Is This Encroachment Into Our Public Space?

by on February 4, 2016 · 50 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, Ocean Beach

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New outdoor sitting area for The Joint, at the corner of Newport and Cable.

Take a look at these photos …

This is The Joint at the intersection of Newport and Cable setting up an outside eating area.

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Looking north. Clearly half the sidewalk is now fenced off from the public.

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More encroachment outside the new OB Brewery?

We’ve been contacted by a reader who objects to this encroachment on more than half of the public sidewalk by both The Joint and the soon-to-be-open OB Brewery closer to the ocean.

Here is what reader “CG” says:

The sidewalk expansion of several restaurants is starting to impede pedestrians, and I noticed just recently that The Joint on Cable and Newport has staked out a large area for future tables with metal fencing with permanent posts in the cement.

The Joint is at the busiest corner of the Farmer’s Market at Newport and Cable. . They’ve clearly claimed more than half of the sidewalk without regard the other obstacles like the water meter, street light, and traffic light.

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With the street light and a water meter also on the sidewalk and just opposite, I don’t see how anyone in a wheelchair can pass without asking others to move. And, I’m also concerned about the foot traffic being impacted on that corner during Farmers’ Market or just regular foot traffic on a sunny day.

Sam’s Fence was onsite yesterday afternoon completing the ironwork.  I decided to have a chat with the restaurant manager, Nathan Tomlinson, who at the time was being advised to purchase a padlock to secure the enclosure at night. Up to that point I hadn’t noticed the swinging gate or the holes in the cement for the floor bolts. The manager was very pleasant and attentive

He told me the fencing idea was driven by customers asking for an area to bring their dogs, and also for profit. He mentioned I wasn’t the first to register my concern but that they did have a permit.

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I returned last night for the Farmers Market,  and as I expected the fence created a choke point. Strollers, wheelchairs, people with dogs, people in wheelchairs with dogs. The typical Farmer’s Market scene. I took a tape measure to to see how many square feet were taken from us. It’s an odd shape because of the corner but I estimate about 380 square feet total. In the picture that shows the accommodation for the the tree, the fence posts are only 48″ from the planter.

I really like the restaurant but I hate what they’ve done. It’s always been one of our go to’s for special occasions and I hope they tear the fence down if enough complaints are heard. I’m a local businessman and I wonder what they pay the city? At my current lease rate it would be $760/month.

Can you please tell me how something like this gets approved by the city and the proper avenue to lodge a complaint? I would like to know who else to lodge a complaint with. As a taxpayer and OB resident I resent having the public right-away occupied by for profit businesses.

I’m sure many other OB residents are concerned about the issue in general and this particular case. I am a local homeowner and also have a professional services business here in OB. I always thought the sidewalks were for all of us and it’s frustrating to see that’s not the case.

OB Encroachmt before n after Joint

We think CG’s concerns are valid.

But the issue of local OB restaurants taking over sidewalks next to their establishments is not a cut-and-dry issue, as during recent years, the OB Planning Board and local sentiment in general has favored a more “European-style” of outdoor dining here at the beach – with such great weather.

The famous OB Noodle House came before the local planners a few years back and were given the green flag to build their small outside deck.

And obviously, a number of Newport Avenue – and other restaurants – have crafted outdoor eating and drinking areas. South Coast Bar & Grill, Newport Pizza, and a couple of bars come to mind.

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OB Brewery – showing a tightened pedestrian space betwen landscaping fence and new encroachment.

Not to mention, besides the use of sidewalk cafés being encouraged, their use was incorporated into the recently passed OB Community Plan that was passed by the City Council and California Coastal Commission. (On pages LU-10, LU-11 and UD 10) The OB Plan mentions the benefits and encourage use of these projects but with the caveat that they conform to the public right-of-way requirements.

Conrad Wear of Councilwoman Zapf’s office, contacted by our reader, has advised that if anyone suspects that any sidewalk café is encroaching too much into the public right of away, in violation of the municipal code, please let him know. Zapf’s office can then contact the Development Services Department for plans and file a code enforcement investigation request.

