La Cañada Flintridge will offer grants to a few local small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, giving up to $10,000 to three entities.
The City Council approved the funds, which the city received from the Department of Housing and Urban Development through the CARES Act, during its meeting on Tuesday. The program will include a stipulation that the businesses cannot already have received COVID-19 recovery funds.
The $35,925 the city is eligible for is enough to give grants of up to $10,000 to three businesses. The remaining money could then be awarded to a fourth, according to a staff report submitted to the City Council by Senior Management Analyst Lisa Brancheau.
The money, which does not have to be repaid, can be used for payroll, operational expenses and the purchase of protective equipment.
Council members acknowledged that the money was not enough to help every business that needed it, but said they would try to get additional funding.
“It’s not a lot of money, but [it’s] a start in the right direction,” Mayor Michael Davitt said during the meeting.
Businesses must have fewer than 500 employees to be eligible and can include restaurants, coffee shops, salons, gyms and retail stores. However, nonprofit organizations, real estate salespeople and corporate-owned fast-food restaurants — among some other businesses — are not eligible for grant funding.
Businesses that apply for the grant must also show that they have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The council also directed City Manager Mark Alexander to issue an order making it easier for restaurants and other businesses to expand outdoor services.
Normally, explained Susan Koleda, director of community development, businesses need to apply for a permit to hold temporary outdoor dining — a process that can take 35 days. But with indoor operations for restaurants and potentially other businesses suspended by county and state health orders, many have had to minimize services or close down.
Alexander was directed to craft a plan temporarily suspending the permit requirement, something he said would likely be announced within a few days of the Tuesday meeting, allowing it to be ratified later by the council.
Though the agenda item presented to the City Council focused on restaurants, Koleda also noted that hair salons and retailers could benefit from the allowance.
Councilman Richard Gunter expressed his belief that because the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health had cleared many businesses for outdoor services — provided they adhere to health guidelines — “it’s on us to get out of the way as fast as we can.”
Several community members expressed support for the program.
“For many restaurants in the city, the situation is critical,” Bent Hansen, owner of Los Gringos Locos, wrote to council members. “I urge the City Council to approve temporary suspension of outdoor dining and alcohol consumption restrictions in the city of La Cañada Flintridge. I do not ask for a Wild-West, anything-goes suspension. I urge that responsible, safe and flexible guidelines be put in place as a lifeline for the restaurants who choose to safely and responsibly — with minimal public impact — offer outdoor dining.”
Koleda told council members that city staff would be speaking with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to ensure its regulations were complied with.
The City Council received dozens of emails frustrated that the panel had not done more to address concerns from anti-racism activists, including many who have lobbied for the city to dissolve its contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Following several local protests organized by La Cañada Black Lives Matter, council members’ inboxes have served as the battleground for those both in favor and against ending the city’s relationship with the department.
But at recent meetings, council members have been hesitant to address the matter in much detail, explaining that they cannot discuss issues not on the agenda.
“I am greatly disappointed that the council has not addressed or meaningfully acknowledged the demands of La Cañada BLM,” Kamden Gray wrote to council members in public comment. “You need to take action now! Your Black citizens are asking you for help! I refuse to accept the proposed budget and will continue to call attention to this issue in my community until we get justice.”
Council members did not address the comments, but Alexander did tell the council that the Public Safety Commission had created a two-person subcommittee from its ranks to analyze a petition from La Cañada BLM asking for the contract with the Sheriff’s Department to be terminated.
The subcommittee has also requested a policy history from the department, Alexander said, and has a meeting scheduled with the activists to better understand their requests. It will then give a report at a special meeting in August.
Most crimes in LCF remained consistent for June compared to previous months, but thefts spiked from 13 incidents in May to 37 the following month.
Capt. Todd Deeds of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station, which services LCF, explained that most of the thefts were of mail and packages, an issue he told council members could be on the rise due to the pandemic. Residential burglaries, he pointed out, were down from 10 in January to three in June.
He also added that thefts had decreased by 14% compared to the same January-to-June period last year.
Gunter, who said he was a victim of mail theft, thanked Deeds for his deputies’ work in making an arrest for the incident later the same day.
“[I] really thank you guys for being on it and paying attention,” he said.