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Council Poised to Extend Outdoor Fee Waivers

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By Lookout Staff

December 10, 2021 -- With surveys showing nearly all Santa Monica residents want to eat and shop outside, the City Council on Tuesday is expected to extend through June 30 fee waivers for businesses that operate outdoors.

Initiated to help small brick and mortar shops survive during the coronavirus emergency, the Santa Monica Outdoors Pilot Program has been a huge success, staff said in its report to the Council.

The program -- which allows businesses to use public property, including streets and sidewalks, for commercial activity -- is not set to expire until June 30, unless it is extended.

But waivers for program fees and outdoor licensing fees are set to expire at the end of the year.

Staff is recommending that the Council extend the waivers through June 30 "so that businesses may continue to benefit from this much-needed economic support over the next six months."

"The Santa Monica Outdoors Pilot Program has received overwhelming community support and has been a tremendous value to residents, businesses, and workers throughout the pandemic," staff wrote in its report to the Council.

More than 170 dining, fitness and retail businesses have operated outside with outdoor dining licensing agreements with the City.

City surveys indicate that 96 percent of residents want to eat and shop outside and 79 percent of businesses say parklets increased their sales.

The optional Pilot Program "has been deemed essential for many of our brick-and-mortar business operations with consumers still preferring to dine and exercise outdoors wherever possible," staff said.

Extending the fee waivers "will give our local businesses an added economic recovery boost to help them get through the slow winter months and prepare for longer-term operations beyond."

Initially adopted through the City’s local emergency orders, the fee waivers were maintained when the one-year pilot program was established through an emergency ordinance approved by the Council in June.

The proposed waiver extension is strongly backed by many local restaurants and business groups, including Downtown Santa Monica, Inc, the Main Street Business Improvement Association and Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, staff said.

"As we approach the colder winter months and off-peak tourism season, many of our brick-and-mortar businesses anticipate further economic hardship and growing operating costs tied to wages, supply chain shortages, and inflation.

"Adding monthly fees would further add to the economic burden," staff said in its report.

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