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SANDAG grant helps city accommodate street businesses


An example of a parklet. This is an artist’s conception of a parklet shared with the City Council a while back tossing the parklet idea out there as an idea.

San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has given the City of Escondido a $8,636 grant from the Shared Streets Pilot Program that will help some businesses, especially restaurants, expand out onto sidewalks and parking lots so they can practice social distancing. 

The purpose is to help the city’s businesses recover from the deep wounds that have been inflicted by the lockdown imposed by the State and County to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On March 16, City Manager Jeff Epp  issued a Local Emergency Proclamation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has had a profound effect on local businesses, especially restaurants. 

Amber V. Tarrac, deputy director of economic development for the City of Escondido, told The Times-Advocate that the money will be used as part of the Escondido Dines Out Program, “Where we are going to close off a portion of Grand Avenue. It could be for a Friday Afternoon through Saturday. The grant award will help to fund the signage for that closure,” she said.

“Expanding into parking lots and the streets is part of our business recovery program,” said Tarrac, “We wanted to allow for increased capacity for restaurants and retail.”

The official term for this is to allow a “parklet” or “city seating” which requires a temporary use permit from the city. “You see them in downtown San Diego, where they build out a platform into an adjacent parking lot. It allows for increased capacity,” said Tarrac.

The program will complement the Grand Avenue expansion that is planned for several years in the future, and will include reducing Grand Avenue to one lane each way, and expanding the sidewalks into the space created by the loss of the lane. “We want to give businesses the opportunity to do that now instead of waiting,” said Tarrac. “It’s an urgency measure. Now is the time when we need it. We want them to survive in this really difficult time.”

According to the staff report that was presented to the city council on May 13: “It is not known how long it will take to recover financially from the impacts of COVID-19. The true economic effects of the pandemic and the shuttering of local businesses resulting in declining revenues are only beginning to unfold. Addressing these complex local challenges warrants a deep rethinking of municipal policies, financing mechanisms, and governance. Organizing a strategy that combines safety, flexibility, accommodation, growth, inclusion, and the City’s various policies and regulations will help mobilize and rebuild our local economy.”

Other efforts the city is involved with include the “Jumpstart Small Businesses” Program which will be launched sometime this month. This partnership includes the Innovate78 North County Cities (Escondido, San Marcos, Vista, Carlsbad, and Oceanside), the San Diego North Economic Development Council, and the Small Business Development Center. 

The Downtown Business Association and Chamber of Commerce will assist with helping to get the word out on this program, which will offer small business classes in English and Spanish targeting unemployed and provide them tools to launch or expand their businesses.

The Small Business Development Center will be able to gather demographic data from women-owned, veteran-owned, and minority-owned businesses, among others to help understand how Economic Development can further support business expansion, attraction, and retention. 

The city is also assembling a Business Recovery Strategy brochure to help spread the word on these new measures and the Jumpstart Small Businesses Program.

In addition, the city and the Escondido Chamber of Commerce have partnered to bring the community “Escondido Eats”, an on-line resource to encourage the community to shop local for daily meal and beverage promotions offered by local establishments. It can be found at escondidochamber.org/escondido-eats-2/

If you check this resource frequently you’ll find what  specials your favorite place is offering any day of the week. Participating restaurants will receive an “Escondido Eats” window decal. And don’t forget to check out the Escondido Eats Facebook group for more.

Another example of the kind of “city seating” that the SANDAG grant will help the City of Escondido encourage to help local restaurants recover and yet maintain social distancing.

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