Homework for City: Find Ways to Make Outdoor Dining Work

As La Cañada Flintridge residents and business owners grow weary of restrictions imposed by Los Angeles County in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the City Council ordered staff to investigate possible avenues that would allow local restaurants to offer outdoor dining during a virtual meeting on Tuesday.
Councilman Keith Eich said he was “inundated with requests” and questions regarding last week’s Department of Public Health decision to no longer allow outdoor in-person dining and its new three-week stay-at-home order that took effect on Monday.
The orders came down after an alarming surge in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
“It’s worthwhile to look at some options on what local flexibility we may be able to do to look at how our city may be different than others and not lumping us with 90 other cities in the county that may have different geographies and densities and other things of that nature,” Eich said.
Councilwoman Terry Walker expressed a similar opinion and suggested that city officials discuss with the county Board of Supervisors the possibility of loosening restrictions in cities with lower positivity rates.
“It makes sense to me that maybe they can group cities the way the state groups [counties in] the red zone and hot zones,” she said. “And areas that don’t have as much exposure can be given more leniency based on their numbers like they do at the state level.”
Other municipalities have pushed back on the restrictions, most notably Pasadena — the lone city in L.A. County that allowed outdoor dining last weekend. It is one of three cities in the state to have its own health department but is not in a position to expand its services to other agencies and jurisdictions at the moment, according to LCF City Manager Mark Alexander.
“It certainly would be worthwhile for the council to at least understand how it is we fall under the county health department and why it is that we’re subject to the orders that the county health department issues,” he said. “Quite frankly, the simple answer is we don’t have a health department in La Cañada Flintridge. Therefore, we are subject to the resources and expertise and knowledge of the county health department.”
The Beverly Hills City Council is in a similar situation and unanimously voted in opposition of the county’s outdoor dining ban on Tuesday. The council also asked staff to look into creating its own health department.
LCF Mayor Mike Davitt said LCF has had similar conversations in the past and the city’s decision to have staff investigate the county’s order and possibly forming its own health department is “not just triggered off of these most recent events. I think it’s a little deeper than that, and I think that’s the more responsible way to view this. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction.”


Alexander announced that Festival in Lights was officially canceled due to the pandemic.
The annual event that kicks off the holiday season in LCF usually takes place on the first Friday of December at Memorial Park with musical performances and entertainment for children.
“We’re not allowed to assemble in large groups,” Alexander said. “Actually, the current rule is we can’t assemble in groups with anyone outside our own household.”
Alexander added that the lights placed in the medians throughout the city will officially turn on this Friday, Dec. 4, at 5 p.m.


City staff was glad to report that 194 of its electronic gift cards had been purchased as of Tuesday afternoon.
“Obviously word is getting out about our program, which is wonderful,” said Lisa Brancheau, LCF senior management analyst.
LCF recently collaborated with Yiftee to sell online gift cards — at a discounted rate — that can be used at any of 17 participating businesses. Buyers who purchase a gift card for $40 are given a $15 bonus card, giving them a total of $55.
According to Brancheau, the total number of e-gift cards purchased amount to $10,710, an increase of about $4,600 from the previous total given during the City Council meeting on Nov. 17. She estimated that $2,600 has been spent and redeemed.

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