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Council Committee Votes to Continue On-Street and Sidewalk Outdoor Dining, Paid For by Federal Funds

By using Federal CARES Act funding, city could avoid charging financially-strapped restaurateurs from shouldering the costs of the program

Published on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 | 6:06 am

A City Council Committee Tuesday approved using federal funds to pay for continuing the city’s successful on-street and sidewalk outdoor dining program during fiscal year 2022 instead of requiring restaurateurs to cover the costs.

City Manager Steve Mermell said the conversation about who would bear the costs was raised during budget process discussions of city permit fees scheduled for next fiscal year.

“When we brought  the general fee schedule before the City Council earlier this month,” Mermell said at Tuesday’s Economic Development and Technology Committee meeting, “Councilmember Steve Madison asked about the fees that would be charged for on-street and sidewalk dining, and I committed that no fees would be implemented until we came to this committee for a discussion.”

“It is our intent to not apply any fees for the next fiscal year, unless of course, the Council feels otherwise.”

Mermell told the Committee that the City would instead use Federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to make up for any loss in revenue to the city from the lack of fees.

In addition, State Sen. Scott Wiener (D), has introduced Senate Bill 314, the Bar and Restaurant Recovery Act, to help business owners. A measure in the proposed law would put permanent outdoor dining and parklet regulations in place after the end of the pandemic restrictions. The bill has yet to be voted on by the State Assembly.

According to Mermell, the Committee,  along with the full City Council, would be meeting over the next few months to “streamline” the current outdoor dining fee schedule, which was hurriedly developed last summer as the City converted areas in Old Pasadena into an outdoor dining area in just a few days.

The City had anticipated taking in $163,00 in revenue in sidewalk dining fees in fiscal year 2022, and another $460,000 in on-street dining fees.

According to a Public Works Department presentation, extending street dining on a long term basis would also involve the annual removal and replacement of outdoor dining structures along the Colorado Boulevard Rose Parade route, street sweeping and general cleaning under and around platforms, as well as utility access for maintenance and emergency repair,  streetlight maintenance and street tree trimming.

Mermell also said that as part of the restructuring of fees, that the Council should develop a physical standard for outdoor dining structures, “instead of the ‘Eazy -Ups’ you see at neighborhood soccer games.”

Pasadena originally instituted outdoor street dining in July 2020—on Colorado Boulevard between Madison and El Molino avenues, between Fair Oaks and Raymond avenues and Union Street, west of Raymond in Old Pasadena as well as areas of the Playhouse District—and it proved to be immediately popular.

In many cases, outdoor dining saved some restaurants which otherwise would have failed for lack of business.

LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger also co-authored a motion this month to support extending outdoor dining throughout LA County.

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