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Pasadena Considering Closing Colorado Blvd as Part of Business Reopening Plan

Published on Saturday, May 23, 2020 | 5:21 am

The City Council’s Economic Development and Technology Committee kicked around the idea of closing Colorado Blvd. in Old Pasadena, either partially or completely, to allow businesses with limited indoor space take advantage of sidewalks and the area reserved for curbside parking.

The virtual discussion among members of the so-called EDTECH Committee on Thursday included many ideas about how to accommodate the reopening of businesses, especially restaurants, such as closing roads, and allowing for dining in alleyways, on sidewalks, in parking lots, and parklets, which takes over street parking that extends 8 feet from curbs.

Committee members wondered aloud whether Colorado Blvd. could be closed down, how that would impact public transportation operated by Pasadena Transit, Metro and Foothill Transit, and whether that would end up being a detriment instead of a benefit to businesses along the historic road.

“It can range on a monthly basis anywhere from about $83,000 to about $140,000 depending on how many streets we close and the duration of that closure,” said Transportation Director Laura Cornejo.

City Manager Steve Mermell said his office would have “a consultant under contract” Thursday afternoon to assist with the planning process, but he did not say how much that’s costing the city.

“Government can overthink and maybe become part of the problem,” said Committee Chair Victor Gordo. “I think we need to keep making progress but maybe incorporate more the voices of the business community.”

He and committee members Tryon Hampton, Andy Wilson and Steve Madison all encouraged the streamlining of any permitting process associated with any reopening, including alcohol Conditional Use Permits and signage.

One idea proposed by David Reyes, Pasadena’s director of planning and community development, was to allow businesses to “self-certify,” and only notify the city if there was a signage issue or outdoor dining accommodation adjustments.

“We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said Madison. “I appreciate the point about restaurants are only one segment of our business community but having said that, this is an extremely important part of our entire city. For one thing, we are a restaurant town.”

All the committee members agreed the city should not sit back and wait until Los Angeles County and the state to give the go-ahead for businesses to reopen, to come up with a plan for the reopening. And all agreed with Reyes when he said, “None of this happens without the health order in place.”

“Businesses need to open and people need to get back to work,” Hampton said.

“We should find the easy opportunities to start doing some of these things and try to serve as many people as possible but not hold up the process where we’re trying to solve the hardest problem,” Wilson added. “Get some early wins, perhaps.”

He used Cameron’s Seafood Restaurant at 1978 E. Colorado Blvd., which is in his district, as an example.

“If they’re operating under reduced capacity they don’t need all the parking they have, so the idea of taking a portion of that and making it outdoor (dining) seems like a no-brainer,” Wilson said.

The result of the nearly two-hour discussion was City Manager Mermell and his staff are to return to either the EDTECH committee or full City Council detailed suggestions on how businesses can reopen. Mermell said it’s unlikely his staff will be able to prepare a report by next week, since it’s a short week because of Memorial Day, but could possibly have it ready by the following week.

Committee member Hampton encouraged his colleagues and city staff to be ready to reopen sooner rather than later because “what the governor has to say is going to change in three days. I mean, he’s changing his mind like every 40 minutes.”

Under his four-stage reopening plan, Gov. Gavin Newsom has allowed since May 8 curbside retail businesses resume operations, along with car dealership showrooms and golf courses. He said other non-essential businesses would be allowed to open later in Stage 2.

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