To file a request for a code violation investigation go to this link.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon February 4, 2016 at 12:52 pm

I’m amused by the upset at sidewalk cafes for so many reasons… First being, we live in a beautiful beach community in Southern California. My question would be more like, “what took so long?!” Another being, I don’t need a whole lot of sidewalk to get where I go. As long as my friends in wheelchairs or strollers can get by, BFD.

But the real kicker is, this has been talked about with great enthusiasm for at least the last 4 years, maybe more. Didn’t come out of the blue. But as usual, people who weren’t paying attention think that business owners are somehow overnight pulling some dirty trick when in actuality they’ve had to go through extensive permitting to get this done. And and and!!! Here’s the best part…. The OB Community Plan that everyone has been sooooo excited about specifically calls for an expansion of sidewalk cafes!! See section UD-3 sec 4.3.14

This is such a forehead-smacking, non-issue it makes me wanna whine as much as the whiners whining about it.

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cg February 4, 2016 at 1:35 pm

Jon,
I don’t object to sidewalk cafes but to the fencing off of the public right of way. The existing outdoor tables were unobtrusive and seemed to serve their purpose. How do you justify forcing pedestrians to walk single file on a section of Cable?

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Jon February 4, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Forcing people to walk single file? Oh the horror!

I’m just messin with ya. To me personally, it’s a non-issue. I’ve walked by both of these sites numerous times and was not annoyed. But we all have our different issues. Good luck.

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Richard February 4, 2016 at 1:06 pm

December 20, 2015 at 5:13 pm
Dear Staff,
While restaurants taking over the sidewalk directly adjacent to their properties in order to maximize customer capacity is nothing new in OB (see: OB noodle house, both locations, Raglan, etc) the structure erected outside of the new OB Brewery on Newport seems particularly egregious. It cuts deeply into the sidewalk and funnels into an even narrower path as it runs up against a city palm tree planted area. Is this legal? Is there a permit that had to be obtained for this area? If so was it obtained? With OB becoming evermore busy and crowded, especially in the summer months, I cannot understand the thinking behind this eyesore/hindrance being given the go ahead. Does anyone have any info about this matter?7

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Richard February 4, 2016 at 1:09 pm

I too share the Rag’s concern. Above is a letter I sent at the end of last year. I would still like to know if OB Brewery has a pefmit. Theirs seems to be the worst/best example of this trend

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Jon February 4, 2016 at 1:20 pm

To perhaps soften my rant above, I would absolutely be against any business doing this without proper permits that would encroach in such a way that reasonable people, disabled and children in strollers could not pass. You’d probably have to contact code compliance and/or our local D2 reps office to pull those permits. Good luck with either of those.

Remember, Lorie hates her job… http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/government/being-on-the-city-council-doesnt-look-like-much-fun/

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cg February 4, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Conrad Wear pulled the permit for the OB Brewery and told me they had to maintain 5 feet between the structure and any other objects. Not sure about The Joint’s permit, but as stated in the article they only left 4 feet between the fence and the tree cutout on Cable, measured at an angle.

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Jon February 4, 2016 at 1:45 pm

If that’s the case, I’d say continue your fight. Sounds like you’re going through the proper channels. I wouldn’t be surprised if the never-ending mess of construction at that place is producing results that don’t comply.

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Richard February 4, 2016 at 4:04 pm

Yeah, I guess it’s probably 5 feet between the OB Brewery fence and the tree fence but it is still clearly a bottle neck. Maybe I’ll go measure it-just to be sure…. Either way it doesn’t seem to be a very neighborly thing to fi

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Steve February 4, 2016 at 4:03 pm
cg February 4, 2016 at 4:39 pm

“We’re in San Diego, where we have lots of sunshine,” said Councilwoman Lori Zapf, who led the effort on the council to simplify the review process.

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Richard February 4, 2016 at 4:05 pm

These encroachments are by code patio dining. Patio dinning allows for customer smoking. All outdoor patio dining areas in OB are packed with smokers. Happy smoking! Just like Europe.

