The city council will consider several changes to the activities that have become common during the pandemic tonight, as it is meeting in person for the first time since March 2020.
City Manager Nelson Fialho, speaking with the group of retired men from GraceWay Church on Monday, outlined the city staff recommendation that will go to the council tonight. The Council must approve the return to normal operations.
Among them is reducing Main Street closings on the weekend when the current season ends Labor Day weekend. As I noticed earlier, the restaurateurs love them, but they haven’t been good for a lot of retailers, especially those whose customers are used to parking nearby.
The compromise the city staff is proposing is to close one weekend each month and build a program similar to the first Wednesday when Main Street closed for a few hours on those evenings. This approach will allow the Friday night concerts in the park to return in 2022.
The other big change is reclaiming parking space on Main Street and other streets by eliminating the parklets. In the rush of the pandemic and declining revenues, the city has not set a policy and that is showing. Some, like Strizzis, have built nice parklets, while others just pitch makeshift tents. Fialho said, “It looks like Cabo out there,” obviously not the look that the historic heart of the city wanted.
The restaurateurs who have expanded their space rent-free will likely lose it in September. The closure had mixed results. When the weather is good, many people eat outside, but when the temperature rises, people look for air conditioning and don’t eat outside in over 90 degrees of heat.
Removing the parklets will also allow the city to get back into parade business for Veteran’s Day and Christmas tree lighting events, and allow Foothill to hold its annual band briefing in October.
Looking back at the pandemic and the city’s spontaneous adaptation, Fialho emphasized the importance of partnership. As an example, he cited Rick Shumway, CEO of ValleyCare. They had talked at networking events but didn’t really know each other. Now after working closely together, they are both good friends and co-workers who serve Pleasanton. Fialho said Stanford ValleyCare’s connection to the Palo Alto headquarters was critical to providing local services.
It was the partnership with Stanford ValleyCare together with the cities of Dublin and Livermore that established the drive-through proving ground at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. More than 1.2 million people have been tested. What the partners learned helped when they set up a vaccination station in another parking lot on the exhibition grounds. He found that about 80% of the adults in Pleasanton are vaccinated and that number was four weeks old.
For smaller communities working together and engaging nonprofits, corporations, and others to collaborate, this is a sustainable way out of the pandemic.
When the shutdown hit on March 17, 2020 (two days after his conversation with the same group was postponed), the city was prioritizing and knowing it would accept a decline in sales. The budget was cut by more than 9 million US dollars, which went into a “rainy day fund”. That would be handy as the total financial damage over the past 17 months has been about $ 20 million. The Rainy Day Fund has been replenishing quite a bit, and the federal government has brought in another $ 8.5 million.
The pandemic required other adjustments. The construction inspectors conducted virtual tours by sending links to people’s cell phones that allow the inspector to see the job from a distance (more than 1,000 inspections conducted). In a way, this can go on like allowing public commentary via zoom on the city council and other city assemblies. The library moved to the curb and loaned more than 225,000 books.
The city helped 207 families with $ 5,000 in grants to help them repay rent or mortgages, and distributed more than $ 2.2 million to distressed nonprofits. There were also grants to help troubled businesses stay alive.
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