Last night, the Santa Monica City Council extended pandemic-era changes that will support Santa Monica’s continued economic recovery in the lead up to the June 15 full reopening of California’s economy and Los Angeles County sunsetting provisions of its Health Officer Orders. Council approved a one-year pilot – “Santa Monica Outdoors” – to allow continued use of parklets, streets, sidewalks, and public spaces, including the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade, as well as private property for outdoor dining, retail, and fitness, with fees waived through the rest of 2021.

“Santa Monica’s small, local businesses need continued support from all of us, and your City is here to expedite our economic recovery in all the ways we can,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “Our fast and flexible work during the pandemic brought businesses outdoors for safe operations and spread a new vibrancy to Santa Monica’s streets and sidewalks. These activated public spaces are vital to our recovery. Ocean Park Association and Main Street Business Improvement Association want to experiment with expanded pedestrian space on Main Street during a few weekends this summer and this is another example of our community partnership and creativity.”

In addition to adopting an Emergency Ordinance to authorize the issuance of permits and licensing agreements as part of a one-year pilot program that expires on June 30, 2022, to allow continued uses of public property, including streets and sidewalks, for commercial activity, Council also approved the following efforts for Santa Monica’s economic recovery:

  1. Adopted an Emergency Interim Zoning Ordinance that extends currently temporary uses of private outdoor space for commercial activity that would otherwise expire 30 days after the conclusion of the County’s pandemic-related emergency orders, and extends certain zoning changes necessary for continued emergency response and economic recovery.
  2. Authorized fee waivers at least through December 31, 2021 for outdoor dining license fees, waivers and fee reductions for outdoor fitness fees in City Parks and the Beach, and extended the fee waivers associated with temporary use permits; established fees for use of public property pursuant to Santa Monica Municipal Code Chapter 6.40 to commence no earlier than January 1, 2022; and authorized temporary closure of portions of Main Street. This extended fee waiver program reflects the economic hardships our small businesses are continuing to face, especially restaurants.
  3. Adopted a Fee Resolution setting the outdoor dining license fees using the 2020 calendar year rates, effective as of January 1, 2022, with annual Consumer Price Index adjustments commencing January 1, 2023.
  4. Authorized the City Manager to negotiate and execute a Memorandum of Understanding granting Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. authority and responsibility for managing community-serving events and programming in the downtown district, with direction to return with any proposed modifications to the event ordinance determined necessary to accomplish this.
  5. Directed City staff to move forward with a Pilot Program to open a 1½ block-long portion of Main Street to pedestrians with expanded outdoor business operations during three to four weekends (once per month) starting this summer in partnership with Main Street Business Improvement Association and Ocean Park Association, with evaluation of neighborhood impacts.

The Main Street Pilot Program (between Hill Street and Kinney Street) will provide more space in the public right-of-way for businesses to expand their operations outdoors while allowing neighbors to safely enjoy the company of others. The first-weekend closure is anticipated in mid-July or August.

The Santa Monica community overwhelmingly supported continuing parklets, outdoor dining, and other outdoor commercial uses in surveys of residents and businesses conducted this spring. There are approximately 90 parklets and 86 businesses leveraging private property for outdoor commercial spaces in addition to over 100 sidewalk dining areas citywide.

To kick-off last night’s City Council meeting, members of the City’s Economic Recovery Task Force provided a comprehensive update and progress report marking one year of community-wide economic recovery efforts focused on supporting vulnerable populations, local business and neighborhood vitality, promoting safe indoor and outdoor spaces, and a robust communications and engagement effort. Watch the presentation during last night’s meeting in this video.

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