County approves fast-track outdoor dining guidelines for unincorporated areas

Server Jo Daszek, right, brings customer Chuck Mjelde his meal as he dine outside at Crazy Otto's in Valencia on Thursday, July 02, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday fast-track outdoor dining guidelines for unincorporated areas in the county, following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to halt indoor operations amid a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. 

The guidelines, presented in a motion by Supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathyrn Barger, authorizes Mark Pestrella, director of Public Works for the county, to issue temporary permits at low or zero cost to businesses looking to offer outdoor services for the implementation of sidewalk dining within the county road right-of-way in unincorporated areas. 

In the Santa Clarita Valley, that would include restaurants, wineries and other businesses affected by the state order in areas outside city limits, such as Stevenson Ranch and Castaic. The city recently created a program that lets restaurants apply for permits to utilize more of their outdoor space for dine-in customers.

“As restaurants are forced to once again close their indoor seating areas, we need to provide restaurants located in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County with appropriate guidance to utilize outdoor spaces,” read the motion. “This guidance is necessary to protect public health and safety and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Businesses in unincorporated areas will also have a chance to apply for temporary permits for the utilization of alleys, roadways, parking spaces and private parking lots as outdoor dining spaces. 

The move comes after Newsom announced last week that 19 counties, now 23, including L.A. County, must immediately pause certain indoor operations, such as restaurant dining, for the next three weeks or longer if necessary. 

“California is seeing the virus spreading at alarming rates in many parts of the state, and we are taking immediate action to slow the spread of the virus in those areas,” said Newsom in a previous statement. “We bent the curve in the state of California once, and we will bend the curve again. But we’re going to have to be tougher, and that’s why we are taking this action today.”

Upon hearing about California’s latest directive, many local restaurants with the space that permitted for outdoor dining began preparing almost immediately, but many others without a patio or parking lot had considered possibly shutting down temporarily.  

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