By Arnold Adler
BELLFLOWER — Outdoor dining, approved as a temporary measure because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be expanded and become permanent under a revised ordinance tentatively approved on a 5-0 vote by the City Council Sept. 13.
Final action on the ordinance, which also included clarification of existing rules, is expected at the council’s Sept. 27 meeting, City Clerk Mayra Ochiqui said.
The city’s business recovery program, which allowed outdoor dining, was approved in June 2020 to assist the recovery of the local economy, according to Elizabeth Corpuz, director of planning and business services, in a report to the City Council.
She said the ordinance expired this July 1, but several restaurants which conducted outdoor dining on private and public land requested that it continue.
“Outdoor dining creates an inviting atmosphere along commercial corridors and provides more flexibility with seating and waiting areas for restaurants,” Corpuz said in her report.
She noted that administrative fees would be charged to pay for staff time spent reviewing outdoor operating requests.
City code currently allows outdoor dining on public right-of-way in the Town Center area along Bellflower Boulevard from the Artesia (91) Freeway north to about Alondra Boulevard.
That provision will be clarified as part of the new ordinance, which would allow outdoor dining citywide with permits, Corpuz said.
The Planning Commission recommended approval after a public hearing Aug. 16.
The hearing included issues of circulation and accessibility, cleanliness and maintenance of the outdoor eating area, compliance with state, county and health requirements, safety of patrons from vehicular traffic and revocation of permits for non-compliance, Corpuz said.
Under the revised ordinance, dining is not allowed in an alley or a street, dining areas must offer at least four feet of clearance for pedestrians on a sidewalk as well as the minimum distance required under the federal rules for the handicapped.
In addition, tables and chairs must be of made substantial materials. Tables may be up to three feet in diameter if round and up to three feet long if rectangular.
Dining area structures and accessories my not block the visibility of display windows or signs on adjacent buildings without the consent of affected business owners.
The outdoor dining area must be kept in a clean and safe condition at all times and trash must be properly disposed of and all restaurants must comply with all state, county and local health standards.
Under the new rules, the City may charge a rental fee for use of public places and restaurant owners must submit a diagram showing the proposed location of dining areas including tables, seating and signs; a graphical design such as a photograph of the proposed area, a list of operating hours and a safety plan to protect patrons from traffic.
Decorative barriers must be provided and all furnishings must be stored indoors after operating hours unless otherwise determined by the planning director.
In another COVID-19-related action, the council approved an allocation of $70,000 to help low- and moderate-income families purchase food under the city’s food insecurity program.
“Up to 35 Bellflower households can be provided with up to $150 of groceries on a bi-weekly basis, until funds are exhausted,” said Jim DellaLonga, director of economic development.
“City staff will promote the program and accept and review applications from Bellflower households over a reasonable time frame,” DellaLonga added.
Once applicants are income qualified, staff will supply Superior Grocers and Aldi with a pre-determined list of food items to be picked up on a designated day and time by the household applicants, DellaLonga said.