As an incentive to draw new business to downtown Riverbank, City Council members recently addressed ‘Potential Downtown Restaurant Incentives’ which was on the agenda for a recent council session. After review, the council did not vote on the item however, they did direct the city staff to present more information on the options and said the issue will be revisited at a future meeting.
Donna M. Kenney, Planning and Building Manager along with Marisela H. Garcia, Director of Finance, and Deputy Development Services Director of Operations Michael Riddell were actively involved in the discussion to present a few options including a Grease Interceptor Loan Program as well as a Conditional Waiver to Install Grease Interceptors Program.
“This item is part of the Strategic Planning discussions. Initially in March 2015 an objective was set to explore restaurant incentives and that is something that we have been doing over the course of the last couple of months,” stated Jill Anderson, City Manager. “The objective is to try to encourage new business to take a look at the downtown.”
Kenney explained that they researched four potential programs, 1) Grease Interceptor Loan Program; 2) Conditional Waiver to Install Grease Interceptors Program; 3) Retail and Restaurant Incentive Program; and 4) “Feet on the Street” Program.
In the report provided by Kenney it states, while all four are presented, after discussion and analysis, it was determined that an implementation program using Incentives #1 and #2 would be the most feasible considering the limited financial and staff resources that are available to implement any business incentive program. Additional research can be done to complete a more exhaustive search of programs if the City Council would like to see more alternatives.
Both options were listed in the report in full detail.
Incentive #1 – Grease Interceptor Loan Program includes the following details: Grease Interceptors are required in order to aid in the prevention of sanitary sewer blockages and obstructions from contributions and accumulation of fats, oils and greases into the sanitary sewer system from industrial or commercial establishments, particularly food preparation and serving facilities. The installation of these devices can be costly to new restaurants, particularly if the grease interceptor must be retrofitted into an existing building, such as those located in our downtown. The purchase and installation of a grease interceptor can range from $10,000-$20,000, which may place a huge burden on restaurants seeking to be located in our downtown corridor. The implementation of a grease interceptor loan program would assist individuals/businesses seeking to establish a food service business in our downtown neighborhood. The program would be designed to provide funds towards a portion of the purchase and installation of the grease interceptors. Components of the program could include the following or some variation, thereof: No-Interest (0 percent) or Low-Interest (1 percent-2 percent) Loan Assistance for a portion of the costs up to a certain amount or possibly a percentage of purchase and installation (depending upon funding available) First-Come, First-Serve program (due to limited funding) an application would be prepared to allow potential restaurants to apply for this loan program, similar to Attachment 1 (City of Elgin Grease Trap Incentive Program). This program has worked for Elgin, Ill., population of 110,000, whose City Council entered into an incentive agreement with Portillo Restaurant Group in 2012 to induce development of a restaurant and retail center, adding 120 jobs and bringing in $7 million dollars annually. Implementation of this potential program in Riverbank would be on a much smaller scale because of the difference in the size of the cities and the lack of funding outside of the General Fund; however, it may be an incentive that could be used to market the City and make the difference for a restaurant to choose downtown Riverbank. Proposed Riverbank Grease Interceptor Loan Program: While these loan programs can take many forms, for purposes of discussion, the proposed funding source would be the General Fund, with an initial allocation of $21,000 for up to three 0 percent loans in the amount of $7,000 each with repayment terms to be determined, with potential loan forgiveness clauses if the business remained operational for three, five or seven years. A new budget allocation would be needed at midyear if the City Council directs staff to move forward; however, the funds would only be spent if there was a restaurant that qualified for the program. The program budget could be modified if new funds became available or if the General Fund was not able to fund any type of loan program.
Incentive #2 Conditional Waiver to Install Grease Interceptor Program is as follows: The City of Los Angeles, CA has a Conditional Waiver Program that allows restaurants to open without installing a grease interceptor if they meet certain terms and conditions: a. The Food Service Establishment (“FSE”) must dispose of all food waste directly into the trash or garbage receptacles and not into sinks; b. The FSE must “Dry Wipe” all pots, pans, dishware and work areas prior to washing of such utensils, equipment or areas; c. The FSE must collect waste cooking oil and store it properly in recycling barrels or drums; and, d. The FSE must comply with any other condition deemed appropriate by the Director of the Bureau of Sanitation. The Conditional Waiver may be revoked if the FSE is confirmed to have contributed to Fats, Oil & Grease accumulation in the sewer collection system that resulted in a Sanitary Sewer Overflow, or if the FSE fails to comply with the terms and conditions of the Conditional Waiver. Upon revocation of the waiver, the FSE will be required to install a grease interceptor. The implementation of this potential program in Riverbank would not require a funding source and could be used to attract smaller, “mom and pop” type restaurants.
Council members and city officials alike are hoping that whatever incentive program eventually takes shape, it will attract additional businesses downtown.
Riverbank News reporter Virginia Still contributed to this story.