SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — On-street dining exploded in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic, and on Tuesday the San Diego City Council voted to make it permanent.
The council approved a program called Spaces as Places, which allows for a wider range of outdoor spaces for San Diegans to eat, walk, bike and hold recreational events via wider sidewalks and promenades.
"This is one of the silver linings we've seen from the horrible ordeal that's been the Covid 19 pandemic," Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert said.
Under the program, restaurants will be required to ensure their outdoor parklets are in compliance with fire, stormwater and Americans with Disabilities Act codes. Operators must do things like removing roofs (umbrellas are allowed), get their parklets off red, blue and white curbs, and flush the platforms with the sidewalk.
During the pandemic, restaurants across the city invested heavily in their parklets, and the city is currently opening code enforcement cases against those not in compliance.
At downtown's OperaCaffe, general manger Peter Morales expressed concern over the changes, noting outdoor diners want to feel safe and comfortable when eating on the street. The restaurant's parklet, which cost $8,000, has a roof with lights hanging down, is above the sidewalk, and has plastic shielding from the road.
"It's all about the customer, make them feel safe," Morales said. "The pandemic's not over yet and you've got to do everything you can to stay in business."
OperaCaffe is one of more than 50 businesses with outdoor code enforcement cases open. Restaurants face fines of $100 per violation per day, once they are summoned in front of a city hearing officer.
Businesses who wish to operate outdoors could pay permitting fees from $10 to $30 per square foot every two years, depending on location. Outdoor operations are allowed on streets with speed limits as high as 30 miles per hour, and would not be authorized in alleys.