With outdoor dining more popular than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic, Beaverton businesses could get help setting up places for customers to eat outside.
Beaverton city leaders are considering a new grant program to assist with the design and construction of outdoor structures like covered seating and decking permitted within the city's recently launched Open Air Beaverton program.
The new permit program allowing businesses to expand services outdoors into right-of-way parking was adopted earlier this month and will launch Nov. 4.
The desire to give businesses more flexibility for things like patio dining existed long before the pandemic made it a necessity to move most social activities outdoors, according to a city staff report.
In 2019, Beaverton created the Street Seat pilot project, which installed an on-street structure on Southwest Angel Avenue and Farmington Road. By the time the city was getting ready to roll out a more permanent program, the pandemic shuttered non-essential businesses like restaurants and cafes.
In June 2020, when businesses started to reopen again, the Open Air Beaverton Recovery Program suspended the enforcement of certain ordinances to allow businesses to temporarily expand their operations outdoors. After a year of success, councilors decided to adopt the program permanently.
But getting the permit is just one hurdle. The cost of building these outdoor structures can cost anywhere between $15,000 and $75,000, depending on the materials, according to city staff reports.
Permitted spaces located within on-street parking meanwhile are required to construct decks that are flush with the sidewalk in order to meet ADA requirements. This can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $7,000 per deck, according to city staff reports.
Beaverton partnered with Lionheart Coffee Co. to set up the First Street Dining Commons in summer 2020. That covered area, which blocks off a section of the street, provides an open-air space for people to take food from nearby restaurants and eat outside.
While the dining commons has been well-received, it's of little benefit to eateries outside Beaverton's downtown core. Many of Beaverton's restaurants are located in strip malls, shopping centers or along major thoroughfares like Southwest Canyon Road and Scholls Ferry Road.
All that explains why Beaverton officials hope to step in to assist businesses, with potential grant program options ranging from $30,000 to $455,000.
City Manager Jen Haruyama's staff has recommended that the Beaverton City Council, which is responsible for setting policy and approving expenditures, adopt a three-year $455,000 grant program, with the first year offering $230,000 in total to be distributed to eligible applicants.
To line up with the launch of the Open Air permit program, city staff is working on an expedited plan that will be ready by Nov. 4.
The city could potentially use monies from the general fund to help fund the program, but councilors each expressed that they would prefer to use available funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
"It should be ARPA. That's what this money was designed to do," Mayor Lacey Beaty said during a council discussion on Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Beaty also said she doesn't want the grant program to function on a "first-come, first-served" basis.
"If you do first-come, first-served, that's going to give people who have been friends with the city and who have connections to us the ability to be the first to come in, and I don't think that's an equitable way when we are distributing money," she said.
The Beaverton City Council will revisit the topic when it meets Tuesday, Nov. 2.
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