Elevation 6752'
The Official Newsletter of the City of Big Bear Lake, CA
Elevation 6752', composed monthly by City Manager Frank A. Rush, Jr., is presented to keep our residents, property owners, investors, businesses, and visitors well-informed about the City of Big Bear Lake's issues, projects, and initiatives!
Issue #22-1 - Published January 28, 2022
Omicron Variant Leads to Many New COVID Cases in Big Bear Valley
After a relatively low number of new COVID cases in December, the Omicron variant hit the Big Bear Valley hard in January, with a total of 446 new cases reported between December 28 and January 27. This equates to an average of nearly 15 new cases per day during that time, the highest totals since COVID first arose in March 2020. The Omicron variant appears to have less serious effects, especially among those vaccinated, however, it is much more transmissible and still potentially very harmful.

Since March 2020, there have now been 2,425 cases of COVID reported in the Big Bear Valley. With a total population of nearly 19,000 people in the Big Bear Valley, approximately 1 in every 8 residents of the Big Bear Valley has now contracted COVID. Sadly, there have been a total of 47 deaths attributed to COVID in the Big Bear Valley since March 2020.

Data for all of San Bernardino County indicates that the number of new cases has begun to decline, and we are hopeful that the worst of the Omicron surge is behind us. San Bernardino County hospitalizations appear to have reached a plateau in recent days, and thankfully remain below the levels experienced in early 2021.

The City continues to urge everyone to continue to be vigilant, take appropriate precautions for your own personal circumstances, and get vaccinated!
Get Vaccinated at City Hall
The City continues to partner with San Bernardino County to offer additional vaccination clinics, with new clinics scheduled for February 4, February 25, and March 18. Appointments are encouraged (visit this website), but walk-ins are also welcome between 10 am and 2 pm. If you haven't already been vaccinated, or need a booster, please do so soon!
Additional COVID Testing Opportunities
The City also continues to partner with San Bernardino County to offer free COVID testing at City Hall, with additional testing dates scheduled for February 10, February 24, March 10, and March 24. Appointments are encouraged (visit this website), but walk-ins are also welcome between 10 am and 2 pm.

The City recently partnered with San Bernardino County to distribute free at-home COVID test kits to the community at City Hall. Approximately 800 test kits were distributed during two events earlier this month, and the City is working to secure additional at-home test kits. Please follow the City's social media accounts to learn about future dates for test kit distribution.
Mask Mandate Remains in Effect Through February 15
The State of California has extended its mask mandate for all indoor activities, and this mandate is now in effect at least through February 15. The City encourages everyone to wear a mask indoors, whether you are vaccinated or not, as a simple precautionary measure. Please do your part to keep yourself, your family, your friends, and our community safe!
City Exploring Potential Implementation of Paid Parking in The Village
City staff are currently exploring various options to implement paid parking in The Village area, and will soon begin outreach to the Village Business Association to review these options. If one or more options prove feasible, a recommendation will likely be presented for City Council consideration in March.

There are more than 800 public parking spaces in The Village, and no parking fees are currently in effect anywhere in The Village. If paid parking is ultimately implemented, it is envisioned that some free parking accommodations will be made for employees of Village businesses and for permanent residents. Depending on how the program is structured, preliminary revenue projections indicate total annual revenues of $300,000 - $400,000, and perhaps more. It is anticipated that any new parking revenues would be earmarked for maintenance and improvement expenses in The Village, a reduction in General Fund expenses for Village activities, and / or a reduction or elimination of current Village assessment fees.
Development of New Community Vision Expected To Begin Soon
The City is currently soliciting proposals from qualified consultants to develop a new community vision for the City of Big Bear Lake. The selected consultant will work closely with the City Council, City staff, and a soon-to-be-appointed citizen steering committee to seek broad community input and develop a collective community vision for Big Bear Lake in the future. Proposals are due to the City by February 10, and the City Council will consider a consulting contract award in March. The citizen steering committee is expected to be appointed in April or May, with work beginning soon thereafter.

