30-Day Pilot Street Closure Idea | FAQ | Updates | Reopening Process | Supplies

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30-Day Pilot Street Closure Idea

 

Introduction

We know how much our Downtown means to everyone. As we shift gears to recovery mode, we know our collective future in Downtown Ventura is in a fragile state.

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We believe consumer traffic will be slow to return until many residents are confident they can venture out with a degree of certainty they will not contract the virus.

How can we best pull together?

Under normal circumstances, the focus of Downtown Ventura Partners is to work on behalf of property owners and business owners to maintain a welcoming business district, organize events and design pathways for further success and opportunity.

Under the current circumstances, we feel a solid path forward is one where we focus on safety, have each other’s backs, honor individual and collective needs of merchants, and embrace uncertainty with a growth mindset and courage.

The ground has shifted under us and will continue shifting. We may experience a “new normal” for quite some time.

Working from a foundation of trust built over the past ten years between DVP and Downtown merchants, we have asked in one-to-one conversations, “What can we do to help?” The answer is unanimously, “Let people come back to our stores, safely.” 

Understanding Your Needs

To begin to understand the current challenges facing individual business owners, we have conducted two surveys.*

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The first survey in early April looked at financial stability and potential sources of funds. The second survey in early May — targeting merchants largely within three blocks of Main Street — looked at merchants’ outlook and the degree to which they might support a temporary pilot street closure of Main Street.

Results for Second Survey

Owners of 152 businesses received the survey and 85 individuals responded (56% response rate) between May 5 and 15.

You can use the links below to view all responses or a subset of responses. Three open-ended questions garnered a multitude of comments. 

The password for each is: evolve

The responses to two questions are helpful in looking at the potential value of a 30-day pilot street closure. 

First, when asked, “Looking at possible shortfalls for the rest of 2020, do you have the ability to weather the potential financial hit?” almost half indicated they are either “somewhat confident” or “very confident” they have this ability. Another 35% indicated “a lot of variables will determine [their] future as a business owner.” The remaining 17% are “somewhat concerned” or “very concerned” they won’t make it through 2020.

Second, participants were asked the following two-part question: “As a merchant in this unusual time, how would you view TEMPORARY closure of Main Street as a means to help businesses survive potential hardship?” They were asked to respond first “for your business specifically” and then “for downtown as a whole.” 

A majority of participants responded favorably, with more support for the downtown as a whole than for an individual’s own business. Of the 16 individuals who responded that it was a “bad idea” for their business, 7 of them are located outside the perimeter of the area under consideration for the pilot street closure. Conversely, of the 52 individuals who responded that it was a “good idea” for their business, 10 of them are also located outside the perimeter. 

In conjunction with the survey, Downtown Ventura Partners has spoken with the City Fire Department, Police Department,  and Public Works to understand requirements and considerations for a temporary street closure. 

* Business owners within our district footprint for whom we have an email address received the surveys. Individuals with businesses located more than 2-3 blocks from Main Street were not included in the second survey. 

Proposal for 30-Day Pilot Street Closure

We propose a pilot program for an initial 30 days. 

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We propose a Socialize Safely in the Streets Pilot Program for an initial 30 days to achieve the dual critical goals of:

  • Creating safe social distancing space for pedestrians
  • Assisting businesses in reestablishing a viable revenue stream

The program would provide a safety mechanism for pedestrians who desire additional space beyond the traditional sidewalk and would support dining and retail businesses.

Launch Date, if City approves 30-day event permit

There is currently no specified launch date.

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The next step is for DVP to submit a formal application to the City, which must issue a permit to allow the pilot street closure.

We don’t have a firm start date. We are looking at early to mid-June to start, to give business owners and ourselves time to prepare thoughtfully and thoroughly. In addition, the current VC Stay Well at Home order is set to expire on May 31st, but could be modified. We won’t begin until after it’s fully rescinded.

Exploration, Dozens of Conversations, and Poll Results 

If this idea did not gain support through an exploratory process, then it did not deserve to move forward. We therefore solicited your input, concerns, and advice.

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Conversations 

Over the course of three weeks, Kevin and Julie engaged in dozens of phone calls, street conversations, and email exchanges with business owners. Early on, the nature of the conversations was introductory and provided an initial measure of potential support for the pilot closure idea.  As the weeks progressed, the nature of the conversations evolved a bit to look more closely at the issues that come to play when the rubber hits the road.

City Council Blessing

On May 18, the City Council gave its blessing for Downtown Ventura Partners to continue exploring the pilot street closure idea with merchants.

Conference Calls

Four conference call opportunities on Wednesday, May 20, allowed business owners to take a deeper dive into the elements of the 30-day pilot street closure idea and share questions and concerns.

Poll

The following day, 103 business owners participated in a poll looking at the current level of support for the 30-day pilot closure idea. 

73% of participants supported the pilot street closure. Below are the results. The first bar chart shows the level of support from the early May survey. The second bar chart shows the level of support from the poll. 

A “blue-star block” refers to the 200 and 600 blocks of Main Street, which as of May 23 are under review by City safety officials for inclusion in the pilot street closure footprint. 

