SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Outdoor dining may become a permanent fixture at San Diego restaurants under a new program being developed by the city.
San Diego's Planning Department is currently outlining what would be called the "Spaces as Places" program, which would extend outdoor dining beyond the pandemic and make changes to the city's municipal code.
"Building on the success of temporary outdoor dining as a tool to help businesses through the pandemic, Spaces as Places will provide a path for the long-term recovery of local businesses and neighborhoods across San Diego. The program will offer a menu of options approach to help foster social interaction and community building by allowing eating, drinking, recreation, public art, sidewalk vending, education, entertainment, and other community gathering spaces within areas of the public right-of-way," according to a City Council agenda on the proposal.
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According to the city, staff will be working with public stakeholders over the next few months to develop the proposal. City staff hopes to bring the proposal to the City Council for adoption this fall.
Tuesday, city leaders voted 8-0 to extend outdoor dining on streets and sidewalks through July 13, 2022. At the meeting, Planning Director Elyse Lowe said the city has received complaints about businesses blocking red curbs and extending too far into public right-of-ways. She added many of the businesses created rooftops over their parkletts, which is not permitted.
"We will be working with businesses to seek corrections to those and if left uncorrected, the city would be forced to revoke those permits and not renew them for following year," she said.
During the pandemic, the city allowed restaurants and businesses to expand dining into streets and onto sidewalks with temporary permits. As of May 18, the city has issued 427 outdoor permits to businesses.
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Some businesses took the idea further and built actual structures, though not all of them were permitted.
The city says it will be reaching out to businesses and restaurants with permits to make sure they're operating within permit guidelines and comply with fire, building, and city codes. All businesses will have until July 13 to correct or remove any violations. After that deadline, the city may take permits away from or fine businesses out of compliance.
This month, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria is expected to propose a one-year extension to temporary permitting ahead of the permanent proposal.
"Not only will it help our restaurants recover from the pandemic; it will also improve the quality of life for our residents and make San Diego even more appealing to visitors," Dave Rolland, a spokesman for the mayor, said this month. "The Mayor is committed to working collaboratively with our restaurant community and our business districts to make outdoor dining successful going forward.”
It's unclear what will happen with outdoor dining areas like this after the state ends its color-coded reopening tier system on June 15.