Encroachments Into Public Space in Ocean Beach – A Photo Essay

by on March 10, 2016 · 41 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, Health, History, Ocean Beach

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Man in wheelchair has to maneuver through tight space outside The Joint restaurant at Cable and Newport.

Take a walk with us through the streets and sidewalks of Ocean Beach as we visit all the encroachments into public space by restaurants and bars across the community.

Many of the encroachments are welcomed as part of the new trend of cafe-style eateries and any intrusions into that common space are incidental and minimal. Others are where there is plenty of sidewalk or there isn’t much pedestrian traffic.

Some encroachments, however, are actually dangerous and unnecessary.  Especially those encroachments that are permanent.

Whether an encroachment is dangerous or not often depends on its particular factors and circumstances.

So, take a walk with us – let us know whether you agree or not.

Let’s start with one of the more famous encroachments, over at the original OB Noodle House on Cable Street.

(Click on the images for a larger version. All photos are by me and were taken in early March 2016.)

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OB Noodle House – one of the more well known restaurants received the approval for their deck from the OB Planning Board – an improvement from the past?

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OB Noodle House deck – looking south towards Voltaire.

Voltaire Street Commercial Area

Some of the more egregious intrusions are over on Newport Avenue, but let’s look at the Voltaire Street commercial area or zone.

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Some encroachments are great – like these benches outside Lucy’s for customers and others.

 

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Tables outside Hungry Lu’s. Not a lot of pedestrian traffic here.

 

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More benches for customers and for passersby outside Dog Beach Dogwash.

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Then there’s the coffee huts on the corners. Are they in the public right of way or on private property?

 

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A better look.

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Tables outside Litikers.

 

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The Green Store – Center has signs – but in the drive-way of their office.

 

Newport Avenue Area

Most of the intrusions into public space are over in the Newport Avenue area, of course.  So, let’s continue our excursion down the main commercial street in OB and then jaunt over to Niagara and Bacon, the village’s latest restaurant corner.

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Azucar’s tables and chairs are very convenient. They’re always returned inside when the place closes.

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It does get crowded as one approaches Cable along Newport. There are 3 businesses with tables and chairs outside.

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A closer look. What do you think? Too intrusive or is it cool?

 

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It’s Farmers Market day at the busy intersection of Cable and Newport. The encroachment by The Joint creates a dangerous place.

 

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Signs and merchandise don’t appear to crowd the sidewalk.

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Outside Livingston Chicken.

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Wings’ dresses.

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The OB Brewery tests the limits of safety.

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Gallaghers intrusion seems to be accepted.

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Newport Pizza’s encroachment includes an enclosed deck.

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Ice cream parlor spills out to the sidewalk. No one seems to mind.

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Newbreaks’ tables and chairs are very convenient despite a tight squeeze with people and dogs walking by.

Niagara and Bacon

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Raglan has it both ways. Not a lot of ped traffic however.

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Raglans – looking east. Seems to be plenty of sidewalk.

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Bar 1502 crops into the sidewalk but there’s plenty to go around.

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The famous Poma’s also has outside seating.

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Pomas in the shade. No problem.

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Plenty of space.

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Down in south OB, here’s the Little Lion. Not much intrusion.

So, that’s it for us, today, kids. I’m tired from all that hiking around. As you can see, there are many restaurants that jut out into the public space. Much of that is inconsequential.

However, there are a couple of spots that need attention.

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

RC92107 March 10, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Really….
Only The Joint is noticeably crowded and that’s only on Farmers Market night. You’re over dramatizing the issue and showing the one area on the highest traffic evening to try and make an argument. Like doctoring before and after photos for weight loss products. Get over yourself. The center of the street during farmers market is empty. Maybe consider moving vendors back from the sidewalk and there will be more than enough room for the increased traffic.

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cg March 10, 2016 at 4:15 pm

That’s a narrow view. The issue is the space between the light post and the railing, which is obviously a squeeze for some people and is likely a code violation. That’s a question I’ve been pursuing with the City but haven’t had much luck getting an answer on yet.