Issues and Ideas

Many issues will require attention if a pilot street closure is going to be successful and help your businesses.

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The following are ideas and concerns that are on our radar. We list them here in no particular order. A paragraph for each will be developed over the next several days. The information will evolve as we develop plans based on further merchant and supplier conversations.

Outside vendors would not be included. For example, a candle maker or artist would not have the opportunity to set up a booth. This is not a street fair. The focus of the pilot is to give business owners in our district the opportunity to increase revenue. 

Pedestrian safety, hand washing stations, branding, marketing, publicity, budget, parking, reserved pick up zones on side streets, access to street for delivery drivers, public tables for folks who want to eat their take-out, welcoming signage, public art, dog bowls, ABC relief elements, police presence, inappropriate behavior, fire truck access, leveling devices so tables are not on a steep grade, restaurant-supplied ropes to define the boundary of the outdoor restaurant place, retail store ideas for optional outdoor visibility in front of store, opportunities for business owners outside the closure footprint to be included, one-person acoustic singer/songwriter songs, and more.

Share your circumstances and we will listen

Your own unique situation may make the pilot street closure an imposition instead of an opportunity. 

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The 30-day pilot street closure will create conditions with the potential to help some owners more than others.

We hope for an open and honest discussion around your business’s recovery and the challenges in front of you. We understand you are facing many unknowns concerning the conditions under which we may be operating for the foreseeable future.

Threatening situations can make it difficult to think creatively. That’s where we can help. At your invitation, we can stop by and listen to your concerns, understand your unique needs, and explore creative solutions with you. 

The lion of economic threat is growling at every business owner. Let’s find mechanisms to help you move forward.

For those of you located beyond the closure footprint, the mixture of businesses will require its own tailored approach in our efforts to support you. We realize it’s not a one-size fits all.

Our economy is possibly teetering on the edge. Whichever path we choose, either to close the street for a 30-day pilot program or not, we will never know whether it’s the better path. Both could fail to help lift us out of stagnant circumstances. Or either could help. It comes down to this question: “Which path is likely to best help us survive and flourish?”


FAQ

What are the “resilience roadmap” and “four stages” to which the State of California often refers? 

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California will reopen based on a four-stage plan called the Resilience Roadmap. For Ventura County, each stage has incremental components. Progress through increments within a stage occurs when the county meets public health benchmarks, or “county case metrics,” that allow all of us to proceed safely. 

These metrics were announced May 18 by Governor Newsom and are listed in the screen grab below. They replace earlier metrics that included a challenging metric “no new wealths in the past 14 days.” The screen grab is from the “County Variance” page of the state COVID-19 website. 

A county can move through Stage 2 “faster” if “they are able to show greater progress,” as explained on the state’s Resilience Roadmap page and shown in the screen grab below.

Is the city involved in reopening decisions for stores and restaurants?

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The CITY is not involved with decisions regarding when a store can reopen. Their area of authority pertains to the opening or closure of a city park or other city-owned property.

The COUNTY decides when it is safe to progress from one stage to the next using the state’s four-stage plan. The county also creates the local mechanisms to implement state guidelines for how to safely reopen.

The City’s CODE ENFORCEMENT unit does play a role in assisting businesses to meet pandemic-related guidelines issued by the state and activated through the county. They are serving in an educational role, supporting businesses in implementing guidelines so they can operate safely. 

DOWNTOWN VENTURA PARTNERS (DVP) works hand-in-hand with all of the above to support businesses as they navigate through the pandemic. Operating as a business improvement district, DVP employs three administrative types — Kevin Clerici, Julie Henszey, and Steve Caramihai — along with individuals wearing red or blue shirts whom you may see on bicycles or in golf carts. The latter individuals are keeping our downtown safe and clean while things are quiet.  Learn more about DVP.

I own a hair salon or massage therapy business. When can I reopen?

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You will reopen in Stage 3 of the state’s four-stage plan. There is currently no timeline for this.

Do Kevin Clerici, Julie Henszey, and Steve Caramihai work for the City?

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No, but they work hand-in-hand with the City to support Downtown merchants. They are employees of Downtown Ventura Partners. Kevin is the Executive Director. 

Downtown Ventura Partners (DVP) is a private, non-profit business improvement district. Ten years ago, all of the property owners within a specific Downtown boundary successfully voted to pool their money to create a non-profit in order to provide back to themselves services over and above what the City can provide. The most visible services are the cleaning and safety services. If you’ve seen individuals in red “Ambassador” shirts riding a bicycle, they are DVP employees. The individuals in blue shirts that clean public spaces are also DVP employees.

This is the current business improvement district footprint. We recently extended our boundary; we now cover an area from Patagonia in the west to Transmission Brewing in the east and from Poli in the north to Thompson and Front St. in the south. Learn more about DVP and how you can benefit from our services.


Updates

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Restaurants and retail with external doors have reopened. The county’s stay-at-home order remains in place. 

Downtown Ventura Partners will soon submit a special event application to the City for a 30-day pilot street closure.

