Update 9.22.22: At the Sept. 19 hearing, the three-member council declined to address the possible expansion of the reduced May-Oct. seasonal use approved by the Council in April. The Mill Valley Chamber supports a balanced approach that provides both runway and recourse for existing applicants and creates a long-term program for new applicants, all while respecting the interests of all businesses and downtown stakeholders.

City of Mill Valley leaders continue to do the heavy lifting necessary to create an outdoor business use program that is right-sized for the 94941 community, respects the varying priorities of different business sectors and acknowledges the overwhelming popularity for all things al fresco.

New City Manager Todd Cusimano seems determined to strike that balance. In advance of a Sept. 19th City Council hearing, city staff is recommending a program that calls for:

  • The four businesses located on private property – Bungalow 44’s tent, TamalPie’s use of space adjacent to its covered dining patio, The Cantina’s use of a portion of its parking lot for outdoor seating and Gravity Tavern’s use of part of Miller Lane – must go through the design review process via the planning department if it is determined that their current use of the private space reduces the amount of on-site parking required by their respective conditional use permits. The Planning Commission will review those details.
  • To give those businesses enough runway to go through that process, the city would extend the existing program through the end of April to allow them the time to do that. That extension would also align with the Downtown Project, a continuation of the overhaul of the main arteries in around downtown. That could possibly include an expansion of the sidewalk on Miller between Sunnyside and Throckmorton in 2023. 
  • The only existing users of public space are Piazza D’Angelo and Equator Coffees. D’Angelo’s would likely be required to eliminate its roofs and walls and possibly reduce the number of parking spaces associated with their parklet. If the sidewalk expansion occurs, it may eliminate the need for a parklet.
  • Lastly and most relevant to just a bout every brick and mortar business in town, while Cusimano intends to follow the direction of the council to move forward with a program that is seasonal only from May to October, as approved by council in April, he is providing an option for the council to discuss the possibility of expanding the seasonal program the council approved in April, either to include additional months or make it an annual program.

The Sept. 19 hearing offers the latest attempt to “land the plane,” so to speak, on outdoor business use in a way incorporates all downtown stakeholders but takes into account the unanimous feedback from the Mill Valley Planning Commission on August 23rd on issues related to the City Council’s unanimous decision in April to pare back some of the elements of our community’s incredibly popular use of outdoor space to eat, gather and enjoy the bounty of natural beauty around us.

As previously reported, the resounding feedback the commission received in August was the sentiment that, “If we took this to a public vote, this would be a landslide in favor.”

We’ve been given the opportunity to do something bold,” former planning commissioner Kevin Skiles said at the time.

“Either way the final action with the rests with the council,” Planning Director Patrick Kelley added.


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