Goleta took a step forward Tuesday in trying to reopen parts of the city.
The Goleta City Council unanimously voted to approve a resolution expanding restaurants’ ability to allow outdoor dining.
The draft program was presented to the City Council on Tuesday by Peter Imhof, the planning and environmental review director, and Winnie Cai, an assistant city attorney.
The resolution is aimed to temporarily suspend conflicting zoning and permit requirements to allow restaurants to expand their dining options to use outdoor areas adjacent to their building.
“The intent is to allow restaurants and other uses to reopen as quickly as possible with a minimum of bureaucracy and delay, while ensuring basic standards are met,” Mr. Imhof said.
Other uses beyond restaurant dining the city can also consider to open under the resolution would include retail stores, fitness classes, yoga and faith-based gatherings.
The draft program is concentrated on privately owned open air spaces and parking lots, excluding public right-of-way areas that would require road closures or impact pedestrian circulation on sidewalks.
“I think it’s a great idea. It’s working in Santa Barbara as far as I can see, and it’s really helping out the restaurants,” City Council member Roger Aceves said.
The resolution is also a two-tiered approach, which classifies expansions into two groups.
Group One covers expansions into open air spaces that would not affect parking or vehicle circulation. Group One expansions would need to observe listed requirements for outdoor expansions but would not require a written permit.
Group Two covers expansions into parking lots that could affect parking or vehicle circulation. Group Two would require a permit and include a review by a public works engineer.
Additionally, Group Two would have to preserve adequate and safe circulation for vehicles and pedestrians, ensure vehicle traffic on site would not create a traffic problem and be protected by a surrounding barrier that needs the approval of the public works department.
While some zoning laws would be temporarily suspended, restaurants would still need to adhere to their overall occupancy limit.
“This program is based fundamentally on trust and common sense,” Mr. Imhof said. “The city trusts that its restaurants are capable of setting up tables and chairs and available nearby outbursts spaces and observing physical distance and guidelines,”
A large portion of the city’s restaurants is in the Camino Real Marketplace, Calle Real Shopping Center, Fairview shopping center, etc. which all have the means to allow outdoor dining.
In Old Town, there will be a bit more difficulty, where restaurants are located along Hollister Avenue and across the street south of Hollister.
Mr. Imhof said the city considered closing Hollister Avenue or other cross streets, “but concluded that it would not be feasible because of Hollister Avenue’s importance as an east-west arterial and the lack of other parallel routes south of the freeway.”
The staff also recommended that the city waive the permit processing fee, but impose normal fees for minor appeals, which are currently $515, and will go up to $531 on July 1.
Kristin Miller, the CEO and president of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber would be happy to help the city set up an online form to take comments from any business and restaurants that can’t currently take advantage of the new system but want to.
“I think that this is an important step for Goleta,” Council member James Kyriaco said before moving to adopt resolution 20.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of constituents, and there is a lot of anxiety about getting things moving again and moving more towards normalcy for our city. I’m also hearing a fair amount of anxiety from our residents who are concerned that they don’t want us to move back too fast and get too far ahead of the state.
“But I think this is a balanced approach,” he said.