A graph of the pace at which the virus is spreading or subsiding is available through Tracking Coronavirus in California from the LA Times. Testing capacity largely determines daily reporting. 


Reopening Process

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The county provides the following path for businesses to reopen. You can find these at vcreopens.com.

  1. Begin by reviewing the Hair Salons and Barbershops GuidanceRetail Guidance, or Dine-In Restaurant Guidance published by the state.
  2. Upon reviewing the guidance, complete a detailed risk assessment of your business in accordance with the state guidelines.
  3. Complete a written worksite-specific COVID-19 prevention plan and post it at your business. (templates available below)
  4. Implement the prevention measures identified in your prevention plan.
  5. Designate an on-duty employee responsible for monitoring compliance with your plan.
  6. Complete the county’s attestation form.
  7. Upon completing your attestation, an official from your local jurisdiction may conduct a site visit.

Let’s go through these one by one.

1 – Industry Guidance

The state’s industry specific guidance documents provides guidelines to create a safe environment for workers and customers. It includes ideas like, “Take measures at checkout stations to minimize exposure between cashiers and customers, such as Plexiglas barriers.” It is full of practical ideas that you can or must implement.

The state also offers a checklist for many industries. The checklist is a summary of the larger guidance document and contains shorthand for some parts of the guidance. It is laid out in a format that helps you gauge your progress for preparing to reopen. The state suggests it can be helpful to post the checklist in your workplace to show customers and employees that you are managing the risk as well as possible.

Industry Guidance:

Checklists:

2 – Detailed Risk Assessment

Your risk assessment should be done methodically, considering each area of your facility and each employee’s work area.

For each area, note the commonly touched surfaces, such as handles, key pads and switches. Include them on your cleaning and sanitizing schedule, and have sanitizer available in each shared space of your facility. If you need PPE, cleaning, and sanitizing supplies, please consult our Supplies section towards the bottom of this page.

Consider the footprint of each employee and how they can be kept at least 6′ apart from customers and other employees at all times during their shift. This may require you to reposition, remove, or block off certain areas of your facility.

If performing a risk assessment seems daunting, please realize that in the course of creating a prevention plan, you will be identifying the points when an interaction or process involves some level of risk. So just move on to step three. You’ll end up completing step two while you write your prevention plan.

3 – Prevention Plan

Once you know what your risks are, you can create new protocols and routines to mitigate those risks. This is your prevention plan. 

The county has created templates to use to create a prevention plan. You can find them on the VC Reopens page and we also link to them below. They also provide a sample prevention plan, with a filled in template.

This 3-page plan by Fox Fine Jewelry models the plan for you. Debbie Fox provided it to help others. You are free to download and alter it to fit your business. Thank you, Debbie!

Once you have completed your plan, please post it at your business where others can see it. This can be on a wall or other visible area in your public space.

4 – Implement Prevention Measures

Post signage, rearrange your space as needed, train your staff, and follow the cleaning protocols you’ve written about. 

5 – Designate someone to monitor compliance

That person will likely be you or your store manager(s). The individual will want to have the ability to refocus some of their energy to make safety a priority and have the ability and desire to implement changes as any weaknesses in the plan begin to appear or assumptions are tested.

6 – Complete the attestation form

The attestation allows you to officially state that you’ve prepared your space and employees to conduct business in a safe manner. 

7 – A Site Visit

The City of Ventura’s Code Enforcement Office has a goal of trying to visit every business. They said they are working from the list of businesses that have completed an attestation. This obviously will take some time. They are in the role of guiding and educating and will not issue citations unless you blatantly disregard the guidelines. 

Please don’t fear an inspection. It’s an opportunity to make sure you can keep people as safe as possible while still conducting business. The personnel will share ideas that are working in other establishments for your consideration.


Supplies

To help you stretch your dollar without sacrificing quality or promptness, we invite you to consider the supply vendors below. To date, it is a very short list. 

If you have a relationship with a vendor, you may be all set. If you need ideas, please ask us. 

We take suggestions.

We will point merchants to any reputable vendor who has access to the supplies merchants need. We of course prefer local companies when possible. We can assemble product and pricing information and create additional handouts.

Hand sanitizer, dispensers, and stands.

We can currently confidently refer you to one regionally local supplier for hand sanitizer, dispensers, and stands. Sinclair Sanitary Supply out of Oxnard can provide quick turn-around for hand sanitizer dispensers, counter sprays and wipes, and other products. You can set up an appointment at your shop and they will help you purchase the right products and best amount for your situation, so you don’t under- or over-purchase. Here is a one-page handout with prices for their hand sanitizer cartridges and floor stand dispensers.

Below is a sample of the type of hand sanitizer products we feel will be most needed among Downtown merchants and restaurant owners.

Single use menus

Quick Printing Plus, located in our district at Ash and Thompson, can print single use menus. They are offering half price for black and white. Call 805-654-1707 or email Quickprintingplus@hotmail.com. They are the only printer in our district. Of course, you are welcome to choose any printer that fits your needs.