City’s emergency ordinance extended for additional year
The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the city’s emergency ordinance related to the COVID-19 pandemic by one year to March 8, 2022.
City staff will now work to negotiate with city tenants who have proven financial hardship and an inability to meet the financial obligations of their lease, and accept rent by a hold-over tenant and allow continuation of tenancy on a month-to-month basis for the repayment of deferred rent.
Staff originally recommended extending the emergency ordinance to Sept. 8, 2021, but council members requested a calendar year in order to be prepared for extended health orders and to give local businesses peace of mind.
“I think it does help now that we do have some parklet guidelines and people are making investments. That does give some security in that,” Council member Kristen Sneddon said.
Council member Eric Friedman echoed support of the year extension as well.
“I think we’d probably end up getting there anyways,” he said. “It gives us certainty to businesses and tenants and property owners out there to negotiate that.”
In addition to extending the ordinance, the council also removed the 5% cap originally included in the amended ordinance recommended by staff, which said that amendments to a lease may not result in a cumulative reduction in the value of the lease to the city of more than 5% over the remaining term of the lease without consideration of any option or renewal period.
“We’re not in a one size fits all moment, so to set an expectation upfront that doesn’t reflect the specificity of each business owner’s needs and situations seems to me like maybe it wasn’t smart,” Council member Meagan Harmon said. “I would hate to tie our city staff’s hands by setting a cap artificially low and then we end up in a situation where we have defaults …I trust city staff to be able to engage with each of these lessees and to understand specifics of their situations.”
The council also directed staff to resolve a number of issues as it extended the ordinance, including: bicycle and pedestrian traffic issues on the State Street promenade; businesses’ issues on the section of Victoria Street between Chapala and State streets; and businesses in the 400 block of State Street which haven’t operated in the public right of way.
The ordinance will also allow the reduction or waiving of penalties associated with “delinquent business license tax payment” due to COVID-19, and allow live music and performances within outdoor food service establishments.
The council also received a presentation on the city prosecutor’s enforcement assignments.
Of the current case distribution, the following number of cases fell into these categories: five fire cases; 189 police; eight animal control; 22 zoning; 11 building and safety; one airport; three library; three parks and recreation; two public works; one risk management; one waterfront; 81 COVID-19 face mask; and 275 COVID-19 health orders.
According to Denny Wei, the assistant city prosecutor, the “vast, vast majority” of people the prosecutor contacted regarding COVID-19 health order cases complied with the orders once they knew what they had to do. In addition, none of the face covering violations involved prosecution, meaning all were able to be handled in the educational stage.
He added that the pandemic resulted in many calls in the beginning, but in the past month and a half, there have been significantly less calls.
The council also unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Mayor Cathy Murillo and Mayor Pro Tempore Oscar Gutierrez supporting Medicare For All and House Resolution 1384, and added on support for the California Legislature to consider legislation such as AB 1400, which would implement CalCare.
“There are some who may say it’s outside city jurisdiction to be making this type of proclamation, but I think it is absolutely in our jurisdiction to be looking at our local residents and how this impacts them in putting this forward,” Ms. Sneddon said.
Ms. Harmon added, “It’s beyond time for us to move to a system that ensures everyone, regardless of employment status or ability to pay, can have access to the care that they need. This is an important step for us, particularly in ensuring we can address the disparities that exist in our health care system.”