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Oh jeez... March 11, 2016 at 1:46 pm

you must be new here…don’t worry, you’ll catch up one day!

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Mercy Baron OB Mercy March 14, 2016 at 9:30 am

NO, you are wrong. It’s NOT just on FM night. Try strolling through there on a cane…I got knocked into their new protrusion on a non FM night and had to do everything to not fall to the ground. Most of you are not going to know what it’s like for a disabled person. That wheelchair pic says it all. Look at how he’s leaning…he doesn’t want to bump into that guy…never would have to think about that one before. I AM PISSED! I love the Joint…it’s one of our regular places to go, but I am spitting nails over this intrusion onto the sidewalk now!

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie March 14, 2016 at 12:02 pm

Word

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CliffHanger March 14, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Oh, come on.
In the leading Joint picture, maybe the guy walking could actually, I don’t know, WAIT for the guy in the wheelchair to go past…??? Plenty of room, and by the posted Municipal Code, seemingly not even in violation.

Ever walk down Newport between Bacon and Abbott? The truly homeless and the willingly homeless cause more “obstruction”, “inconvenience” and “danger” to those walking by than any of the sidewalk eateries. If people want to take their OB Rant out for a ride, try that issue instead. The sidewalk cafes are an improvement for our town.

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cg March 14, 2016 at 12:23 pm

“WAIT for the guy in the wheelchair to go past”

B.S.
No one had to wait to pass through that corner before the enclosure was built and shouldn’t have to now, and it does appear to be in violation of the posted code since it doesn’t leave 5′ between the rail and the lamp base on Newport and the rail and the tree on Cable. I’ve measured it and I also have a copy of the plan.

§141.0621 D(ii)
“The clear path shall be a paved sidewalk that is at least 5 feet wide, the width identified in the applicable adopted land use plan, or the width required by the
applicable zone or planned district, whichever width is greater. “

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Mercy Baron OB Mercy March 14, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Thanks cg. A friend who is on the town council board told me the same thing. Sounds like I will need to bring this up there as it might have already been approved by a planning board.

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Jon March 14, 2016 at 2:06 pm

Be careful with cherry-picking data. You make it sound like there must always be 5 ft clearance, but the very next line of the code says:
(iii) The clear path may meander from side to side to avoid obstructions, but shall maintain a continuous, common surface at least 3 feet in width that provides a direct path of travel past the sidewalk cafe.

They cite common obstructions as things like light poles, etc…

I’m not going to bicker on this blog about whether the cafes are good or bad, but they are lawful and up to code. Trying to say otherwise is just inaccurate. Sorry. So all of these pictures and complaints are kinda futile IMO. If you really want these removed or altered, you’re gonna need to find a way to change that muni code. Even if that were to happen, I imagine existing structures like this are grandfathered in.

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cg March 14, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Your interpretation of the next line of code is inaccurate. It means there must be a 3′ visual clear path as the sidewalk meanders. It does not mean the sidewalk space can be reduced to 3′. Even The Joint’s own plan uses the phrase “3′ Clear Visual Zone” where the arc around the tree on Cable is drawn.

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Jon March 14, 2016 at 3:01 pm

I’ll respectfully disagree. A continuous common surface at least 3′ in width that provides a direct path of travel doesn’t appear to correlate to your view of the pathway. Maybe one of our local planners with more experience than myself can school us?

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cg March 14, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Jon,
Can I direct you to page 7 of the City of San Diego Information Bulletin 523? Look about halfway down the page for “Minimum 5 foot clear pedestrian zone, including 3 foot clear visual zone/ direct path of travel”. The drawing shows a meandering path 5′ wide and a clear visual path 3′ wide, among many other requirements.

https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/development-services/pdf/industry/infobulletin/ib523.pdf

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Jon March 14, 2016 at 4:33 pm

You may direct me there. But I’m still of the opinion that the bullet point above “a continuous common surface of 3′ in width that provides a direct path of travel…” means just that. They didn’t say a direct path of travel for your eyeballs. They’re trying to account for things like light poles and other obstructions that may at times temporarily reduce the clearance. If anything, the city has contradicted themselves. But I’ll digress because I honestly don’t care that much. Just think it’s interesting that it means one thing to someone trying to prove a point than it does to others, and you aren’t the first person to point to the 5′ verbiage without including section iii that speaks to the 3′ exception. And and and… I’m also utterly shocked that city municipal code is anything other than crystal clear. ;)

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cg March 14, 2016 at 5:53 pm

True, the words do seem to be contradictory, but the drawing in IB523 is pretty clear as to the meaning. It also explains why the railing must arc around the tree on Cable instead of going straight past it.

