HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Calif.—Humboldt County staff announced yesterday during a Board of Supervisors meeting that they are willing and able to relax parking standards and allow alternative uses of public right-of-way to help local businesses re-open successfully and keep local residents safe and healthy. The announcements came during a discussion of the need for “temporary modifications to restrictions for use of public spaces” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has created new challenges for businesses, particularly restaurants, which have seen their indoor dining capacity dramatically reduced as a result of social distancing requirements. This problem can be at least partially resolved by placing tables in parking lots. However, county regulations require businesses to maintain their parking lots for legal operation. Yesterday, Planning and Building Director John Ford announced that this would not be problem.
“If [businesses with private parking lots] want to come in and…modify their parking plan, we can grant temporary modifications to that right now,” said Ford. “We would be absolutely delighted to make things work for restaurants and for business owners.”
For businesses without private parking lots, there may be another solution: conducting outdoor dining or other business in on-street parking spaces. Public Works Director Tom Mattson announced yesterday that his department will try to accommodate any business that needs to operate in the public right of way. “We are open to helping the businesses out,” said Mattson. “We can waive encroachment requirements under my authority…so if anybody has an idea, I would encourage them to include Public Works.”
The cities of Eureka and Arcata have announced separately that they are taking similar steps to support businesses within city limits.
“The pandemic is highlighting the fact that as a county we dedicate huge amounts of public space for the exclusive use of cars and trucks,” said CRTP Executive Director Colin Fiske. “And the fact that sometimes that space can be put to better use. We’re glad that our local governments are willing to help businesses adjust to this crisis by re-purposing some of our parking and driving areas. We hope that they will also take steps to protect our most vulnerable road users, by adopting temporary sidewalk extensions, traffic calming, and shared streets measures to keep kids and adults safe as they try to keep six feet apart while walking, biking and playing in the public right-of-way.”