San Diego City Council allows many businesses to operate in parking lots, sidewalks

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The San Diego City Council approved two measures Tuesday that would allow many businesses shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic to reopen by moving their businesses outside.

The emergency ordinance will allow barbershops, hair salons, gyms, fitness centers and faith-based groups to reopen if they move their business outside, City Council member Chris Cate, chair of the Economic Development & Intergovernmental Relations Committee, said in a statement.

“Right now, we need to give our small businesses every tool possible to get through this difficult time or they might shut down for good,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who signed an executive order July 20 outlining the measure that was approved by the City Council Tuesday.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer addressing the City Council in better times.

The city was projecting a loss of one-third of its tax revenues when the budget passed in June. Hotel bed taxes were expected to be down $83 million and sales taxes off $26 million for fiscal year 2020, as compared to 2019.

San Diego’s solution may not work in cities across the nation that face harsher winters. The coldest temperatures the coastal city typically experiences is 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Mom-and-pop shops, especially in communities of concern, are struggling to keep up with changing rules despite doing everything they can just to survive this economic crisis,” Faulconer said in a statement. “Whether it’s allowing a barber to set up shop in a parking lot or providing a grant that helps a restaurant make payroll, we know small changes can make a big difference between closing for now or closing for good.”

Faulconer and Cate also penned a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 14 asking the governor to take emergency executive action allowing hair salons and barber shops to operate outdoors.

“Small businesses account for 98% of San Diego businesses and the impacts of COVID-19 has had on our small businesses, many of which are family owned and run, have been significant,” Cate and Faulconer wrote.

San Diego has allocated millions of dollars in funding for small business relief, identified private foundations to support employees and their families, and worked side by side with minority-owned small businesses in their native languages to ensure they understand what is needed to survive the closures, they wrote.

The second measure reallocates $700,000 from the city’s small business relief fund toward helping businesses in historically underserved communities through direct grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, specialized research and technical assistance. Faulconer also challenged the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to match the grant.

Businesses operating in economically vulnerable and historically underserved communities, including the Promise Zone, Opportunity Zone, Low- & Moderate-Income Census Tracts and other economic corridors have been most impacted by COVID-19, according to a mayor's press release.

With half of the federal CARES Act funding made available in the $20 million relief fund going toward underserved areas, Tuesday’s action solidifies the city’s commitment to ensuring an inclusive approach to recovery, according to the mayor's office. To date, the Small Business Relief Fund has provided assistance to more than 1,200 businesses.

To be eligible for the grant, the business owner must be self-employed, an independent contractor, a sole proprietor or a corporation with revenues less than $100,000. It also must have 10 or fewer employees and be able to document a decline in revenues due to COVID-19.

“I am thrilled that my City Council colleagues voted for this much-needed small business relief package for our communities,” said City Council member Monica Montgomery. “This funding is a step in the right direction as an investment into helping historically underserved communities of color.”

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Economy Coronavirus California Small business
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