Outdoor operation spaces have become common features on San Diego streets and have proven to be lifesavers for many restaurants and businesses surviving the coronavirus pandemic.
“It made it survivable,” Thomas Patterson, manager at The Barn in North Park, said parklet dining spaces. “All the seats we have indoors, we were able to put out here. Our bartenders, our cooks, we were able to keep employed and keep the business going.”
Now the parklet dining rooms could become permanent fixtures, but not without a host of new restrictions and regulations that some say will complicate matters for business owners.
“I think it will be a challenge and one more thing that many restaurant owners need to do and figure out, but [it will also be] necessary in terms of ensuring safety," said Alia Jaziri, owner of Medina Moroccan-Baja Kitchen.
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The city of San Diego is currently working on a plan to develop a program that would allow business owners to permanently extend their outdoor space permits.
City leaders presented four possible permit options In an online workshop Thursday:
- Streetaries: outdoor spaces created in areas formerly dedicated to parking spaces that serve as an extension of the restaurant or bar. Also known as a parklet.
- Social curbs: permanent extension of the curb into the parking lane to facilitate a variety of activities such as recreational and outdoor dining.
- Outdoor dining within the private property: outdoor dining in parking lots of a permitted eating and drinking establishment.
- Promenade: partial or complete street closure to vehicular traffic to facilitate walking, biking, recreation, and outdoor dining.
To obtain a permit for any of these options business owners will have to meet certain requirements and pay a fee. Rates have not been set yet and neither have requirements, but ideas have been tossed around.
For example, to be approved for a "streetarie" permit, the city is suggesting business owners make sure the structure maintains sightlines and visibility above 42 inches, is at least 20 feet from an intersection and has no ceiling.
Jaziri said these are requirements that were not enforced or discussed when then businesses were initially given temporary permits to set up shop outside. That means some business owners who already built structures will have to reconstruct them to meet code.
“The city kind of had some guidelines but it wasn't enforced and there wasn't anything you necessarily had to build,” said Jaziri. “The permit allowed you to use that space but not necessarily approved any structures, per se.”
Nothing is set in stone at this time. The city said they hope to hear from business owners before moving forward with the plan.