City Stepping up Enforcement of Outdoor Dining and Operation Spaces

City code enforcement is reaching out to businesses with temporary outdoor operations permits to fix building code violations before the second year permit extension starts

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On the economic side of the road to recovery, the headline of the week has been San Diego city leaders extending outdoor business permits.

Some businesses went overboard, others have safety concerns, and some didn't have a permit in the first place. Now the city is stepping up enforcement, and the clock is ticking to get in compliance.

The Temporary Outdoor Business Operation Permit program was designed to help San Diego's restaurants and retailers recover from the financial impact of the pandemic by allowing them to serve or operate outside to dodge indoor capacity limits.

If you ask business owners and their customers, most would say mission accomplished.

"I feel like they make sure it is safe out here. I haven't had a bad experience,” resident Angel Fannin said.

Since the pandemic started 417 permits were issued for businesses expanding to parking spaces and sidewalks, city records indicate.

At last check, there have been 87 code enforcement cases opened and only half have been resolved.

City spokesperson Scott Robinson said there are more potential violations out there, but enforcement is a complaint-driven process.

"Some seem more permanent than others, but generally they are nice,” resident Hannah Adams said.

Over the next six weeks, businesses with outdoor service should expect a visit from city staffers or some other type of communication urging them to get in building code compliance.

If not, they risk losing their permit.

"It's been successful. We haven't heard any issues about it but at the same time to make sure things are safer, why not?" Fannin said.

What started out as permission to put outside tables, chairs and an umbrella or two has, in some cases, become what you might call over-engineered.

Some of the top concerns on the city's radar are unpermitted structures, propane heaters under tents and wooden ceilings.

The fire marshal is also looking for electrical issues such as extension cords stretched over sidewalks, and improperly wired lights, heaters, and even TV's.

"The City encourages Temporary Outdoor Business Operations permit holders -- to self-comply, ensuring operations are located, designed and built -- as approved within the permit guidelines. All unpermitted business operations will be able to apply for a permit," Robinson said.

"I think they should give them a little bit more time. I think they are doing a good job right now. Eventually, yeah it's going to have to happen,” resident Kelsey Singleton said.

The city tells NBC 7 there have been no major structural failures or injuries in unpermitted structures or those out of compliance, but with the second-year permit extension, compliance is an ounce of prevention.

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