August 5, 2022
Soon after local and national leaders implemented dining restrictions due to Covid, restaurants had to find a way to survive the mandates put in place. Under an emergency ordinance and in order to adapt and continue food service, many restaurants built outdoor dining areas to accommodate customers during the pandemic As San Diego City opened up and certain restrictions have relaxed, the City gave a July 13th deadline for these dining spaces to be either taken down or apply for the “Spaces as Places” permit, to continue outdoor service.
This information came out in a flurry of conflicting information given to many businesses at the time. Permit information coming out from the city conflicted with regulations from the California Coastal Commission which hadn’t certified any new laws or regulations which would be required under the Local Coastal Programs. The City Council told some business owners that they couldn’t issue the permits but still said to keep them up. The resulting chaos led to frustration and confusion by many as they were told to get other permits such as a “right-of-way” permit or just wait, leaving businesses to muddle through the red-tape and regulations themselves.
Now that the deadline has long passed, many of those businesses have neither applied for the permit nor taken down their outdoor structures. The convoluted permit scheme has resulted in further disarray and confusion. Commenting on how to get the permit, Angela Landsberg, former Executive Director of the North Park Main Street Association stated, “The (permanent) permit is huge and cumbersome and requires professional guidance. Even the average, educated, permit-savvy person would have an almost impossible time going through the permit.” One business owner and lawyer expressed frustration after she applied for the permit, but the city stated she would have to take down her establishment anyway to repaint bike lanes. “I’m a lawyer. When I looked at the Spaces as Places program, I was like, ‘who the heck is going to be able to figure this out?’”, Virginia Morrison, proprietor of the Second Chance Beer Company stated. Further adding, “I have no intention of removing my (outdoor dining structure).”