San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer's Office is developing a plan that would allow restaurants to utilize more open space for dining in order to keep patrons six feet apart and businesses in operation.
The city's proposal, developed with input from local organizations, would likely be brought to the San Diego City Council as an emergency ordinance by the end of June, according to a memo from the city's Development Services Department to the council.
The proposal would temporarily change the city's municipal code to allow restaurants and retail businesses to expand their operations into the public right of way, private parking lots and public spaces and parks, according to the letter.
The goal is to allow restaurants to maintain their pre-pandemic capacity while adhering to the state of California and San Diego County's current health guidelines that requires at least six feet of space between members of different households.
Businesses can currently request to expand their operations onto sidewalks and onto shut-down city streets through special event permits, sidewalk cafe permits and others. But the proposal from the Mayor's Office seeks to streamline the process to allow for more businesses to utilize outdoor spaces.
Some of the changes the city is considering, according to the memo, include: waiving some permit requirements and review fees to limit the cost and time of the process; and waiving parking requirements so that businesses can utilize private lots for dining, among others.
If approved, the temporary emergency ordinance would only be in effect during the current state of emergency, which was declared by the city on March 12.
Last week, a group of organizations representing San Diego's dining scene, including the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the Little Italy Association and several others, sent a letter to Faulconer urging the city to consider expanding curbside dining. The group proposed a series of recommendations that would allow businesses to utilize right-of-way spaces.
"Our commercial zones are suffering, and these zones provide thousands of jobs, important services, and social and entertainment outlets for our residents and visitors. We would respectfully request that pilot areas be identified by June in order to test these concepts," a portion of the letter read. see a list of their proposed pilot areas here.
The Little Italy Association has been developing their own plan for outdoor dining for more than a month and, on Wednesday, announced that their neighborhood would be the first in San Diego to test the method. Starting June 13, Little Italy will close of a portion of their streets to traffic on Saturday evenings to transform the area into an "Al Fresco" dining plaza.
The city of El Cajon was also finding ways to utilize more outdoor space for eating and drinking. The city has waived fees for their temporary use permits, which must be submitted online and show how a business would utilize the outdoor area. The restaurant must also keep capacity at its pre-pandemic allowance, the city said. A list of criteria can be found here.