The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to extend all conditional use permits issued to restaurants in the unincorporated communities by 18 months.
The motion authored by 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger secured further support for restaurateurs “deeply impacted” by the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the height of the pandemic in 2019-2021, at various times, restaurants could only operate on a takeout or delivery basis, and indoor dining was only allowed with a limited capacity.
“Starting in 2020, public health orders required the county to institute significant restrictions on restaurants’ ability to operate,” Barger wrote in a prepared statement. “Extending conditional use permits is one way we can eliminate administrative and financial burdens so businesses can focus on their bottom lines.”
Helen Chavez, spokeswoman for Barger, said this extension will allow restaurants with current conditional use permits to continue to operate in a number of ways such as providing outdoor dining, serving alcohol, etc., as described by their conditional use permits and allowed zoning requirements.
According to the agenda, numerous restaurants closed permanently and those that remain open have incurred significant losses and experienced continued hardship.
Prior to this extension, in July 2020, supervisors initiated a COVID-19 temporary Outdoor Dining Program. They also directed the chief executive office to collaborate with several county departments to outline the scope of a permanent outdoor dining program in June 2021.
In April 2022, after reviewing their recommendation, the board indicated two separate ordinances amending the county code to create regulations for permanent outdoor dining within the public right-of-way and on private property.
“Given the depth and breadth of the impact to restaurants, and overwhelming number of which are small businesses, there is still more we can do to help the long-term recovery of the industry,” Barger wrote in the motion. “One such action is to extend conditional use permits for restaurants in our unincorporated communities.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning grants conditional use permits, which allow restaurants to operate according to zoning requirements in ways that are compatible with their neighborhoods, Barger wrote in a statement. Conditional use permits include a grant term with an expiration date, and restaurants must apply for a new CUP before the expiration date.
“This process involves a public hearing, helping ensure that the restaurants operate in a responsible manner, especially if they sell alcoholic beverages, and are otherwise compatible with their neighborhoods,” the motion states. “However, this process can be expensive and time consuming, especially for small business owners.”
The Board of Supervisors extended the grant term for all currently valid conditional use permits by 18 months to acknowledge the financial impacts of the pandemic and provide restaurants with more time to prepare their applications for a new conditional use permit.
For a restaurant, a typical conditional use permit costs $11,000 and the process could take up to 12 months to execute, a time frame that includes a public hearing process, Barger said.
According to the motion, all other conditions would remain in effect unchanged, and the county code would allow for conditional use permits to be modified or revoked before the end of the extended grant term, if necessary to address public health and safety concerns.
Supervisors indicated they were comfortable extending current conditional use permits because it only “involves the continued operation of restaurants in existing structures and facilities that are already permitted for this use, with no physical expansion or other change of use.”