Mercy Baron OB Mercy March 14, 2016 at 12:27 pm

No, YOU come on CliffHanger. Whilst I LOVE the idea of any outdoor cafe in our community, no one but the disabled know what it’s like to have to deal with what might seem like to YOU a minor thing. As it is…there are people that literally do not like moving out of the way when I’m the one with the cane. I’ve actually had a stand off with people who sigh and get upset that they have to move out of MY way…oh god forbid. This is recent for me being a bit disabled. I had no idea what they go through and I’m only getting a small taste of it.

You can not know what a disabled person goes through on a daily basis…and I’m not nearly as disabled as someone in a wheelchair, or blind. Be a bit more sensitive, will ya?

Steve Yeng, the owner of OB Noodle and Bar 1502 changed his patio area at the Noodle House because of one of our locals who is blind and walks by his place every day with her guide dog. It was like an obstacle course for her and her dog. I heard it was one of the main reasons Steve changed it. Now THAT’S being sensitive to people with disabilities and I applaud him for that.

Now, if only more people would have a bit more compassion….I’m not kidding you when I say..the corner of the most protruding part of the fence at the Joint MUST be changed, the rest of it is great!

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Triggerfinger March 10, 2016 at 9:04 pm

Ortegas is very obnoxious, especially on Wednesday nights. There’s barely 3 feet between patrons dining on both sides of the sidewalk , and throw a waiter in there… At least there’s isn’t permanent though.

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Dave March 10, 2016 at 10:31 pm

I’ve covered this before in other Rag discussions on the same subject, so I’ll keep it brief and try to add some new commentary…

Cafe Bella (Val’s cart outside Bobby’s Quik Stop) – I’m pretty sure this is all on Bobby’s property, and it isn’t really any intrusion to speak of on public space.

Hungry Lu’s – a bit intrusive, but in a low-traffic area.

Noodle House – I never even noticed the permanent sidewalk enclosure – don’t like this, but I understand it allows patrons to take booze outside and it’s in somewhat of an “area of least concern” foot-traffic-wise.

The restaurants on the north side of Newport’s 4800 block – always been a bit of a clusterfuck there, could possibly be toned down and still exist.

Joint – the biggest choke point/problem – would’ve liked to see this scaled down a bit like the outdoor bar at Raglan and perhaps it would’ve worked better.

Others – I don’t see any huge concerns, and in weighing the benefit of features that encourage people to use outdoor space versus convenient foot traffic I lean toward the features.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie March 14, 2016 at 3:08 pm

Your extensive opinion is very valued here and you may have to share your wisdom many times.

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Editor editordude March 15, 2016 at 10:50 am

That was one of our intents with the foto essay, to show that most encroachments are okay, that most OBceans can go along with them, but that only 2 stand out.

We love the food at The Joint and the way they serve it. But this railing leaves a bad taste in our mouth.

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Jon Broadworth March 11, 2016 at 8:52 am

Thee intrusions don’t bother me much. Equal Protection needs to be viewed. If the legs of the table were legs of a human just sitting wanting to rest and they had an appearance of homelessness, they would be required to move on. People legs are more important to me than table legs.

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Dan March 11, 2016 at 1:03 pm

San Diego Municipal Code Section: 141.0621 Sidewalk Cafes

http://docs.sandiego.gov/municode/MuniCodeChapter14/Ch14Art01Division06.pdf

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Mercy Baron OB Mercy March 14, 2016 at 9:26 am

You needed to narrow those pages down. WAY too many to scroll through to even try to find that ordinance ^^^^^

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie March 14, 2016 at 9:55 am

It’s a “photo essay” …

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Mac March 11, 2016 at 2:32 pm

I personally hate Lucy’s outdoor area. I walk through it walking my dog and have to pass by smokers and drunk people shouting at each other. They should have a deck on the other side like OB noodle house.

