owner to undergo a number of changes to the parklet, including relocating it around the corner to West Richmond Avenue from the original Railroad Avenue location the city suggested.
There also appears to be a lack of agreement when it comes to whether a parklet permit or an encroachment permit, or both are required to make the structure legal. City communications show the use of both terms, sometimes interchangeably, in many discussions.
One of the permits and its accompanying inspection text notes that at the time, the city had no specific ordinance for parklets, nor was there any guide of regulations to follow time, causing Richmond to follow the lead of other cities that already had permitted parklets. The issue is made more complex by the presence of Covid and temporary rules allowing for additional outdoor dining it created.
Also complicating the process, according to Trivers, is the frequent turnover of city staff. "About 80 percent of them are new," he said.
Transportation Demand and Sustainability Manager for the City of Richmond, Denee Evans, addressed some of the issues the city had with the parklet at a Point Richmond Neighborhood Council meeting in September 2022.
Evans said she found out the permit for the parklet issued by former Public Works Director Yader Bermudez had expired but then heard Trivers wanted to submit a new application.
"I was okay with that. I gave him the updated guidance and a new packet, but I have yet to receive one. The narrative is that he already submitted one. Where we are today is if there is a complete packet and the structure meets the guidelines, we'll issue the permit. Any time a building permit or encroachment permit is expired, you have to start over. We also need to find out if there is still public support for the parklet," Evans said at the meeting.
When asked if he'd completed an updated application, Trivers said, "No, I did not. I already had filled one out, and they said it was incomplete but never could answer what was incomplete about it."
Not everyone in the neighborhood supports the parklet.
One resident, who asked not to be identified, felt the placement of the parklet was a traffic hazard and the appearance of the parklet didn't fit into the design of the historic community.
"Many neighbors have shared their opposition to keeping the parklet because it makes a dangerous crossing even more dangerous (blocking site lines), its design is out of place with the Victorian style of the historic district, and it’s used only by customers on warm afternoons, and it’s not a “community gathering spot” as the owner and a few very vocal customers (especially the one who designed it who is not an architect or builder) claims—it’s there for customers to enjoy in a limited time frame.
The owner has been untruthful in his claims of innocence and ignorance of any wrongdoing. People who actually live in the Point and have to look at it and dodge traffic around it and are intimidated—the owner and his allies are loud and bullish. The Land Use Design Review Board in Pt. Richmond usually reviews any construction project in the Pt. Richmond area, even a proposal to add a deck to a house gets reviewed by the LUDRC. The committee, led by a community member who is an architect with engineering expertise, presents its deliberations and recommendations at the Pt. Richmond Neighborhood Council meeting
for members to vote on.
This information is passed along to the City Design Review Board as community input. The LUDRC is particularly careful with projects in the historic district and takes the responsibility of preserving the architecture and aesthetics of the historic district seriously in its decision-making. The parklet in question never went through this review process--don't know if it's even permitted since it's not ADA compliant," they said.
Social media comments, as well as those from the online petition, are generally favorable in regard to both the pub and parklet. The petition has garnered 1,039 signatures supporting the pub to date.
"The Up & Under serves all of Richmond. All people of all stripes are welcome there. When I drive into town by the parklet, I'm always met with smiling faces while people munch on their lunches, enjoying the sunlight on the deck. Who would ever think it was a good idea to rip out such a cool place to hang out and part of the heart of our community?" Nick Powers said.
Kate Brakohiapa wrote, "I’m so confused as to why tearing down the Up and Under’s parklet is a priority for the City of Richmond. There are 1 million things we could be doing to benefit the community. And this is not one of them!"
"It is a wonderful addition to the community and a wonderful place to sit and enjoy Point Richmond while having a meal. It is a well-designed parklet, sturdy and with a steel auto guard. It is something the City should be promoting rather than tearing down. It is odd that one complaint can stop something in its tracks, but many voices in support of something are not heard," Kenoli Oleari said.