City Council voted unanimously at their September 21 meeting to extend the City’s outdoor dining program for six months, as the City develops potential regulations for implementing the program on a more permanent basis. This will include potentially partially restoring Fullerton’s Bicycle Blvd. that was closed off by the Walk-on-Wilshire outdoor dining.
When indoor dining was restricted by the State during the COVID-19 pandemic, many cities, including Fullerton, relaxed outdoor dining regulations to allow businesses to continue to operate on either private property or public rights-of-way. The city of Fullerton has issued more than 60 permits for outdoor dining.
The City intended to implement the relaxed standards on a temporary basis until the State lifted indoor dining restrictions. California has since rescinded the indoor restrictions. City Council last extended the outdoor dining program through September 30, 2021.
Mayor Pro Tem Nick Dunlap voted to extend the program for six months. After that, he suggested a seasonal occupancy of public spaces for outdoor dining with a fair fee so it does not constitute a gift of public funds. “By and large this has been a wildly successful program and I think Fullerton is not alone in grappling with how we continue this,” Dunlap said.
Mayor Bruce Whitaker, who also supported extending the program, said, “I wouldn’t like to see anything that would dampen what we have begun in Fullerton…I am open to continuing this experiment.”
Councilmember Ahmad Zahra said, “It’s important to keep outdoor dining in some form because it brings more activity to our downtown, so there’s an economic benefit.” He suggested developing a framework for more permanent outdoor dining within 60 to 90 days.
Councilmember Fred Jung said, “Outdoor dining was a much-needed lifeline for many businesses, and I would not want to deny them that. I think it needs to be continued.”
Jung added that there are currently “bad actors” and that the program needs clearer regulations to protect public safety, and that Wilshire needs to be re-opened for pedestrians, cars, and bicycles.
The police department has been generally supportive of the program but has noted some problems with venues exceeding outdoor capacity.
Councilmember Jesus Silva also supported extending the outdoor dining program and proposed creating a bike lane on Wilshire. He added that the reason why that section of Wilshire has new pavement is because of funding from the Bicycle Boulevard project.
Jane Rands, Vice Chair of the Active Transportation Committee, said that the City needs to incorporate a way for bicyclists to ride through the Bicycle Boulevard area that is currently being used for outdoor dining.
When the City closed off this section of Wilshire, they closed off a section of the Wilshire Bicycle Boulevard that was established through grant funding and the efforts of the former Bicycle Users Subcommittee.
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