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OB Dude February 4, 2016 at 9:49 pm

Walk by Lucy’s …. smokers hangout

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Hache February 4, 2016 at 4:47 pm

formerly a member of one of our planning groups and we worked thru development services and were able to omit extreme side walk encroachments. Also note these businesses probably aren’t paying any rent ( to the city?) for using city property. The Hillcresr area is were I served.

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Doug Blackwood February 4, 2016 at 5:57 pm

It might be legal: but this is an encroachment!
It interferes with friends & family walking freely, and conversation.
What about pedestrians who choose not to patronize these bars?
Private business seeking expansion on public lands, should be required to post a notice; which would allow for resident input!

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cc February 8, 2016 at 9:56 am

It interferes with friends & family walking freely, and conversation.

oh my god, how will you go on living!!!! give me a break

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PL Local February 4, 2016 at 7:59 pm

I haven’t visited the other places, but, the encroachment at “The Joint” upsets me. It is called a sideWALK not a patio. I don’t want to be fenced off like cattle so that I can get to Nico’s or Little Chef.

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Larry N Maggard February 5, 2016 at 8:27 am

Yes, it’s an encroachment on PUBLIC space.

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cg February 5, 2016 at 10:45 am

The following is from the City of San Diego Development Services Information Bulletin 523. At less than 5′ clearance the The Joint appears to be in violation. Somehow streets in PB, La Jolla, and Old Town were able to get further restrictions. It seems like Newport Avenue should be in the same category.

Pedestrian Clear Path

A clear path, free of all obstructions to the flow of
pedestrian traffic, shall be provided in the public
right-of-way and shall be maintained at all times.
The clear path shall be a paved sidewalk that is
at least 5 feet wide. More restrictive pedestrian
path widths are required as follows:

A. Sidewalk cafés within the Pacific Beach community
plan area shall provide a minimum 8
foot wide clear path along Garnet Avenue in
accordance with community plan Appendix
D.

B. Sidewalk Cafés within La Jolla Planned
District shall provide a minimum 8 foot wide
clear path in accordance with LDC Section
§159.0405(e)(2).

C. Sidewalk cafés within the Old Town community
plan area shall provide a minimum 6 to
8 foot clear pedestrian path in the river and
fringe areas, and a 10-15 foot minimum clear
pedestrian path in the core area in accordance
with Old Town community plan public space
policy #6.

The required clear path as a whole may be
designed to meander from side to side to avoid
obstructions, but shall maintain a direct clear
visual zone past the sidewalk café of at least 3
feet in width, see figure 3.

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Geoff Page geoff page February 5, 2016 at 1:51 pm

While I was on the Peninsula Community Planning Board, we reviewed a couple of these projects. As long as they are ADA compliant and safe for traffic, they are legal. The projects mentioned here should have come before the OBPB. If not, someone skipped a step for public input. Maybe the elimination of this step is Zapf’s idea of “streamlining.

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gregg February 5, 2016 at 2:03 pm

OB sh0uld have paid parking garages built to accommodate all the parking then eliminate all the on street parking in the commercial zones and then widen the sidewalks with dedicated bike lanes then there will be plenty of room for outside seating for cafes and pedestrian. I think they cant drink alcohol out there being that its public property.

On another note I think OB should get rid of street parking on Abbot, Bacon, Cable and Sunset cliffs and have dedicated bike lanes on those streets.

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RogueFive February 5, 2016 at 3:31 pm

And where do you propose these parking garages be built ? Just float them in the air or on the ocean ?

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gregg February 8, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Well a parking garage could go at rob field, dog beach, the main life guard tower and in front of South Shores. They could be underground and above ground. Oh, I know what you’re going to say “it will flood the garages that are below grade”; with proper design and engineering that can be avoided. The garages could be mixed with some commercial at ground level and possibly affordable housing above but you’d have to go above the 30′ height limit.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page February 8, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Please, we have enough trouble defending the 30-foot height limit without suggestions like this. Parking garages at the beach, that we don’t need either.

