3/2/2021 meetings summary: COVID update, equitable development around transit
We had City Council meetings yesterday, March 2, 2021. Below is a summary of some important points.
1. We received a COVID-19 update. The trajectory of cases per day continues to drop. Hospitalizations are also dropping. Last Friday, the governor issued a new executive order, lifting the curfew and allowing bars, arenas, and movie theaters to operate at 30% capacity. Indoor venues with more than 5,000 seats can operate at 15% capacity.
Pursuant to this new executive order, the city is opening the carousels at Chavis and Pullen parks at 30% capacity. The Raleigh Convention Center and Performing Arts Complex has some smaller events planned in the next few weeks. Last weekend, they hosted a volleyball tournament which brought an estimated $2 million to the city. Festivals, road races, and parades remain cancelled through March 31, and events planned for after March 31 will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
We are continuing our outdoor dining program and encouraging businesses to create parklets and other outdoor dining areas in public spaces; there are minimal permitting requirements and no cost to the business. So far, 41 businesses have participate in expanding onto public property, and other businesses have expanded onto private property. These COVID-related expansions were to expire 30-days after COVID restrictions are lifted entirely, but we directed staff to come back to us with options to make these outdoor dining spaces permanent. I think we’ve learned during COVID that there are better uses for our public spaces than just parking for cars.
Finally, the City of Raleigh, Wake County, and Telamon Corporation have partnered on a financial assistance program for residents experiencing loss of income due to COVID. Any household whose income is below 80% of area median income (AMI) based on family size can apply for up to 15 months past-due rent and unpaid utilities dating back to April 1, 2020. The program launches today; visit wakegov.com/housing or call 919-899-9911.
2. We approved a Comprehensive Plan amendment for Equitable Development around Transit. The amendment includes changes to land use, urban design, housing, and area specific guidance to help create more walkable, affordable living. Our Comprehensive Plan will now accommodate for more housing and jobs around bus rapid transit (BRT), strategies for addressing displacement, and a focus on providing deeply affordable housing for very low income households along transit corridors. You can review the plan here.
Work on the first BRT line down New Bern Avenue is advancing, and station area planning is ongoing. I am very excited for this project! More information on BRT here.
3. We approved a text change to allow on-site sales for community gardens within residential zoning districts. This change removes the burden and limitations previously in place for produce stands. It will allow fresh food to be sold in more neighborhoods and is part of our ongoing effort to address food deserts and place goods and services closer to people. We have more work to create that “15-minute city,” and on Tuesday, March 23 the committee I chair, Economic Development and Innovation, will continue our review of allowing corner stores/bodegas in residential zoning districts. I will keep you updated on our efforts.
Our next City Council meeting is Tuesday, March 16, 2021 at 1 p.m. Our council retreat is next Friday and Saturday, March 12-13; we are meeting in person at the Convention Center, but you can watch online like our virtual meetings.