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Parking vs dining platforms issue in downtown Ripon
The outdoor seating area at The Vault and Taste That Matters in downtown Ripon will continue to be an outdoor dining option.

When it comes to outdoor dining and the current emergency ordinance that allows such businesses to continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Ripon is looking to put these two items together as one ordinance.

That’s the direction Planning Director Ken Zuidervaart received at the Oct 12 Ripon City Council meeting.

“The emergency ordinance (Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive orders, as amended on July 2020) was to help businesses affected by the shutdown – so businesses that were unable to operate inside could go outside,” he said, adding that this applied mostly to restaurants.

The two chapters in the code that deal with this issue, according to Zuidervaart, is the outside dining – as in an outdoor setup on the sidewalk – and on-street dining.

Elected leaders were OK with sidewalk dining, as long as there is a pathway, but when it comes to dining platforms in the parking spaces, they’re appeared to be leaning towards doing away with that once the emergency service order is lifted.

Mayor Daniel de Graaf indicated that he would prefer that on-street dining to be excluded from proposed ordinance but keep outdoor dining in so as long as it doesn’t impede with other businesses. He initially voted against such structures in parking stalls. “If we’re going to keep it in the Ripon Municipal Code, the parking structure needs to be permanent or not allowed,” he said.

Council members have heard their share of complaints from business owners on parking structures such as A Matter of Taste taking up several downtown spaces.

“The way city parking stands right now it is not practical to take up parking spaces, especially the way it is being taken up now. It is impossible to pass there and dangerous,” said Councilman Tim Wheeler, who has his own CPA business in downtown.

Councilman Mike Restuccia believes that the dining platforms should go away by Nov. 30. That’s the date on the resolution passed by Council members during their August meeting, allowing for emergency service ordinance (specifically, not enforcing certain requirements of the municipal code to allow businesses impacted by COVID-19 regulations to operate outdoors) until then.

“Parking spaces need to be freed up,” Restuccia said.

Zuidervaart said that staff will bring back a resolution for potential extension of the Nov. 30 deadline at next month’s meeting.

Staff, in addition, will bring back an ordinance to combine the two outdoor dining sections.