Some City Projects Go on Back Burner to Support Restaurants' Outdoor Dining

City of San Diego takes temporary parklets into consideration if they would be impacted by street cleaning or improvement projects.

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The jackhammer slammed into the concrete, effortlessly dislodging large chunks of sidewalk from the ground.

“Yeah, can you hear that?” said a smiling Adam Cook, who owns the Bluefoot Bar & Lounge right along the demolished sidewalk.

The North Park businessman was excited to see the city of San Diego replacing the sidewalk.

“Especially in front of my business," Cook said. "This is fantastic, to have them fixed."

Cook was clearly pleased with the progress, even though he had to close the two temporary parklets he built for outdoor customers during the pandemic. Cook said the work was originally slated for last year.

“I guess it was kind of good timing that [the city of San Diego] didn’t do this back in December when all we had were outdoor patios,” Cook said.

Todd Camburn was also happy that road construction didn’t disrupt his Barrio Star restaurant in Bankers Hill.

“We were fortunate enough to have a structure like this built,” Camburn said while sitting in a temporary patio outside his restaurant on Fifth Avenue.

“People love it," Camburn said. "It’s San Diego. Who doesn’t want to eat outside?"

Camburn said he had several conversations with city representatives before constructing his parklets, one of which is built inside a new bike lane being built on Fifth.

“For us to have this right now, I wish we could keep it,” Camburn said with a sigh.

The bike lane is almost completed, though, which means Camburn’s patio on Fifth may have to go away. He said city crews worked around his patio as long as was possible.

A spokesman for the city’s Engineering and Capital Projects Department told NBC 7 that the city “is making every effort to avoid interruptions to outdoor business operations while still moving forward to make the critical improvements to streets, underground utilities and other various assets. This includes identifying when a project could potentially conflict with an outdoor dining setup and opening a dialogue with that business owner as early as possible so they are aware of when work in front of their business will occur. The department will continue to work with business owners across San Diego to minimize any impacts that our projects might have with outdoor dining setups.”

A city’s stormwater division representative said street sweeping has continued throughout the pandemic but that it hasn't required restaurants to remove their parklets to clean the streets.

“However, we also continue to need help from those that have built the parklets,” the representative said. “Through their encroachment permit, the businesses are required to keep the temporary outdoor business expansion free of debris and grime to prevent pollutants/contaminants from entering the adjacent storm drain system. Maintenance of the roadways is important year-round to prevent flooding and ensure water quality throughout our communities.”

Cook said he kept his patios clean for his customers. He said he’s applying for a permit that would allow him to keep them in North Park for upward of five more years. The parklets were a success when the pandemic limited them to outdoor service only.

“We couldn’t have done it without having our two temporary street patios,” Cook said.

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