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San Diego extends ordinances to allow temporary outdoor business operations

The council's unanimous vote on Tuesday extends the ordinance by more than a year giving businesses the opportunity to keep their outdoor expansions in operation.

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council voted on Tuesday to extend emergency ordinances allowing for outdoor sidewalk and private parking lot business operations in the city through July 13, 2022. Without the extension, permits for all restaurants were set to expire on July 13, 2021, and permits for other business services on Aug. 3, 2021.

While this program was launched as a temporary solution to a devastating situation, we have seen the benefits of allowing expanded outdoor dining and shopping in our communities,” said Mayor Todd Gloria through a statement. “As a city, we are committed to exploring ways to make this a more permanent feature beyond the pandemic, creating an environment where businesses can thrive and our residents and visitors can enjoy what San Diego has to offer.” 

San Diego has issued 427 Temporary Outdoor Business Operation (TOBO) permits since the program started. Each permit outlines the location where canopies, umbrellas or furniture can be placed in the street or sidewalk. In addition, business and restaurant owners must submit for a separate permit to install platforms, specifying the design and materials for construction. City staff will be reaching out to businesses and restaurants with TOBO permits to ensure they are operating within the permit guidelines, ensuring compliance with the Fire, Building and San Diego Municipal codes. Over the past few months, the City has received numerous complaints about unpermitted structures, businesses blocking the red curb and not conforming with their original issued permit, among other violations.  

The initial emergency executive order that waived regulatory requirements to help restaurants expand their service outdoors was signed by then San Diego mayor, Kevin Faulconer in July of 2020.  It was a move early in the pandemic that would help keep restaurants in business while increasing physical distance between employees and customers. 

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously back on July 7, 2020, to support Mayor Kevin Faulconer's plan to expand outdoor dining and retail options during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Previously, securing an outdoor sidewalk cafe permit could cost businesses more than $1,000 and take several months to process. This ordinance has helped reduce applicant costs and speed up the review process during the pandemic.

The council's vote on Tuesday will extend the ordinance by more than a year giving businesses the opportunity to keep their outdoor expansions in operation.

“I mean a year is better than nothing but at the end of the day we’ve taken a big loss, millions of dollars lost,” said Cesar Vallin, owner of the restaurant Cloak and Petal in Little Italy.  

Vallin said after the pandemic began, business owners tried to make the necessary adjustments like providing outdoor dining, just to survive.

“We all spent money and now we’re being told that next year we have to take it down. It’s a little frustrating but I’m just trying to focus on the positive that we’re still here. A lot of businesses closed,” Vallin said. 

Councilmember Marni von Wilpert (District 5) said in a statement, "As the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we recognize there are still many businesses struggling to make up ground lost during the past year as a result of necessary public health restrictions to keep residents safe. The extension will help San Diego recover at a faster pace economically with the health and safety in mind for our workforce, San Diego residents, and visitors while continuing to provide access to public spaces"

The original ordinance passed in July 2020 was passed to:

  • allow outdoor business operations for dining and retail in parking lots, on-street parking spaces, and sidewalks as well as neighboring business frontage with written permission of neighboring business owners
  • waive special event permit fees to allow nonprofit applicants to close streets and conduct business outdoors faster and cheaper
  • broaden allowances and reduce required permits for temporary signs
  • allow for expanded wholesale distribution of food, beverages, and groceries directly to consumers while allowing for social distancing
  • preserve mobility, safety and emergency access for pedestrians, and preserve requirements that ADA access and path of travel be maintained at all times
  • require full compliance with all state and county health orders and guidance

WATCH RELATED: (July 2020) San Diego business owners feeling the pandemic shutdown strain again

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