It’s time right now for City Hall to use our public spaces for COVID recovery.

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I’m delighted to learn that Al Knable agrees.

Knable suggested exploring whether the funds could help downtown businesses expand outdoor seating and continue curbside service to reduce lost revenue due to social distancing guidelines.

“Those are lifelines of income for those businesses,” he said.

It’s time for Jeff Gahan and the Democrats to seize the initiative, get off the pot, get down to brass tracks, curb their automobile supremacy (see what I did there?) and take a glance at what’s working out there in the wider world.

And no we don’t need yet another $75,000 HWC Engineering or Clark Dietz or Jacobi Toombs Lanz study to accomplish this. We need to get principled, stop trying to seize properties from widows in Linden Meadows (I see you, Davey) and repurpose public spaces.

Reopening Main Street

Re-opening Main Street Post-Covid-19 Quarantine

Bringing people back downtown and to shopping streets will require confidence that the health crisis is abating, and a future outbreak will be minimized. States are now starting to re-open retail, and California Governor Gavin Newsom announced this week that California is moving to Phase Two of the State’s re-opening strategy, which includes some retail stores, with restrictions.

A vaccine is perhaps many months (or even years) away, and widespread testing infeasible in the near future. Cities and communities will need to adjust public space to allow customers back in with distancing in mind. Restaurants present an opportunity that already has many indicators of success: repurpose sidewalks, street-side parking, and parking lots into outdoor dining areas.

Alfresco dining offers the community a way to enjoy the outdoors while supporting restaurants. There is evidence Coronavirus does spread while airborne, but it may lose strength with sun and warm weather. Outdoor dining areas could be popular as the warmer summer months approach, and they would provide the area needed for establishments to enact social distancing while maintaining feasible occupancy levels.

Main Streets are critical parts of our cities’ economies and social culture, and they will need support during recovery to bring people back. More outdoor dining will send a signal to consumers that it’s safe to go back out, with people being the biggest attractor of people.

As reported by Jon Henley, in the Guardian, Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, has announced plans to turn the city into a vast open-air cafe by giving over much of its public space to the hard-hit bar and restaurant owners so they can put their tables outdoors and still observe physical distancing rules.

Kerry Cavanaugh, Los Angeles Times editorial writer who is focused on housing, transportation, and the environment, advocates that when Los Angeles starts allowing businesses to reopen in the coming weeks and months, the city could take a cue from Lithuania. She writes, “Of course, Lithuania is very different from Los Angeles. But L.A. could take some inspiration from Vilnius’ willingness to experiment with public spaces to help the city return to some safer version of normalcy. How about closing off parking spots or lanes to cars on some neighborhood commercial strips, so restaurants and cafes could place more tables outside? Or perhaps closing some less-traveled streets so people have more space to exercise outdoors while still socially distancing?” …

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