UPDATE: San Jose leaders approve allowing businesses to operate outdoors
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is pictured in this file photo. Photo by Nadia Lopez.

In an effort to kickstart the economy once shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted, San Jose lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously approved a proposal to help reopen some small businesses by allowing them to operate outside.

San Jose Al Fresco, the proposal authored by Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmember Dev Davis, will allow businesses such as restaurants, salons, cafes, gyms, yoga studios and other retailers to take advantage of the city’s sunny weather by setting up shop outside in public spaces such as parking lots, parks, alleys, plazas and streets, once Santa Clara County’s stay-at-home order is eased.

“We’re trying to have our policies all ready to go for when we get the go-ahead from the county and the state,” Davis said. “We’re trying to be forward thinking.”

With nearly 60 percent of coronavirus layoffs coming from the food and hospitality industry, they said, San Jose should follow in the footsteps of other cities such as New York and Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, to use public space for outdoor use. The move would allow for sufficient social distancing among workers and the public, they added.

Councilmember Raul Peralez expressed concern about residents drinking alcoholic beverages outside without designated areas and barriers. He said barriers could prevent cars from “barreling down” streets with pedestrians, while an increased police presence could help manage and maintain crowds.

“Resolving that…seems to be the final remaining hurdle to make this something that is cost effective, feasible and beneficial to our businesses,” he said.

To help small businesses cover application fees and costs, city officials will explore using federal reimbursement and funding.

Digital inclusion strategy

San Jose leaders have devised a plan to provide every student with broadband access and digital tools, calling on tech companies to help bridge the digital divide as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to broaden that gap.

After approving an update to the digital inclusion strategy two weeks ago, San Jose leaders on Tuesday unanimously approved a partnership with the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) to distribute donated funds and resources among the city’s neediest students as they transition to online learning.

San Jose has received nearly $63,000 in donations to bring internet and Wi-Fi access across the city as well as 139 devices and 200 cellphones from companies such as AT&T, IBM and Revivn.

“This is an amazing step forward and should be celebrated,” Santa Clara County Board of Education Member Peter Ortiz said. “I’m also hoping there’s a way we can expedite this process in order to secure infrastructure to students in need of access.”

The city will also begin hosting “device drives” in partnership with nonprofit the Tech Exchange to refurbish donated computers and distribute them to students in need. The first two events are planned for Willow Glen on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bank of America at 1245 Lincoln Ave. and in Evergreen on May 27, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Evergreen Valley High School.

The city will explore additional funding opportunities, officials said, including other public-private partnerships with telecommunication companies.

Eviction moratorium and temporary reduction of rent 

As part of a plan to reduce the financial burden on tenants in light of the coronavirus pandemic, San Jose leaders unanimously approved extending the city’s moratorium on rent and allowing landlords who temporarily reduce rent for their tenants to base future rental increases on the previous amount.

If a tenant’s rent before the pandemic was $2,000 a month and the landlord temporarily reduced the rent to $1,500, for example, future rent increases allowed by the city’s rent control laws will be 5 percent of the original rent, or $100, when the contract is renewed. That means the tenant’s rent will be $2,100 in 2021.

The change will be in effect for one year after the city’s moratorium on rental increases expires on Dec. 31.

The city’s moratorium on evictions was extended until June 30. Tenants will have up to a year after the moratorium’s expiration date to pay back rent accrued during the pandemic.

Contact Nadia Lopez at [email protected] or follow @n_llopez on Twitter

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