Council Discusses Gift Card Program to Help Local Businesses

Local residents take in some warm summer weather on Wednesday to support local business Soak Nail Bar, which has moved operations outside to observe safety measures put in place by Gov. Gavin Newsom to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council is taking action in assisting businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing a gift card program that would encourage the public to spend locally.
Lisa Brancheau, senior management analyst, presented the idea in a virtual meeting on Tuesday, and the council unanimously approved a motion to allow City Manager Mark Alexander to run a pilot program that will cost up to $15,000. Mayor Mike Davitt and Councilwoman Terry Walker abstained from the conversation and vote because of their stakes in local businesses.
The program will allow people to purchase gift cards at a discounted rate and use them at participating businesses. Staff considered options that included a collaboration with Citizens Business Bank in which it would sell gift cards that function as a debit card. The idea of selling them through City Hall was also explored.
However, the discussion between Mayor Pro Tem Jonathan Curtis and members Keith Eich and Richard Gunter favored a digital approach because it would present fewer challenges. Brancheau said other cities have successfully implemented similar programs through Giftbar and Yiftee, and the online platforms make it easier to conduct research and track data. The city would use the agreed-upon $15,000 to pay for any fees incurred on merchants.

Yiftee seemed to be the popular option as it allows customers to buy gift cards online and upload it onto their phone. They can use their device to pay at a participating business and the transaction would run through Mastercard.
A subcommittee consisting of Alexander, Brancheau and Curtis will evaluate all options and present their findings to the council in the near future.
“We’ll be touching base with both companies and come up with a format that works for our businesses and our community,” Alexander said. “It will take a little bit of time.”
Brancheau said that launching such a program would take up to two months, but Alexander has the authority to get it off the ground in consultation with the subcommittee, according to Davitt.
“The sooner we can get this going, the better, so we can help our local businesses,” the mayor said.
The subcommittee will also work with the Chamber of Commerce to determine which businesses will be eligible to participate.
Despite having approved the motion, Eich expressed concern for spending on a program that may not work in LCF.
“I worry with a program like this that it may not actually increase spending in the city,” he said. “I question if it’s better to invest in a marketing program around shopping local versus a gift card program that may just be a replacement. I’m torn in multiple different directions on this.”


City officials continue their efforts to stimulate the local economy by ratifying the Director of Emergency Services Order and suspending the required temporary use permit for specified uses and activities operating outdoors.
The order, which was issued on July 23, allowed businesses to continue operating during the city emergency prompted by the coronavirus.
The order applies to restaurants and cafes, personal care services, gyms and fitness centers, places of worship and any business identified by the L.A. County Department of Public Health. To expedite the process, the city is not requiring business owners to submit an application to operate outdoors.
Davitt noted that he has seen businesses taking advantage of this opportunity, mainly restaurants and personal trainers.


Director of Public Works Patrick DeChellis informed councilmembers on the various projects currently worked on throughout La Cañada Flintridge.
The resurfacing project is nearly complete with only one street requiring restriping and repainting house numbers on Foothill Boulevard. DeChellis said it should be competed by the end of September.
The concrete repair project is also nearly done. Construction began last month and should be completed by the end of this month.
Phase 3 of the sound wall project remains on schedule after meeting with the trails council. The building of the sound wall on the south side of the 210 Freeway between Alta Canyada and Foothill Boulevard will require a slight adjustment to the trails in the area.
Assistant City Manager Carl Alameda logged on to the Zoom meeting and told the council that the Flock automated license plate reading cameras are nearly completed. There are a few placement issues that are being addressed but the program should be up and running by Sept. 1.


Staff and councilmembers discussed the possible modification of a municipal code that would permit attachments to protected trees on private property.
A local homeowner who received a notice of violation after attaching a security camera on a protected tree asked the council the review the ordinance.
Susan Koleda, director of community development, presented similar ordinances in surrounding cities and spoke to arborists claiming that any penetration of the tree is potentially damaging.
“Neither arborist is recommending attaching a camera to a tree,” she said. “Based on that, we are not recommending that the tree ordinance be amended to permit security cameras to be attached to [protected] trees.”
Trees protected in the ordinance include oak, sycamores, elms and deodar.


A wrongful death claim from 2 Wheel Legal, Inc. on behalf of Diane Akopyan, who is seeking compensation for the death of her husband, Gor, was denied by the city on Tuesday.
Gor, who was riding a motorcycle, was killed after colliding with a vehicle at the intersection of Angeles Crest Highway and Gould Mesa Road in January. Akopyan was seeking an undetermined amount exceeding $5 million.
In his signed declaration, DeChellis said the city “did not have jurisdiction or any responsibility for the intersection of Angeles Crest Highway and Gould Mesa on or before Jan. 19, 2020. Additionally, the State of California Department of Transportation and possible others are separate and distinct entities apart from the city of La Cañada Flintridge.”

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