Fullerton City Council voted to increase bar occupancy

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(Gabe Gandara / Daily Titan)

Fullerton City Council voted 4-0 with one abstention to approve amendments to the municipal code regarding occupancies of Fullerton businesses Tuesday.

The amendments, once implemented, will match Fullerton’s maximum occupancy ratio to California’s code, going from one person per every 15 square feet to one per every 7 square feet. Although the ordinance change was first proposed by downtown business owners, the amended ordinance would be effective citywide.

City council approved the Resolution of Intent to amend the code during its Sept. 19 meeting. Some council members believed that it was mutually beneficial for both business owners and the city of Fullerton to approve the resolution.

“They don’t want the downtown to be a wreck. They don’t want their business to be a problem. They’re looking to be successful at whatever it is that they’re doing,” said Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker.

Citizens are skeptical that bar owners will be able to maintain public safety once the occupancy is raised.

“All the people coming into this community on the weekends are not the kind of people I want to see coming into this community … They’re looking to get drunk. They’re looking to get lucky Some of them are looking to steal. Some of them are looking to rape,” said Fullerton resident Joe Imbriano. “The bottom line is, (downtown bars) have done enough damage to this community. Young lives are being ruined on a nightly basis.”

Councilman Greg Sebourn was the lone abstention. He was concerned that the amendment to the code did not do enough to resolve the long-standing problems in Downtown Fullerton.

“My understanding when we approved (the current ordinance) initially was that it was going to help resolve some of the issues in the downtown, and I have not seen that to be the case,” Sebourn said. “I still support reversing (the current ordinance) … But I need to see that there are some mechanisms in place to be able to manage it better.”

According to the amended resolution, before any change in occupancy can be confirmed, an updated security plan and building recalculations to determine the new maximum occupancies must be approved by the city.

Bar owners claimed they have plans in place and are ready for when the new amendments goes into effect.

“We have protocol for when things tend to escalate. We have ways to de-escalate, always with the goal of keeping our patrons and our staff safe. Those plans are in place, and we’re happy to show those to the police department and council when they ask for those to be reviewed,” said downtown business owner Joe Florentine.

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