The City last undertook this comprehensive planning process in the mid and late 1990s, and much has changed in our society and our community during the last 20+ years. The development of the new community vision will provide valuable direction for community leaders in the future, and is expected to be followed by the development of an updated General Plan. The development of the new community vision is expected to occur over a 6 - 9 month period later in 2022.

We encourage everyone to get involved in this process, and share your vision for our community!
City Council Set to Review District Map Options
The City Council will conduct an additional public hearing on the redistricting process at its February 7 meeting, and will review Council district map options prepared by the City's legal team and by citizens who submitted draft maps to the City earlier this month. The Council will review the draft maps, and then conduct an additional public hearing in March. City Council is expected to adopt new maps in March or April, and the new district boundaries will be utilized for City Council elections in November 2022. To learn more about the redistricting process, please click here .
City Continues Work Toward New Solid Waste Service Agreement
The City continues efforts to enhance the City's solid waste services and secure a new long-term agreement that will meet the City's needs for the next decade or more. City Council has engaged in multiple discussions about solid waste services in recent months, and has indicated preliminary concurrence with a system that would include the following components:

  • curb-side collection service made available to all residential units, with a requirement for residences to confirm participation in the future,

  • the implementation of new standard trash, recycling, and green waste containers for curb-side collection,

  • the continued operation of two Clean Bear convenience sites on each end of the City, with staffing for both sites,

  • effective July 1, only City of Big Bear Lake residents, property owners, and overnight visitors will be permitted to utilize the Clean Bear sites,

  • program modifications to comply with SB 1383, a new State law that requires the separation of organic material from other solid waste,

  • future capital improvements to the Clean Bear sites to promote more efficient traffic flow and improved aesthetics,

  • optional, specialized collection services - for an additional fee - for second home owners and vacation rental units to make it easier to dispose of solid waste and reduce reliance on the Clean Bear sites,

  • the provision of as-needed "pop-up" trash disposal sites following busy weekends in strategic locations in the City, and

  • continued quality service for commercial customers in the City, comparable to current service levels.

City staff are currently negotiating with Big Bear Disposal, the long-time service provider, on a possible extension of their existing agreement, and are also gauging interest from other solid waste service providers. The City recently issued a Request for Information from interested providers, and will be considering the qualifications of alternative providers in the coming weeks.

The City Council is expected to make a final decision on solid waste services and determine the service provider within the next few months. Any service adjustments will be announced well in advance of implementation, likely later this year.
City Awaits Identity of KMart Shopping Center Buyer, Continues Outreach to Retailers
The owner of the KMart shopping center, Seritage Growth Properties, have offered the shopping center for sale. Purchase offers were received by the company in December, and the company continues to evaluate offers - with a decision expected soon. The City looks forward to learning the identity of the buyer in the coming weeks, and has committed to assist the new owner in any way helpful to secure new retailers in the shopping center.

City staff and our retail recruitment specialist, Retail Strategies, have been involved in numerous discussions with potential buyers and national retailers in recent months to convey the community's preferences. City staff and Retail Strategies have repeatedly conveyed the City's preference for retailers that offer general merchandise, and numerous conversations have occurred with representatives from Target, Wal-Mart, Ross, Marshalls, Burlington, Big Lots, Costco, and REI, among others. It is unlikely that any of these companies will purchase the entire KMart shopping center, but it is possible that one or more could lease space in the shopping center from the new owner of the shopping center.

Additional updates will be provided as new details emerge.
Ultimate Decisions Made By Shopping Center Owner and Individual Retailers
It is important to note that any decisions on the future use of the KMart shopping center are ultimately up to the new owner and any new tenants of the shopping center - not "the government", not the City of Big Bear Lake, nor any individual City official.

Any future use must be consistent with the City's established Development Code, which allows a wide range of commercial and residential uses at the KMart site. As long as the future uses are consistent with the City's Development Code, these decisions rest solely with the shopping center owner, who will likely consider a wide range of factors - including the overall vision for the shopping center, the return on investment, and the potential for tenant success in the local market. Ultimately, any property owner wants the right to make the best decision for their interests, whether it be the owner of a shopping center or any individual homeowner, and the City ordinances and California law absolutely respect that right.

