By Haley Sawyer
South Pasadena could be getting some much-needed assistance soon after the City Council unanimously voted to repurpose grant money from Arroyo Fest to go toward COVID-19 response.
Arroyo Fest, an event planned in conjunction with Metro and Active SGV, would have allowed South Pas residents to walk on the Arroyo Seco Parkway in November 2020 to encourage healthy forms of transportation, foster a sense of community and showcase local businesses.
“In 2003, there was an event that was really ahead of its time,” said Wes Reutimann of Active SGV, who gave a presentation at the council’s Feb. 3 meeting. “A temporary closure of the historic Arroyo Seco Parkway from Pasadena to Avenue 26. Things were looking great to restart it in November, but the pandemic happened.”
Recently, the Metro Board of Directors authorized recipients of Open Streets grant money to use the funds for COVID-19 recovery measures. This could include creating outdoor spaces or long-term traffic interventions to support safe dining and vending or providing education and encouragement of physical distancing outlined in the Safer at Home measures.
All projects and ideas for use of the grant funds need to be reviewed and approved by Metro staff. The deadline to spend funds has been extended to Dec. 31.
Cities including Pomona, La Verne, San Dimas, Monrovia, Glendora and El Monte have taken advantage of the opportunity. Glendora, for example, has used the money to expand parklet areas at restaurants to create larger outdoor dining areas.
South Pasadena’s current proposal also intends to promote safer outdoor vending. Retractable bollards to protect the Farmer’s Market are a possibility as well as expanding outdoor dining and retail.
The Farmer’s Market, operated by the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, has been searching for a solution like the bollards for some time.
“Anything that will provide more security for the customers, for the vendors, for the staff would be great,” said Laurie Wheeler, president and CEO of the Chamber. “Right now we use portable metal barricades. You see them everywhere. Something that’s a little bit more secure would definitely be beneficial.”
Outdoor dining resumed in late January after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he was lifting a stay-at-home order that began in early December, which ceded coronavirus restriction policies back to county officials. Additionally, personal care services such as hair and nail salons can operate at 25% indoor capacity.
South Pasadena expanded al fresco dining to streets using K-rail concrete barriers to designate dining areas in August, and have contracted with the South Pasadena Arts Council to curate decorative vinyl wraps for the barriers.
The city may also take part in the Slow Streets Project, which pushes for residents to drive carefully through signage placed on roads to encourage and accommodate increased pedestrian traffic and active transportation like bicycles.
“It’s really just a safety reminder for folks out driving on the road that there are more people and families using city streets for safe healthy outdoor recreation and trying to maintain physical distance while doing so,” Reutimann said.
The city can recommend streets to be a part of Slow Streets Project, but residents can also nominate streets for consideration.
South Pasadena could host open street events like Arroyo Fest, which have previously helped the local economy, in the future.
“It basically allowed people who don’t necessarily come into this part of the town or aren’t from South Pasadena to go through and discover the businesses,” Wheeler said. “The businesses loved it because they were open for the day, people could come in and get something to eat, something to drink. And many businesses said they definitely had people come back the next day.”
The city can re-apply in fall for an open street event in the fall, with the event likely to take place between 2022 and 2023.