Chico council votes 6-1 to end local COVID-19 emergency – Chico Enterprise-Record

CHICO — The Chico City Council voted 6-1 to remove the city’s local emergency in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic that has been in place since 2020.

Over the course of its lifespan, the local emergency saw two amendments and five executive orders which will now be eliminated on Dec. 1 unless further actions are made by the council before then.

Deputy City Manager Jennifer Macarthy provided the breakdown of what it would mean to end the local emergency before the city council during its meeting Tuesday night.

“On Sept. 12 of this year, the Internal Affairs Committee considered the status of the local emergency and voted to recommend termination of such emergency,” Macarthy said.

Macarthy said as per government code, local emergencies must be removed as soon as possible pending the necessity of the declaration. The Butte County Board of Supervisors eliminated its local COVID-19 emergency in April.

The five executive orders tied to the declaration are as follows:

  • The expansion of planning and building entitlements.
  • Temporary expansion of outside dining at existing restaurants and eating establishments in the public right-of-way, commonly known as parklets.
  • Expansion of outside dining that is not considered to be in the public right-of-way.
  • Temporary expansion of outside commerce for non-food-related businesses on private property.
  • Temporary expansion of outside commerce for businesses on public property.

Macarthy said those who benefited from the planning and building entitlements that expire in the six months after Dec. 1 will have an additional 180 days before its expiration.

“Now it’s important to note that even when there is no such thing as a COVID emergency, there are still options for the people within the city of Chico to request extensions of both planning and building entitlements,” Macarthy said.

During the local emergency, 20 businesses received temporary outdoor dining permits, not including downtown parklets. An additional 14 businesses that do not serve food received permits for outdoor commerce.

Councilor Alex Brown, who voted against lifting the local emergency, asked if the city could look into continuing the parklets as they have become a mainstay within the city. Macarthy responded saying the council will have a chance to look into continuing certain aspects of the local emergency during its Oct. 18 meeting.

“I know that many in our community are pretty excited about the parklets and that has not dwindled,” Brown said. “So it’s hard for me to separate the committee’s recommendations related to the parklets and what’s going to happen with that in terms of sustaining some of that kind of cultural infusion that happens with that type of dining experience.”

Vice Mayor Kasey Reynolds also expressed interest in maintaining the parklets adding that she would like to see them be more uniform and attractive.

Macarthy said that the city is not aware of any funding issues or benefits that could be lost with the elimination of the emergency.

Brown asked City Attorney Vince Ewing whether lifting the local emergency would impact current easements for renters in the city to which Ewing said he could do a deeper dive into that subject.

Because there wasn’t more information on the effect lifting the emergency would have on tenants, Brown choose to vote against the item.

“With respect, I don’t think I can vote yes on this item without knowing that,” Brown said.

Other business

Aside from voting to end the local emergency, the following happened at the council meeting:

  • Chico Police Department Lt. Billy Aldridge was formally appointed to the position of interim police chief while the city goes forward with recruitment.
  • Three additional fees totaling more than $25,000 were unanimously approved by the council to be placed on cannabis businesses.

The Chico City Council mostly meets at 6 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of the month at 421 Main St. Meetings are free and open to the public.