Newport Beach has removed a regulatory hurdle, allowing businesses — and churches — to spread out to adjacent parking lots, sidewalks or other property. This means they can maintain their usual occupancy, or at least get closer to it, and have a better shot at regaining their financial footing after two months of coronavirus lockdown.
The City Council unanimously approved an initiative that allows businesses and religious institutions to temporarily expand their space into adjacent public or private property.
Mayor Will O’Neill said physical-distancing mandates within businesses meant shops and dining rooms weren’t at full capacity, so parking lots have room to spread out. But the usual path to using lots as floor space would have required action by the city Planning Commission, which can take time. The Fast Track Back to Business Initiative allows reconfiguration of parking and circulation areas to accommodate curbside pickup, takeout windows and expanded outdoor dining.
In addition to benefiting restaurants, the program can green-light boutiques to set up racks of merchandise in parking lots, or churches to give outdoor services or drive-through blessings.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to ensure that all businesses are considered essential,” said Councilman Kevin Muldoon, who crafted the ordinance with O’Neill and Councilwoman Diane Dixon.
Certain businesses have been allowed to incrementally reopen, with restrictions, over the last three weeks. Still, O’Neill said an “unfortunate number” of storefronts were shuttered around town as a result of stay-at-home orders that took effect in mid-March.
“When you have a business and you have overhead,” he said, “every day that you are not open is a day that you are closer to that business going out.”
Davis writes for Times Community News.
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