Main Street Moves – Keep Downtown Streets Open or Closed

by Patricia Shallert

During the Ventura City Council meeting on May 21, 2024, the City Council and community members discussed the future of Main Street Moves (MSM), an initiative that involved closing portions of Main Street and California Street to vehicular traffic. The Temporary Business Expansion Special Event Permit, which allowed for the closure, is set to expire soon, so the City Council introduced an agenda item to extend the closure by seven months. This would provide enough time for staff to conduct a thorough study of long-term options and present their recommendations to the Council. The Council acknowledged the importance of considering community feedback and have been carefully evaluating the potential impacts before making a decision.

There have been concerns raised by property and business owners about the possibility of a permanent closure for Main Street Moves. To address these concerns, the MSM staff plans to hold discussions with property owner representatives and conduct a survey to gather current opinions. The results of the survey will be presented to the City Council in a timely manner, ensuring that the perspectives of property and business owners are taken into account during the decision-making process.

To provide some background, in April 2022, the City Council instructed the staff to explore long-term options for Main Street Moves. To facilitate this process, a Temporary Business Expansion Special Event Permit was granted, allowing for the closure of six blocks of Main Street and one block of South California Street. Significant progress has been made since then, and the staff has regularly updated the Council on the advancements in the MSM initiative. Notably, the City Council unanimously approved Citywide Sidewalk Design Guidelines and Standards, highlighting the ongoing progress.

Since the existing permit expires at the end of June, the City Council needs to take action to extend the closure before then if they wish to maintain the current status quo. The staff believes there is sufficient evidence to support the closure, considering the street has been closed for four years already. The proposed temporary closure would continue the existing situation.

In the previous MSM Ad Hoc Committee meeting on May 6, 2024, the importance of understanding the long-term commitment of property owners to the closure was emphasized. Previous attempts to gather feedback through surveys showed limited responses from them. However, business owners showed a higher response rate, with a clear majority advocating for a full closure. To achieve a higher overall response rate, the staff, in collaboration with Downtown Ventura Partners, will develop a survey for property and business owners. The individual responses will be kept confidential to protect participants and ensure the validity of the results. The staff intends to consult with property owner representatives and promptly present the survey findings to the City Council.

If the Council decides to extend the closure until the end of 2024, the staff will facilitate a smooth transition from the Downtown Ventura Organization permit to the City for all business expansion participants. This transition will involve a review of sidewalks to ensure compliance with the requirements of the business expansion area and readiness for the summer season. The requirements will largely remain the same, with only two differences: the addition of a Workers Compensation Waiver of Subrogation for insurance and the discontinuation of the $250 fee collected by the Downtown Ventura Organization. Regarding the California Environment Quality Act process, (CEQA) the staff plans to issue a Notice of Preparation in early June, followed by the release of the Draft Environment Impact Report (EIR) in the fall and the Final EIR before the end of the year.

A lawsuit was filed on March 11 by a group called Open Main Street alleging city leaders violated California’s Pedestrian Mall Law which governs permanent street closures. The lawsuit also claims the city’s actions have caused economic damage to the property owners. The plaintiffs are seeking the immediate reopening of Main and California streets according to the lawsuit.

More information about MainStreet moves can be found on the city site

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