Plan for easier process to open sidewalk cafes considered

SAN DIEGO - A proposal aimed at making it easier for restaurants in San Diego to open sidewalk cafes will go before the City Council's Land Use and Housing Committee this afternoon.

The plan, pushed by several council members, is part of a package of zoning amendments to be considered by committee members. Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who chairs the panel, said restaurant owners face a lengthy, expensive and unpredictable permitting process under the current city code.

One proposal would allow a single row of tables within 4 feet 6 inches of the building as long as a clear 3-foot-wide path of travel on the sidewalk is maintained. No barrier, like an expensive wrought iron fence, would be required.

Outdoor dining would be prohibited after 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, according to city documents. Smoking would be banned.

She said smaller eateries that want to add a few tables outside are faced with paying fees that are upward of $10,000 before construction costs, Zapf said. The proposal before the committee, she said, is designed to reduce costs and time for eatery owners. The city documents show a proposed annual fee of $75.

Council President Todd Gloria and Councilman Kevin Faulconer both said they favor the plan.

Community planning groups in La Jolla and Kensington have voted against the plans for technical reasons, according to the documents.

The committee will also look into adjusting zoning regulations that would allow craft brewers to open restaurants and tasting rooms.

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