City of San Diego Begins Crackdown On Non-Compliant Outdoor Dining Areas

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City of San Diego code compliance investigators have started issuing violation notices for permitted businesses whose outdoor dining areas are out of compliance with local, state, and federal codes.

As of Wednesday, the city had issued 453 temporary outdoor dining permits.

Compliance investigators began visiting permitted businesses on Tuesday to "correct non-compliant structures and other violations," according to city spokesperson Scott Robinson.

Robinson said investigators visited four locations on Tuesday. Two were not in compliance for violations that included overhead roofs, railings higher than 45 inches, electrical modifications and an illegal heater.

The business knew compliance checks were coming.

In May, the city notified permit holders of what would be necessary to comply with all permit requirements.

There’s a long list of potential violations inspectors will be looking for, according to the city. Among them:

  • Unpermitted structures and decks in the right of way (including the street) that were not designed, reviewed and inspected for state and local requirements.
  • Platforms built in the street with added walls and roofs.
  • Railings that are taller than 45 inches.
  • Liquid propane gas heaters within tents and structures.
  • Fire extinguishers not installed in tents and structures.
  • Electrical extension cords crossing the sidewalks.
  • Unpermitted tents that are 400 square feet and larger.Tents or canopies that have been in use for more than six months in a year.
  • Materials used for tents that do not meet the State Fire Marshal's standards.
  • Improper drainage and blocking the natural flow of water to City storm drains.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations.
  • Red and blue curb encroachments.

The city allowed businesses to set up outdoor dining areas in public right of ways starting in June 2020.

But according to Robinson, some restaurants went well beyond authorized construction, which was to include tables and chairs behind barriers that could be removed at the end of the day.

Instead, many businesses owners, particularly in the Gaslamp District and Little Italy, have spent tens of thousands of dollars constructing structures that are non-compliant.

Earlier this year, the San Diego City Council voted to extend the temporary permit to July 13, 2022, however they required business owners to be compliant by July 13, 2021.

That deadline had been extended twice, but this week, investigators began compliance visits.

For those found in violation, an administrative hearing will be scheduled within 30 days. If violations remain after that period, it will trigger fines of $100 per day, per violation.

And while business owners knew compliance checks were coming, many are still worried about the impact COVID could still potentially have on their restaurants.

“As long as cases continue to rise, businesses are worried they’re going to get shut down again, and if we get shut down again, and it’s winter time, and you’re sitting out here with no roof, its going to be really tough on businesses. So why not let them stay for another year,” said Cesar Vallen, owner of Cloak & Petal in Little Italy.

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