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Huntington Beach City Council votes to extend Main Street closures through the end of the year

Huntington Beach's Main Street, pictured in 2019.
(Christine Cotter)

The Huntington Beach City Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday night to extend the closures of the second and third blocks of Main Street to vehicular traffic.

Main Street will now be open to pedestrians only, up to Orange Avenue, through the end of the year. The street closures have primarily been used for outdoor dining during the coronavirus pandemic.

Orange County moved from the purple tier to the red tier of reopening Tuesday, meaning that restaurants can open for indoor dining at up to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less. But City Council members agreed that the outdoor dining program, which was kick-started in May and expanded to the third block in early August, has been well-received and reinvigorated the downtown area.

The downtown Business Improvement District had submitted a letter showing the support of 19 businesses in continuing the closure of the second block of Main Street. But City Manager Oliver Chi said in a report that some businesses in the third block were less enthusiastic about the closure. The third block of Main Street has fewer dining establishments and more retail businesses.

Orange County restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship and museums can resume indoor operations at 25% capacity, while fitness centers must be limited to 10% capacity.

Councilman Mike Posey said a contingency plan still was needed in case indoor dining doesn’t open back up as quickly as hoped, and that’s why he made a motion to keep both the second and third blocks closed to traffic and open to outdoor dining through the end of the year.

“There is an energy on the second block which hasn’t quite migrated to the third block,” Posey said. “What I see is that the water barriers create a physical, a visual and maybe even a psychological barrier for those who want to venture off of second to the third block. I think to get that energy jump the street, we have to make those water barriers camouflaged. I think it could be done relatively inexpensively by just putting a banner up there. On one side of the banner, you put the restaurants on the west side [of the street], and on the other side of the banner you put the retailers and Avila’s El Ranchito on the [east] side.”

Posey also suggested bringing a live music element on each side of the third block of Main Street.

Mayor Pro Tem Jill Hardy mentioned that some residents she’s talked to indicated that they wanted downtown to permanently have the outdoor dining options.

Councilman Erik Peterson was the lone dissenting vote against keeping the third block closed through the end of 2020.

“I’m not quite as comfortable as you guys telling these businesses that we’re going to do this,” he said. “I’d prefer that they come to some sort of vote between them, except for the second block. I think that’s a given, but the third block ... I’m really not as enthusiastic about that.”

Councilwoman Kim Carr made a substitute motion to Posey’s motion, proposing to continue the third block closure through the end of October and reevaluate the situation at that time. It was defeated 4-3 with Hardy, Posey, Mayor Lyn Semeta and Councilwoman Barbara Delgleize voting no.

H.B. to enact bicycle regulations

The City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to instruct Chi to prepare regulations that would make the repair and sale of bicycles and bicycle parts illegal on public property in the city.

Federal rules require that phone companies let you take your number with you when you switch providers. Robin Gross, 69, and her husband, James Brown, 68, a pair of Frontier customers, found this easier said than done.

Councilman Patrick Brenden introduced the item after he said a resident made the suggestion. He said the city of Long Beach recently passed a similar ordinance.

“It’s a good step in the right direction,” Brenden said. “I think we’ve all seen more often than we’d like, someone on a bike coming down the street and rolling another bike alongside of them. We all know that bike theft in Huntington Beach is rampant. As long as there’s this underground network of chop shops that’s providing an easy way to traffic stolen bike parts and bikes by drug addicts and other criminal elements, we’re never going to really be able to address this problem of bike theft.”

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