Solana Beach to begin small business grant program

Solana Beach City Hall
(Staff photo)

The Solana Beach City Council approved a small business grant program on June 10 that will use $200,000 from the CARES Act, which was approved by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Solana Beach “public serving” businesses with 25 or less employees will be eligible to apply. The amounts will be determined based on how many small businesses fit that criteria. City Manager Greg Wade said the city has been in contact with the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce to determine that number.

“We do know for sure that the businesses are hurting,” Solana Beach City Councilman David Zito said.

Local governments with populations greater than 500,000 received direct funding from the CARES Act. The city and county of San Diego were both eligible, but none of the other cities in San Diego County met the population requirement.

Last month, the county Board of Supervisors appropriated $25 million of the $334 million in CARES Act funding it received to local cities. Solana Beach was allocated $238,506. In addition to the $200,000 the city has designated for small business grants, the remaining funding is undesignated for the time being.

In another response to COVID-19, the city will grant temporary-use permits that allow restaurants and microbreweries to expand their dining areas through the end of the calendar year to help them welcome customers back while maintaining social distancing. There will also be extensions for construction projects and permits that have been delayed due to the pandemic.

The City Council also decided against implementing a shared streets program as part of an initiative launched by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). Solana Beach and nine other cities, as well as San Diego County, qualified for shared streets funding from SANDAG.

A SANDAG news release said the shared streets program was created to help cities adjust to the COVID-19 regulations, such as social distancing. It was also inspired by National Bike Month in May. The funding can be used for options including closing residential streets to thru traffic, adding signage to promote shared use of the roads, and adding more space for bicyclists, pedestrians and others who use the road.

Solana Beach city staff said closing streets might shift more traffic onto other streets, and might also create parking issues. Had the city moved forward with the program, the city would have been required to put it in place by the end of June.

City staff members listed portions of six streets that could be used for safe streets, including Pacific Avenue, North Sierra Avenue and North Rios Avenue.

Mayor Jewel Edson said she was “concerned with the unintended consequences.”

“I’m not sure there’s been enough study for me to be supportive,” she said.

Two public speakers spoke in opposition to the program.

Zito, who represents Solana Beach on the SANDAG board of directors, said the program could have helped the city learn how to best install similar ideas throughout the city in the future.

“If you don’t ever try anything you don’t ever learn anything,” he said.