At tonight’s Planning Commission meeting, members will vote on two issues pertaining to the use of sidewalk space by businesses in Old Town Newhall, the historic Santa Clarita property currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation.
Of the two items, the Commission is expected to establish guidelines for restaurants wishing to provide outdoor dining opportunities on Main Street, the primary thoroughfare that feeds into Lyons Avenue, Market Street and Newhall Avenue.
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In the past, restaurants have not utilized outdoor dining as it encroaches on public property. Those restaurants include El Mas Café, El Pariente, Jazmin’s Restaurant, Thai Pepper Restaurant and the Way Station. Although El Trocadero, located on the street, currently utilizes an outdoor patio, it is actually located on private property and thus does not protrude into the designated public right-of-way.
“We’ll probably give it a shot,” said Way Station owner Jeri Bronstrup of her desire to open an outdoor dining area. “The City’s been really encouraging and have talked to us about it on multiple occasions.”
While Bronstrup is wary an outdoor patio may allow customers to “dine and ditch,” she is open to the idea of expanding her restaurant.
“When our restaurant is hopping, it’s often hard to see everything that’s happening. Still, there’s always a way to working something out.”
According to Planning Manager Lisa Webber, future restaurants as well as current ones on Main Street would be able to open an outdoor dining area.
“You may have a retail store that five years from today turns into a restaurant and because of their frontage and sizing along their façade they would be able to take advantage of this,” said Webber.
To qualify for the permit, the City would need to determine that functional use of the sidewalk is maintained, including pedestrians’ ability to walk side-by-side and window shop.
Proposed standards include a minimum five-foot width pathway for pedestrian travel, four-foot setback from driveways and two-foot setback from any entrance or exit.
“There are approximately 80 tenant spaces along Main Street with frontage,” said Assistant Planner Mike Marshall. “What we did was look at how many of those would potentially qualify in theory if they were all restaurants. Approximately 75 percent of those spaces would qualify.”
This is positive news in keeping with the City’s plan to morph Old Town Newhall into what Webber calls a “walkable village.”
“We want people to feel comfortable dining and shopping and strolling and sitting out on a bench,” said Weber. “By offering these outdoor dining opportunities, it’s intended to facilitate helping that environment grow over time.”
Also on tonight’s agenda, the Commission will establish developmental standards for the outdoor display for businesses in Old Town Newhall.
As with the outdoor dining standards, the Commission is expected to vote to allow merchandise to be displayed as long as it does not present safety hazards or inhibit either vehicular or pedestrian acess to the building or business. Both issues will be decided tonight when the Planning Commission meets at City Hall at 7:00 p.m.
This will also be the first meeting for new Planning Commission member Lisa Eichman, the local business owner who replaced two-term member Diane Trautman.