Without fixes, city could revoke restaurant parklet permits

Posted at 4:43 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 20:58:43-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Restaurant owners who have already spent tens of thousands of dollars on outdoor parklets to accommodate diners during the pandemic could soon have their outdoor permits revoked.

The city is giving them a deadline of July 13, 2021 to get their parklets up to code. Doing so would allow them at least another year to operate on city sidewalks and streets, because the City Council voted this week to allow those operations through July 13, 2022.

"There were quite a few restaurants that spent $50,000 to $80,000 on their parklets and it would be sad to see them go," said Cesar Vallin, managing partner of Little Italy's Cloak and Petal.

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Cloak and Petal's parklet cost about $15,000, with a rooftop, fire pit, art, garden lights, and a sound system.

During the pandemic, the city issued temporary outdoor permits to about 415 business to allow them to set up on city sidewalks and streets. It released a simple drawing of an outdoor space, without any of the creature comforts as a guide to businesses. Many restaurants, however, invested heavily to make their parklets inviting, including Puesto La Jolla, which built one over nine parking spots for $50,000.

Puesto Co-Founder Eric Adler expects the parklet to serve Puesto and an Italian restaurant he plans to open next door later this year.

"Everyone's acting like the pandemic's over, here we go, turn the page, forget about everything but that's not how we're seeing our guests," he said. "A lot of them still don't feel comfortable, they want to dine outside."

The city never expected parklets to be elaborate, and is now requiring restaurants to bring them back to code. That means eliminating rooftops, walls, blocking red curbs, and extending too far out into the street.

"The City of San Diego will continue to work on a case-by-case basis with restaurant and business owners to ensure compliance with all codes that protect public health and safety. This cross-departmental effort follows ongoing proactive, educational efforts on what is allowed to be designed and built under the outdoor operations permit program," city spokesman Scott Robinson said.

Vallin, speaking around noon Wednesday, said it would be hard to see the rooftops go.

"If we can't have some type of roofing then we might as well just take them down, because nobody wants to sit in the sun," he said. "I've been out here for 30 seconds and I want to get under the shade."

Vallin estimated it would cost a few thousand dollars for the umbrellas needed to cover Cloak & Petal's outdoor space.

Adler, meanwhile, has filed an application with the city to keep operating in front of Puesto for up to five years, long after the pandemic. He has faced some backlash over the loss of parking, but said restaurants like his help bring even more people into the area.