VISTA — Slowing the financial bleeding for local businesses is a top priority for the city leadership.
During its May 26 meeting, the Vista City Council approved seven measures to help spur sluggish economic activity resulting from mandatory shutdown orders for non-essential businesses due to COVID-19.
Dubbed the Vista Economic Recovery Plan Enhancements, the city is moving forward with a seven-step plan to jump-start local businesses through several platforms. The council also approved an amended budget to include $107,371 to cover the program.
“This is about how residents can support businesses,” said Kevin Ham, Vista’s director of economic development. “We want to be prepared and put solutions and practices in place to help businesses.”
The city, and several marketing agencies, will promote its “Vista is Open” initiative online through a dedicated website, social media, newsletters, and a special business edition of Our Vista Magazine, a city publication distributed to 34,000 people three times per year.
One goal is to highlight every small business reopening in Vista, along with promotions, a loyalty program, events (within county guidelines), allowing outdoor public and private space for retail, restaurants and breweries to serve customers with social distancing protocols in place.
Ham said the fees for the Central Vista Business Improvement District for Fiscal Year 2020-21 will be eliminated. The city will also form a task force regarding the economic fallout and assist with recovery efforts.
Additionally, the council approved allowing businesses to use additional signage, such as banners and window signs, in a manner consistent with reducing blight. Also, the city will provide reopening assistance and information to local businesses through webinars and other mediums to ensure all guidelines are delivered and will be enforced.
“I’m concerned about our small businesses and those that have been here for decades,” Councilwoman Corinna Contreras said. “It would be great for the city to highlight them.”
Councilman John Franklin added a tentative sunset date for the program to run through Dec. 31 or 90 days after the city’s emergency declaration expires, whichever comes first.
The council will also allow City Manager Patrick Johnson to move forward with several other aspects of the plan to expedite the process without council approval, although some items may come back to the governing body due to cost or other issues.
Mayor Judy Ritter stressed the city must act fast, noting “we’re behind the curve on this” and championed allowing businesses to use parking lots and certain right-of-way roads to allow them to meet capacity demands reduced by county and state health orders. The city will not enforce parking violations for those businesses using parking lots or other roads approved by the council or staff.
Previous to the city’s economic discussion, Johnson reported the state would unveil its Stage 3 plans for reopening on May 27, including information on summer and athletic camps.
However, San Diego County approved allowing one-on-one athletic instruction to commence, he added.