As for the outdoor cafes, I have to say that I am in favor of them, this adds a nice element for everyone. Having lived in OB for 35 years, it has always seemed a shame that Nati’s has always been the lone establishment with outdoor dining. As long as wheelchairs can pass through, why not? I would, however, object to allowing smoking in these areas, the sidewalks are often full of people and they should not be subjected to the smoke as they stroll OB’s main street. Maybe off Newport but not on it.

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Dave February 8, 2016 at 7:49 pm

They did great job designing and engineering the garages at those new vacation rentals that went in next to the lifeguard tower…

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PL Local February 5, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Get rid of that CVS and make a huge parking garage that is free for everyone. Because everyone shops at RiteAid.

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Tyler February 6, 2016 at 5:14 pm

Yeah it’s not like any of us live on those streets. Totally don’t need anywhere to put my vehicle….

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Colin February 8, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Respectfully, I’m with Tyler and Geoff Page on this one. Make OB just like parking Downtown? All metered up and pay garaged? Pay as you go everywhere you go (and a bunch to private vendors, I think, for the garages) might suit Downtown, but I don’t think so our beach town. Let’s keep our public parking public and available per existing tax base, and not build out Ocean Beach with big garages because we “fixed” parking by making us all pay for it. Just because we’re a destination beach town doesn’t mean we’re compelled to convert our town streets into amusement park-like serenades. Our streets with commercial zoning are always our public streets nevertheless and are most important and material to the public who lives here in closest support of, and by, them. Ocean Beach, not Metropolis, is my hope.

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rick callejon February 5, 2016 at 9:38 pm

“Everyone shops at RiteAid” except Geoff Page and me.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page February 8, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Amen, Brother Callejon, one of the few brave posters here that actually uses his own name.

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OB Dude February 6, 2016 at 9:50 am

I do not got to CVS often but when I do I always love the inside of that building and the finish work which was complete. And I thank them for keeping the mural.

A good neighbor and better than a vacant building. Speaking of vacant buildings I think Saad Hirmez should do something with his Newport Building or put it up for sale and let someone else remove the blight. Just a thought

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gristmiller February 7, 2016 at 6:38 pm

AGREED!

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OB Dude February 6, 2016 at 9:52 am

I should read before I send

got = go
complelte = completed

Before someone else catches my mistakes. TX

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medium times February 6, 2016 at 10:05 am

That’s what you need to do to legally add a sidewalk cafe in SD.

You need 5′ clear for the sidewalk. That light-pole and the angled railing are pretty damn close, I walked by it the other day and it may be exactly 5′. I have a feeling it seems less wide because it makes you turn a little as you approach it. http://www.sandiego.gov/development-services/pdf/industry/infobulletin/ib523.pdf

I honestly think sidewalk cafe’s are a good add to a neighborhood but people just love to complain about new stuff.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie February 8, 2016 at 2:08 pm

Editordude just put up a poll on the homepage about this issue of gated seating area at The Joint. Please take part if you live or visit OB.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page February 8, 2016 at 2:32 pm

With all due respect to the Grand Editor Dude, I think the poll questions need modification. There is nothing to vote on that simply asks if you like the outdoor seating yes or no. The first questions says “we have to live with it” if they have a permit, which implies a certain bias, i.e. not that we like it but have to resign ourselves to it.

The second question states that it is clearly an encroachment, which it is, but encroachment permits are issued all the time. The better question would be, do you think it should be removed.

As I have stated, I like it but I don’t see any answer in the poll that I can mark at this time.

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dajohn February 8, 2016 at 2:39 pm

I agree. I like it.

That poll needs a rewrite.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie February 8, 2016 at 3:41 pm

How can we rewrite a poll that’s already up? We can rerun a similar poll in the near future – and I’ll ask grandeditordude to allow you to write the choice options.

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John O. February 9, 2016 at 1:53 pm

Just add another option to the Poll… the Poll certainly seems biased towards a negative view on the issue.

