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Council Extends Zoning Law Allowing Businesses to Operate Outdoors

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By Jorge Casuso

May 11, 2022 -- Santa Monica businesses can continue to operate outdoors after the City Council on Tuesday extended an interim zoning ordinance put in place to boost sales during the coronavirus emergency.

The extension through September 30 allows permitted businesses to operate outdoor dining, retail and fitness activities without paying a temporary use permit fee.

Part of the Santa Monica Outdoors Program, the ordinance makes it easier for businesses to open, streamlines the zoning process and creates more flexibility to fill available spaces.

It also allows permitted businesses to operate in private parking lots, sidewalks and street parking spaces.

“The Santa Monica Outdoors Program has been a critical resource to businesses in Santa Monica as they navigate operational challenges amidst the pandemic,” said Jennifer Taylor, the City's Economic Development Manager.

“We have seen tangible impacts of how the pilot has positively supported our local businesses in their economic recovery efforts."

City staff is reviewing the pilot program and plans to develop a permanent program that would go before the Council this summer, Taylor said.

If approved, the permanent program -- expected to take effect October 1 "would require businesses to pay for permits to utilize outdoor public space like parking spaces based on set fees per square foot," officials said.

More than 105 businesses are currently participating in the pilot program, including nearly two dozen commercial fitness trainers who have obtained permits to operate in Santa Monica’s parks and beaches, staff said.

“Making it easier to do business in Santa Monica has been a priority for our economic recovery and reopening efforts," said Jing Yeo, the City's Planning Manager.

"This Interim Zoning Ordinance shows our commitment to supporting businesses and changing to meet the needs of our business community," Yeo said.

"We’re proud that many businesses have taken advantage of the new opportunities.”

City staff will notify all participating Santa Monica businesses at least 30 days prior to October 1 to inform them of the new permit and monthly license fees.

Participating businesses can then decide whether "to keep operations as-is (as long as they are in compliance with the new regulations), opt-out, or adjust the outdoor footprint to reduce monthly costs." officials said.

For more information about the program, click here

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