THE REST OF THE STORY
1 Sep 2020
If you caught last month’s article, you read all about a heartwarming downtown pivot involving a handful of Main Street businesses, countless city workers, and oodles of community members. Creating an inviting outdoor patio space to keep business thriving was the brainchild of one passionate individual. However, the idea was transformed into reality thanks to the collective work of many.
The story doesn’t end here. Shortly after our publication of the Cedar Crest Brewing/Kanela’s alleyway transformation hit inboxes, a handful of City of Red Bluff employees helped chalk another “win” for downtown businesses.
Not all shops and eating establishments on Main Street have a back-parking area that would allow for a smooth outdoor transition. To the layman, pushing out onto the front sidewalk seems like a no-brainer. The kicker? Main Street, north of Antelope Boulevard, is considered State Route 36 (SR36) and is controlled by CalTrans. That’s right. The state has 100 feet right of way that encompasses the roadway and all of the real estate to the business fronts. Countless codes restrict the use of this area. Despite numerous inquiries over the years, it has been made crystal clear that NO dining, seating, or business shall occur within this right of way.
One savvy City of Red Bluff staffer realized that the current climate crippling business warranted another try with this state entity. Scott Miller, Assistant Public Works Director, contacted the local CalTrans Encroachment Inspector with a new plea for downtown businesses during these trying times.
“There was talk about this for some time,” shared Miller. “We knew it would most likely be a ‘no’ from the state for front usage, but rules, regulations, and government orders seem to be uncharacteristically fluid with different interpretations issued seemingly hourly. It was worth another try.”
Although the first answer was a hard “no,” a return call came in just 30 minutes later, stating that some new allowances transpired. Miller learned that recent guidance issued WOULD allow for temporary seating within this right of way. However, this encroachment permit would only be issued to cities or counties, would be allowed for only 120 days (11/27/20), and would be subject to several restrictions. These conditions proved to be rather tight. The biggies are that only public seating is allowed (no table service – to-go orders only), financial transactions are not allowed to occur, advertising is a no-no, and alcohol consumption is prohibited.
Combine these restrictions coupled with endless 100+ degree days and the bonus of smoke-filled skies, and it’s easy to connect the dots as to why very few businesses have jumped on this new opportunity. However, city workers are willing to lock arms with any business willing to give it a go.
“The city attempted to make our permitting process as easy as possible on our end,” explained Robin Kampmann, Director of Public Works. “We encourage all restaurants to apply. Our staff is available to answer any questions and walk businesses through the process.”
Some may not view this new Main Street easement encroachment as a victory. However, there is a golden nugget of goodness hiding in this effort. We just need to look at it from a particular angle. What screams “WIN” is that our city went to bat for our businesses again. Miller quickly collaborated with Kyle Sanders (acting City Manager while Rick Crabtree was on vacation) and other department heads to offer another viable outlet for businesses to try during these unprecedented times.
“Many people in the past have mentioned the desire to have this available for downtown, and we at the city saw an opportunity where we could make this happen,” said Miller. “We did what we could to see this through to fruition, and hopefully, provide some additional opportunities for our downtown businesses.”
As summer transitions into fall, maybe this will prove to be a viable outlet for some Main Street restaurants. And, who knows what might transpire in the future. Maybe, just maybe, this will prove to be the catalyst leading to fewer sidewalk restrictions down the road. All in all, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Client & Community Outreach