I like outdoor seating, and I’m in favor of it. I rarely have an issue with walking on Newport.

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Editor editordude February 8, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Ok, Geoff and Dajohn – Inserted a new option – and if the first 11 to vote complain as they didn’t have it when they took the survey, it’s on both of you.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page February 8, 2016 at 5:15 pm

I won’t pretend to speak for Dajohn but for me, bring ’em on, no problem.

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Editor editordude February 8, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Dear Readers: We have a new poll on whether there’s encroachment into the public space in front of and along the side of The Joint restaurant.

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Dave February 8, 2016 at 7:57 pm

Wow, not sure how I missed this last week…

Interesting question – I certainly do support patio-style dining, and have enjoyed the outdoor spaces at both Noodle Houses and Raglan for years, along with Newport Pizza’s deck.

But there’s a pretty obvious difference between those areas, where the buildings have a greater setback and allow for more sidewalk area in a generally less-trafficked part of town. The Joint seems like it’s a little bit of overkill – I’ve seen and frequented restaurants Downtown where the patio is barely wide enough for 2-tops and the wait staff have to squeeze down an aisle because there’s not enough sidewalk to fence off a comfortable area for patrons while leaving enough public space for the actual public.

If I were your benevolent dictator, I’d keep the Cable patio but maybe move that fence to give another foot back to the public right-of-way. I might nix the Newport seating, as it’s crowded there frequently enough (even without the Farmer’s Market) to cause obvious problems. I’m inclined to lean the same way toward the OB Brewery space, but the pictures weren’t quite as clear and I haven’t actually been down on foot in a while to really look at either spot.

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cg February 9, 2016 at 9:22 am

Is there a reason a restaurant needs to opt for an enclosure vs. just tables on the sidewalk like Ortega’s and so many others? Reading the City Sidewalk Cafe information bulletin it occurred to me The Joint’s fenced area may be extra wide for accessibility compliance. Thank you for the poll. Another option I would have liked to see would be “Keep outside dining. Remove the fence”.

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Dave February 9, 2016 at 10:50 pm

Methinks they they would’ve run afoul of laws concerning taking booze outside – booze on a private patio = okay, booze on a public street (not fenced off) = nono.

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Eric Gerhardt February 9, 2016 at 9:38 am

I imagine the fences are to control transients from plopping themselves down. I think each enterprise that chooses to absorb public property as their own, should then be responsible for regularly pressure washing a sidewalk area 10 times the size of their encroachment.

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Spare change February 9, 2016 at 11:50 pm

I reported it to the city, citing the specific requirements of the sidewalk cafe ordinance they are violating. I got a letter in response simply saying “it’s permitted”. Wow. They either didn’t read it or just assume I’m stupid. This was before it was completed and not or inspected. I guess I’ll follow up with the project manager but It’s a little late now since they’ve certainly inspected it. OB really lost on this one.

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cg February 10, 2016 at 8:55 pm

I’ve obtained a copy of the site plan for The Joint’s sidewalk cafe and will check it against the actual dimensions tomorrow. The area of the fenced enclosure is 412 sq. ft.

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bodysurferbob bodysurferbob February 10, 2016 at 9:12 pm

clearly you landlubbers are out of control, gobbling up public sidewalks for eateries. i do like to sit outside and eat at ob places, but not at the expense of pedestrian safety and flow.

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Dre February 14, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Within this multifaceted issue, what do we, the OB community, value more? Do we set a precedent to avoid future encroachment issues and give all street-front businesses a fair opportunity? Do we compromise with local restaurants to share the public space in an accessible way so outdoor dining is possible? Do we give priority to foot traffic (as well as wheelchair and stroller access) and have the sidewalks accessible to pedestrian traffic and the Farmer’s market?

Either way, the community needs to be consulted when coming up with legislation that will change the way a neighborhood is experienced by locals residents, tourists, and the homeless population. When an city permit brings up this kind of controversy, there was something wrong with the way it was issued and the commercial and residential laws in place to allow it to happen, unquestioned. Where is the accountability??

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