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More Rooftop Dining Possible in Pier's Future

New restaurant next to Rusty's Surf Ranch and Santa Monica Pier Seafood seeks city permission to build rooftop dining. The addition, however, would exceed current size restrictions.

Santa Monica Pier may soon offer more sweeping ocean views from up high.

Romana Pier LLC, a company building a new restaurant on the pier, Al Mare,  received unanimous support from the Planning Commission in a meeting last week to construct an area for rooftop dining. 

To permit what would become a third floor, the proposed additions—which would also include bathrooms and a servers station—requires a change to the Santa Monica Municipal Code, and thus, City Council approval.

"The Santa Monica Pier is a unique visitor location with views that are ideal for rooftop dining,” said city planner Paul Foley.

Designed by David Hibbert Architects, the roof area would be 11,461 square feet, and would span above and .

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The architects proposed floor plan also calls for a raised first floor ceiling and an expanded mezzanine.

Current city codes permits building heights on the pier of up to 30 feet. If a restaurant already meets or exceeds the restrictions, such as the case at Al Mare, it can’t add rooftop dining. There are also square footage restrictions, and the Al Mare expansion would exceed those.

Though he voted in favor of the proposal, commissioner Chair Ted Winterer raised several concerns, such as whether the additions could potentially block ocean views.

"Fundamentally, I’m in favor of [this plan], but I do have the same concern Mr. Winterer raised," said commissioner Richard McKinnon. "You have a view but you’re blocking it with a bathroom and enclosed stairwell."

Winterer also asked Foley whether the addition would affect neighboring restaurants that occupy the same building.

"We have not heard of the impacts from any other tenants in the building," Foley responded.

Pier Manager Rod Merl told Winterer and other commissioners rooftop would "absolutely" help raise pier revenues.

"We’re looking at trying to make the pier more self sufficient in terms of the revenue that is derived from tenants," he said. "And there is a movement on our Pier Board to try and enhance the visitor experience and part of that is more views."

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, a two-story Mexican restaurant at the end of the pier, already offers rooftop dining. But it does not include the extra amenities that Al Mare seeks to build.

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