COVID-19

The number of COVID-19 cases in Livermore continues to climb.

At press time, Livermore had 443 cases, the fifth highest number of any city in the county, behind Oakland, Hayward, Fremont and San Leandro.

“The City of Livermore’s numbers are climbing significantly faster than our neighbors in the Tri-Valley,” said Roberts, the city manager who is also the city’s Director of Emergency Services.

As part of the city’s overall strategy downtown, it has been experimenting with street closures to facilitate outdoor dining with social distancing, which is allowed under the current county health order. About half of the downtown parking is now reserved for outdoor dining, made safe with barriers and railings around the enclosed areas. It has also removed the turf around Flagpole Plaza and installed disintegrated granite to allow outdoor dining for restaurants without adjacent parking.

Efforts to improve the use of face coverings downtown have yielded results in recent weeks. Face coverings outside are now required for anyone outside who is likely to come within 30 feet of another person. Thus masks are mandatory in the downtown area. During the first few weeks of outdoor dining, city staff tallied compliance and found roughly half the people in compliance. Since then, the city has employed a number of strategies to increase compliance, including social-media messaging and placing notices near the entries where streets are closed. Starting last week, city staff members approached people not wearing masks and offered a free mask, which Roberts said was generally “well received.” More recent surveys downtown show face mask compliance at about 80 to 90%. Alameda County wants 95%, Roberts said.

Councilmember Robert Carling said he has noticed an improvement downtown, but is concerned about other parts of the city.

“Away from downtown, they think it’s just OK to do whatever you want,” Carling said. “Somehow, we have to continue to get the message out from us and social media, and any other way, that we’re not doing well and wearing a mask protects you and others.”

The council previously amended its nuisance

ordinance to allow city officials to issue administrative citations for violations of emergency health orders. Under the new rules, a first violation allows city employees to impose a $100 fine for a first offense. The council, however, expressed that while the city has the tools to implement mask enforcement, it wasn’t ready to take that step just yet.

“If we can’t get greater compliance, I would agree with possibly going with an infraction,” said Marchand. “I think once you have that threat, you get greater compliance. What this is about is public health, public safety, and that continues to be our top priority.”

Council Mulls

Backyard Beehives

More backyard beehives could be coming to Livermore.

The Livermore City Council on Monday gave the planning department the go-ahead to draft changes to the city’s beekeeping standards that would permit honeybee keeping on average size residential lots of 6,000 square feet or more. A minimum lot size of a half-acre, or about 22,000 square feet, is currently required.

“We’ve all heard the fact that bees are in crisis right now,” Mayor John Marchand said. “Anything we can do to help bees to survive, I think is great. But we also have to be concerned about public safety.”

Once refined, proposed changes would come back to the city council for a vote at some date in the future. The changes would likely combine noticing and performance requirements similar to those in Pleasanton, with smaller allowable lot sizes similar to rules in Fremont. It would also allow the city to revoke permits for noncompliance or nuisance issues that could arise.

Livermore currently requires inspection by an Animal Fancier Permit and prior inspection by an animal control officer before a hive is introduced. Measures to prevent the bees from swarming must be followed, and to require water near the hives at all times. Hives also must be placed on the rear half of the lot where the insect’s flight pattern is directed up and away from immediate neighbors.

During a presentation to the council, Planning Manager Steve Stewart said the current half-acre minimum requirement prohibits beekeeping on most residential properties in Livermore. He spoke about the benefit of bees to agriculture and viticulture, as well as honey production.

Stewart also addressed concerns about bee stings that can result in serious allergic reactions for some. Stewart noted that initial research did not show lot size had much of an impact on complaints and compatibility issues. Instead, he said most issues and complaints were from swarming due to improper hive management practices.

Council Asks to Impose 15% Caps on Food Delivery Services

Livermore is considering limiting commissions online food delivery services can charge during the pandemic.

The council on Monday directed City Manager Marc Roberts to come back with options, after several Livermore restaurant owners asked the city to pass an ordinance capping commissions charged by third-party online delivery services like GrubHub, UberEats and DoorDash.

“Restaurants are struggling at this time, and this measure could mean the difference between survival and shuttering our doors permanently,” wrote 10 restauranteurs in a letter to the city council.

Similar caps have been imposed in other Bay Area cities, including Fremont, Berkeley and San Francisco. Roberts said the city government does not generally facilitate price setting on private businesses, but it can prohibit price gouging during emergencies.

“That would potentially be possible to implement first through an order, and then having the council confirm that through a ratifying action,” said Roberts.

Aug. 7 Deadline for Equity and Inclusion Working Group

In other news, the city staff is accepting applications for people who wish to serve on a community working group that will report to the council’s Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee. Applications are available online at: https://bit.ly/Indy_App. The deadline to submit applications is 5 p.m. on Aug. 7.