Having noted that simple fact above, the City's role in the future use of the KMart shopping center is one of communication, assistance, and cooperation. City staff and Retail Strategies have embraced this role, and have been actively working to communicate the City's preferences, offer any helpful assistance to potential buyers and potential new tenants, and stand ready to work cooperatively and in partnership with all parties when the new owner is identified.
City Recoups Legal Fees for Development Lawsuits, But Would Not Want to For Citizen Appeals
As reported in the previous edition of Elevation 6752', the developers of the proposed Grocery Outlet store withdrew their development application in December, and the City Council approved this action at its meeting earlier in January. The developers withdrew their application due to a legal challenge filed regarding the project, and reimbursed the City for all legal expenses associated with the lawsuit, as the City required the developer to do when the project was approved in April 2021 and August 2021.

The City bears the expense associated with the initial review and approval of all new development applications, and routinely passes along a portion of this cost to every applicant in the form of permit fees for all projects - regardless of how big or small the proposed new development is. In the case of the proposed Grocery Outlet project, appropriate permit fees were collected at the time the application was submitted, and City staff and the Planning Commission completed a thorough review of the project in 2020 and early 2021. Following the Planning Commission's approval of the project in April 2021, two appeals of the project approval were filed - one by a local resident, and one by a Los Angeles law firm representing a group referred to as Big Bear Lake Together. In each case, the City collected a nominal ($115) appeal fee from each appellant. Because one of the appeals involved complex legal matters, significant additional legal services were required to enable the City Council to fairly and effectively consider the appeal. The City bore these expenses, as it would for any other appeal filed regarding a City action, and City staff and the City's legal team provided appropriate guidance to the City Council.

The City would not have incurred any additional expense if the appeals had not been filed, however, the City respects the rights of our citizens to appeal any City decision, and appropriately bears those expenses any time an appeal is filed on any matter. In a situation like this one, the City would not want to discourage anyone from exercising their right to appeal any City decision, and would not want to burden any appellant with significant appeal-related expenses. Similarly, the City would not want to burden any development applicant with significant additional expenses at the appeal stage if their project fully complies with all applicable City requirements and is approved by the Planning Commission and / or City Council. Thus, the City routinely bears all appeal-related expenses for any appeal filed, and considers such expenses as the cost of doing the City's business in a fair and effective manner. Ultimately, all City expenses are factored into the City's annual budget.
City Council To Consider Demolition of Old Buildings at City Hall Campus
The City Council will consider awarding a contract for the demolition of 6 deteriorated structures located on the City Hall campus, between Iris Drive and the Performing Arts Center, at its February 7 meeting. These structures are beyond their useful life, and the demolition will make approximately 1.5 acres of land available for future use.

The City Council has previously discussed the potential allocation of this land for new workforce housing units, and housing development options will be considered in the coming months. Potential additional uses of this land include the construction of new City or other governmental agency buildings, or simply keeping the land as open space.
SB 9 Urgency Ordinance Adopted in January, City Council Set to Consider Permanent Ordinance in February
At its January 11 meeting, the City Council adopted an urgency ordinance to implement SB 9 – Housing Development Approvals – that was approved by the California legislature and signed into law by Governor Newsom in September. SB 9 mandates that local governments approve the split of urban lots zoned for single-family residential use into multiple lots or allow additional units on an original, unsplit lot - potentially allowing up to 4 residential units on a lot initially zoned for only one single-family residence. 

SB 9 has the potential to significantly alter existing single-family residential neighborhoods in Big Bear Lake, and the new urgency ordinance specifically includes various requirements that are intended to promote and preserve neighborhood character. The new urgency ordinance includes strict requirements regarding lot size, unit size, owner occupancy of at least one unit for three years, a prohibition on the use of lot splits and additional units for vacation rental purposes, consistent design standards, fire hazard mitigation requirements, deed restrictions, parking requirements, height limits, and more. 