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Doug Blackwood March 12, 2016 at 7:33 pm

Permanent intrusions like the “Joint” are obnoxious; limiting peoples interactions on “public” sidewalks! There are other offenders too, but the “Joint’s Permanent Barricade” is the worst offender. Get rid of this impediment to the public’s right (wheelchair) of way.
Its not even summer yet!

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Rick March 14, 2016 at 2:13 pm

The idea of a private enterprise like The Joint, or OB Brewery, encroaching into a previously public sphere with permanent fixtures restricting the walkways strikes me as a clear ‘taking’ of public property. Most of the outdoor spaces shown in Frank’s photo essay on Voltaire and Newport consist of tables, chairs and benches, which can all be readily moved around if and as needed. Once a fenced area like that to the south of The Joint is permanently affixed to the concrete, well, we are stuck with the consequences. For that reason, at the very least, when a restaurant or bar wants to extend its business into the public area with any type of permanent construction, it must be subject to a public hearing, so exactly these issues of reasonable access can be aired. I am frankly amazed that a hearing is not already required in such event??
Further, I think that the owner of The Joint, as well as the OB Brewery, is eventually going to have to bow to common sense and either remove their encroachments or find a way to make them removable.No business owner wants to engender any sort of community ill feeling or controversy. After all, we are current and future customers.
If these sidewalk-blocking enclosures could just be designed to be removed or reduced during OB’s busiest times like the Wednesday Farmer’s Market, the Christmas Parade, OB Chili Cookoff, etc. it go a long way toward softening opposition. So, owners, please figure it out before this becomes another divisive OB debate!!

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Geoff Page Geoff Page March 14, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Just to clarify, the sidewalk fixtures are not necessarily permanent. The owners have to obtain an Encroachment Permit to use the space, there is no exchange of ownership. The permit can be revoked if there is a good reason and all the fixtures could be removed. If, after some time, any of these encroachments prove to be a real problem for the community, a case can be made to revoke the permit.

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Jon March 14, 2016 at 5:37 pm

That’s interesting. So why would there be another permit to obtain after the installation was complete? I would think you need to do that all at once. If I were a business owner I would probably not want to take that risk. Geoff, also interested in your thoughts regarding the 5′ vs 3′ difference. See the conversation I’ve been having with cg above. I’d give more credence to your opinion than my own on this subject. I’m of the opinion that the path can narrow to 3′ if there’s an obstruction. But I could be wrong. Just haven’t seen a great argument to completely disprove that interpretation. Cheers.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page March 15, 2016 at 9:31 am

Not sure what you mean about another permit, Jon. They needed at least two, one for the Encroachment and a building permit for the actual construction.

As for the width, I’m afraid I have to agree that the requirement is for a 5-foot wide sidewalk. The sidewalk can meander but they require a 3-foot visual zone through the meander. I’m guessing the reason for that is for folks in wheel chairs so they can see through when they start down the sidewalk and don’t wind up meeting something head on they couldn’t see.

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Jon March 15, 2016 at 10:17 am

I think maybe I misread your comment. Made it sound like they still had a permit to obtain. But I think you were just pointing out that the permit they did obtain isn’t necessarily permanent. That would make more sense (although still seems like quite a gamble for a business). As for the interpretation of the 5′ vs 3′. A tough argument for me to concede, but I’ll let it go with the caveat that a lawyer would have a Field day in court with the vagueness of that rule. I’m still struggling with the fact they call it a “3′ path of travel.” But if you’re interpretation is correct, then the naysayers on this thread should probably quit posting rants and start filing a lawsuit. ;)

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Geoff Page Geoff Page March 15, 2016 at 11:03 am

If the plans show five feet and there is not five feet of clear room, then someone needs to call Code Enforcement. The shame is that the inspector for the work under a building permit should catch things like this but they unfortunately “miss” things like this. I’ve had open disagreements with the City on things like this only to be told, on at least one occasion, to call Code Enforcement after the work was done if I felt they were wrong. I did and Code Enforcement agreed with me. Pretty pathetic.

