BRAWLEY – Despite pleas from speakers to not allow sidewalk sales at the last Brawley City Council meeting Tuesday, the City Council voted to pursue the sales.
One of the action items on the agenda was establishing parameters in the Downtown Specific Plan Area regarding sidewalk sales.
These sales that allow merchants to display wares in front of their stores have been discussed several times by the Council. Moving on input from different committees, the Council once again discussed the pros and cons of allowing the sidewalk sales.
The Planning Commission recommended sidewalk sales anytime.
The Business Advisory Committee could not come up with a recommendation that passed out of Committee.
The Brawley Chamber came up with a recommendation to allow the sidewalk sales Fridays and Saturdays with some stipulations as to type of displays and keeping sidewalks and doorways clear for pedestrians and fire codes.
The Resolution would be in effect for a period of time as a trial to see how the businesses would follow the yet to be laid out parameters.
“If the Resolution passes, we can let the downtown storeowners know that this option is available to them,” said Brawley City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore.
Discussion focused on enforcement. On Fridays, staff could monitor the displays. Saturdays and after hours, enforcement responsibilities would fall upon fire and police personnel.
It was pointed out that enforcement would be difficult and sometimes non-existent.
“I have been opposed to sidewalk sales,” said Council Member Sam Couchman. “I’m not one to resist change, if necessary. We have those that are in favor and those that are in opposition to sidewalk sales. Enforcement concerns me.”
Some suggestions included having storeowners monitor each other and submit photos of violations that could be acted upon by city staff during regular hours.
Public comments on the subject were against the Resolution. Concerns expressed were the blockage of sidewalks, the types of items displayed, and how it would make the downtown area look.
In the past, thrift shops piled used items on the sidewalk and blocked pathways, a potential problem for wheelchairs and emergency personnel, along with regular pedestrian traffic.
“I believe the city is opening up a can of worms by allowing sidewalk sales that they will not be able to control,” said Lupe Navarro, downtown business owner and member of the Business Advisory Committee. “When the downtown area was thriving in the past, no one put merchandise out on the sidewalk. I vote no for sidewalk sales. The City doesn’t have the staff to enforce it. There is no business at this meeting wanting sidewalk sales.”
“If you’re in business just to have sidewalk sales,” said Mayor George Nava, “you shouldn’t be in business. I believe that we should try this to give it a chance to succeed, but we need examples of what can and cannot be done as far as displays.”
“I don’t believe that the stores that are in our downtown lean towards sidewalk sales,” said Council Member Helen Noriega.
The Resolution did not pass.
Mayor Pro-Tempore Donald Wharton made a motion to have staff come up with more information on displays and enforcement.
“Come back to the Council with more content on enforcement and graphic depiction of what would be allowed and not allowed for displays for further discussion and to educate storeowners,” said Wharton. “If there is no option besides using fire and police for enforcement, that may be a sticking point to moving forward.”
The Council voted four to one in favor of having staff doing this research.
Council Member Helen Noriega was the dissenting vote.