The Planning Commission reviewed a proposed permanent ordinance to replace the urgency ordinance and implement SB 9 at its January 19 meeting, and has recommended approval to the City Council. The proposed permanent ordinance is similar to the previously adopted urgency ordinance, and will be considered by the City Council at its February 7 meeting.
Visitation Levels Return to Pre-Pandemic Levels
City staff in the Tourism Management Department routinely track many sources of information to better understand visitor impacts on Big Bear Lake. This valuable information better informs our decisions on policies, operations, and future improvement projects, as we strive to mitigate visitor impacts to the maximum extent practical.

By multiple measures, including cell-phone data, car counting devices, and overnight occupancy data, it is clear that current visitation levels have returned to levels similar to 2019 - prior to the increased visitation spurred by COVID beginning in summer 2020. The City expects to experience usual seasonal fluctuation in the coming months, with significant visitation expected during the winter season - especially when fresh snow is present - followed by the typical slow down during the spring months.
City Staff Exploring Safe Bicycle Path Crossing of Big Bear Boulevard
The full completion of the dedicated bicycle trail along Rathbun Creek - all the way from the Big Bear Zoo to Stanfield Cutoff - remains a high priority for the City. The City has identified sufficient funding from various grants and transient occupancy tax revenues (collected from overnight visitors) to complete this entire distance over the next 4 years, and the City is excited to make the full bicycle trail a reality.

The most significant challenge associated with the full completion of the Rathbun Creek bicycle trail is the crossing of Big Bear Boulevard near Catalina Drive. City staff are currently working with Caltrans staff and staff from the San Bernardino County Flood Control District to determine if it's possible to construct the trail within the existing creek culvert under Big Bear Boulevard, and is expecting feedback on this option in the coming months. If this option is not feasible, efforts will be directed toward a special at-grade, signalized crossing of Big Bear Boulevard near this location in the short-term, with a goal to pursue an overhead bridge or new under-highway crossing in the long-term.
Mayor Herrick Announces Appointments to Various Boards
In addition to their service on the City Council, Council members also serve on numerous other local and regional governing and advisory boards in the Big Bear Valley and beyond. The City Council delegates the appointment of Council members to the various boards each year to the Mayor, and Mayor Herrick recently announced his appointments for 2022. An updated list of these appointments is located here .
Did You Know?
There are approximately 2,600 licensed vacation rentals in the City of Big Bear Lake. Between October 2020 and October 2021, approximately 78% of licensed vacation rentals were booked for less than 180 days, and approximately 48% were booked for less than 90 days.
Sign Up for Elevation 6752' -
The Official Newsletter of the City of Big Bear Lake!
Thank you for checking out this issue of Elevation 6752', the official newsletter of the City of Big Bear Lake, CA! This newsletter is presented to keep you well-informed about the City's issues, projects, and initiatives, and is complemented by other public communications strategies as needed. The City Council, Planning Commission, City staff, and numerous others are all working hard to provide the highest quality City services, in a helpful and professional manner, and promote new public and private investment in our community - in order to enhance the quality of life and visitor experience - and we want to make sure you are well-informed about our efforts on your behalf!

The easiest way to stay-informed about the City of Big Bear Lake is to sign up for this email newsletter. It's easy to sign up - simply visit https://www.citybigbearlake.com/ and click on "Text & Email Notifications" in the top center of the homepage. Simply click on the link, enter your name and email address, and you're all set. Signing up will ensure you receive the new Elevation 6752' newsletter each month, and also any special communications from the City of Big Bear Lake for emergency situations, special events, and more.

In addition to the new Elevation 6752' newsletter, you can also get the latest information from the City of Big Bear Lake via the following digital platforms:

  • "Like" us on Facebook - City of Big Bear Lake - City Government

  • Follow us on Twitter - @CityofBBL

  • Follow us on Instagram - @citybigbearlake

Please help us spread the word, and share this new City newsletter with your friends, family, other residents, property owners, frequent visitors, or anyone else who is interested in Big Bear Lake!
City of Big Bear Lake
39707 Big Bear Blvd. PO Box 10000, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Phone: (909) 866-5831 | Fax: (909) 866-5491