Free parking, delivery fees caps? San Jose considers new aid for struggling downtown businesses

From free parking to carry-out drinks to delivery fee caps, San Jose leaders are looking at a wide range of potential policies to aid downtown businesses reeling from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Small business revenue in the San Jose metro area has plunged nearly 40% since January, according to a study from the Harvard University economic tracker. Yet consumer spending has remained relatively moderate, only dropping 4% during that same time period, the study found.
To ensure consumers are choosing to spend their money in San Jose, the newly formed Greater Downtown San Jose Economic Recovery Task Force this week unveiled a slew of new proposals. The San Jose City Council will discuss the proposals at its next meeting on Tuesday.
“I am cognizant that there is no one solution or establishment that will single-handedly catalyze the economic recovery of our Greater Downtown area, but it will require all of our collective and creative efforts to help our business community fully thrive again,” Task Force Chair and Councilmember Raul Peralez wrote in a memo this week.
Over the past two and a half months, the task force comprised of 55 greater downtown business leaders has met about 40 times to craft policy recommendations to help businesses weather the pandemic and economic uncertainty that it poses.
Some of their recommendations include waiving parking meter fees again as San Jose did at the beginning of the pandemic, putting a 15% cap on what third-party delivery service companies can charge restaurants during the pandemic and advocating for state legislation that would allow to-go alcoholic beverages to be sold by bars and restaurants even after the recession.
A handful of Bay Area cities, including Hayward and Santa Clara, has adopted temporary ordinances to put a 15% cap on what food delivery companies such as Doordash, Uber Eats and Grubhub can charge restaurants for their services.
In San Jose’s case, the task force said its intent behind the recommendation is “not to take away earnings from drivers who need the income,” but rather by cap the fee to “help businesses salvage some of their hard-earned revenue to further sustain.”
“We believe third party companies like Doordash who are currently valued at $16 billion and recently contributed to passing a $204 million ballot measure, can afford to reduce their fees to support our mom-and-pop businesses,” the task force wrote in a report.
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As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have surged to new heights in recent weeks, Santa Clara County officials have shut down indoor dining, severely diminished the number of customers allowed in stores at one time and imposed a new quarantine order for people traveling from more than 150 miles away.
The city’s Al Fresco program, which has provided restaurants and other small businesses with the ability to move their operations onto outdoor sidewalks, parklets and streets, has served as a lifeline for many businesses as they try to navigate the continuously changing public health mandates from state and local officials. The city council last month extended the Al Fresco program until the summer of 2021 and updated the program parameters to allow businesses in the downtown core to stay open until midnight rather than 10 p.m.

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