As for the gamble the businesses are taking, it isn’t really much of one, Jon. The improvements can usually be removed easily if needed. And, unless someone can make a major case for removing the encroachments, there is very little chance they will ever have to do so. One really public case like this was when they widened the Mission Beach boardwalk. All of the property owners had built patios and retaining walls and fences on City property and all had to be removed but in that case the City, the property owner, dictated what would happen.

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cg March 15, 2016 at 11:50 am

Here is some information on how to report a code violation from sandiego.gov. Calling may be best since the Request for Investigation forms are more designed for noise complaints. Thank you to all who care about this issue.

How do I report a violation?
If you believe that there is a violation in your neighborhood or near your business, call (619) 236-5500 to file a complaint, or complete the Request for Investigation Form and submit online, or print and mail. The Request for Investigation Form in Spanish (PDF) is available in a PDF format. The form is also accessible at any City of San Diego library computer by going to the Code Enforcement website or at our office located at 1222 First Avenue, 5th Floor. Any forms submitted via regular mail should be addressed to:

Code Enforcement Division
1222 First Avenue, 5th Floor, MS 511
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 236-5500

When you phone in your complaint, we will ask if you have contacted the responsible party. Most people want to be good neighbors and are cooperative once the issue is brought to their attention.

Due to the existing case load and staff constraints, the complaint you file should be for those properties where the violations directly affect you.

Community-initiated complaints will usually receive a higher priority than individual complaints.

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sam March 15, 2016 at 8:11 am

hmmm maybe you shouldnt walk around during busy times. Just be lucky modern technology has kept you rather mobile. Why does everybody have to accomodate ones persons misfortune. Better let most benefit than bow down to one cry baby. Kmow your place. your lucky your alive. natural selection would have had you eaten by a lion already.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie March 15, 2016 at 8:41 am

We allowed this comment to stand, in order to show to what depths some will sink.

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RogueFive March 15, 2016 at 9:13 am

Consider the source. Someone that cannot write coherent sentences is incapable of coherent thought

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Geoff Page Geoff Page March 15, 2016 at 9:34 am

Maybe a new rule Frank. Anyone who makes such stupid comments has to use their actual name instead of hiding behind a pseudonym, that might discourage some of them.

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Mercy Baron OB Mercy March 15, 2016 at 11:04 am

HOLY CRAP BATMAN!!! Did you really just say all that out loud?!?! Excuse me for bringing yo momma into this convo….but dayum, she sure didn’t teach you any manners or compassion at all. I sure hope I never run into you (literally) whilst on my cane, because if I figure out who you are….my cane will have a mind of it’s own…..know what I’m sayin’?

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Colin March 15, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Natural selection comin’ for ya, sam:

§141.0621 D(ii)
The clear path shall be a paved sidewalk that is at least 5 feet wide, the width identified in the applicable adopted land use plan, or the width required by the
applicable zone or planned district, whichever width is greater.

Chomp.

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nostalgic March 15, 2016 at 10:38 am

The Joint has a permit from the City of San Diego as follows: “Approval #1340587
“Scope: New sidewalk cafe to add iron railing and gates only for outdoor dining in the public right of way. “OCEAN BEACH: Building permit for a new sidewalk cafe to add iron railing and gates only for outdoor dining in the public right of way to an exisiting restaurant in commerical building. CC-4-2/CHLOZ/Geo Haz 52”

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie March 15, 2016 at 10:47 am

Thanks for adding that. I wonder whether The Joint people appeared before the OB Mainstreet Assoc. for approval; fairly certain they never appeared before the OB Planning Board.

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OB Joe OB Joe March 15, 2016 at 10:53 am

Let’s not eat at The Joint until the railings are down. Sometimes, the only way to get a response from a business is to threaten their livelihood. Is anyone else with me to withhold our business from The Joint until they correct this unsafe situation? So, I say again, ‘let’s not eat at The Joint until the railings are down.’

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