Public Right of Way Enhancement Program: Helping or Hindering Local Ocean Beach Businesses?

by on May 1, 2017 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach

Cover of City of San Diego PROW Enhancement Program document.

Clothes Racks Not Allowed Outside Newport Avenue Storefronts

By South OB Girl

For many years there have been racks of clothing for sale outside the shops on Newport Avenue.  I have memories of outdoor racks at Lola Luna, Miss Match, The Closet, Wahines, Dream Girls, Temptress, $2 Thrill, OB Surf & Skate, Wings, the souvenir shops, and the shell shop.

I recently learned that these racks of clothes outside stores are not allowed in the Public Right of Way (PROW).  Shops can purchase a permit for $45 from the OB MainStreet Association to be able to use a designated area of sidewalk (for a distance of no more than 4′-0″ from the property line) in front of their stores as part of the PROW Enhancement Program.  The PROW cannot be used for clothes racks but can be used for other things.

OB MainStreet Association has been addressing what exactly businesses are putting on the sidewalks of Newport for quite some time.  During a public hearing in March 2006 the City of San Diego Planning Commission unanimously approved the PROW Enhancement Program.  The OBMA administers the program in OB.

The PROW Enhancement Program is a program designed to provide a lively experience for pedestrians and diners and give merchants with ground-level storefronts more leeway to expand their businesses and enhance their income.

PROW is governed by a 24-page booklet that contains display guidelines and technical illustrations.  A link to that document can be found here  or for the PDF here .)

Clothing hung on racks and shoes (unless displayed on mannequins or props) are in fact listed on a list of merchandise that cannot be displayed outdoors, along with alcohol, tobacco, cigarettes, smoking accessories, live animals, adult-oriented materials, and weapons.  Yikes!  I never considered racks of clothing or shoes to be dangerous, controversial, or to have an age restriction.

Part V “Outdoor Display Standards” of the PROW Enhancement Program provides the following list of merchandise not permitted:

1. Alcoholic beverages.
2. Tobacco, cigarettes, and smoking accessories.
3. Upholstered items with a cumulative height, width and depth of nine feet or more.
4. Shoes, except those displayed on mannequins or props.
5. Clothing hung on racks.
6. Vending and dispensing equipment.
7. Appliances.
8. Canned or prepackaged foods.
9. Adult-oriented material.
10. Auto-related merchandise.
11. Mattresses.
12. Major appliances.
13. Compact discs, videotapes, cassette tapes, digital video discs, and similar items.
14. Computers, business machines, and home electronics.
15. Cameras and photographic equipment.
16. Live animals.
17. Pet food.
18. Pawned items.
19. Weapons, including, but not limited to, knives, fencing swords, and antique pistols.
20. Home cleaning products.
21. Personal care items
22. Other merchandise similar in character, type, or nature to that listed above.

Clothing and accessories ARE on the list of permissible merchandise (Part V “Outdoor Display Standards”, section C “Permissable Merchandise”).  The regulations are in regards to the QUANTITY of clothing and accessories and the WAY the clothing and accessories are displayed.

Additionally the items in outdoor display areas are not supposed to be for sale.  So a restaurant can sell unlimited amounts of food and beverages in the PROW and a boutique can not have items for sale outside in the PROW.  The PROW Enhancement Program states the following:

“The purpose of outdoor display areas is supposed to be to attract customers into retail, repair, or service businesses, not to sell the item(s) on display.  Price tags/advertisements are not permitted.” (Part V “Outdoor Display Standards,” section A “Purpose”).

And the specifications for store front displays get more specific than you ever imagined.  Brace yourself.

The City’s rules are as follows:

Part V “Outdoor Display Standards,” section E “Maximum Quantities”

Businesses may display one or two of the following five types of merchandise:

1.  Furniture, limited to one item for every five linear feet of storefront. (Example: a store with a gross storefront length of 25 feet may display up to a maximum of five items.)

2.  Book and magazine racks, limited to one rack per every storefront length of 25 feet or portion thereof.

3.  Hand-crafted products or goods, artwork, and/or pottery, limited to two items for every five feet of storefront. (Example: a store with 25 feet of storefront may display up to a maximum of ten items.)

4.  Food products, limited to one linear foot of display space for every five feet of storefront. (Example: a store with 25 feet of storefront may display food products along a maximum of five linear feet.)

5.  Dress apparel [clothing, accessories, and shoes (as allowed)], limited to six pieces, (Note: if seven to twelve articles of apparel, whether clothing, accessories, or shoes, are displayed, then no other type or quantity of merchandise may be displayed.) (Example: a store with 25 feet of storefront may display six pieces of apparel and a rack of books or display twelve pieces of apparel.)

That is all supposed to be for display and not for sale.

Part V “Outdoor Display Standards,” section F “Display Requirements”

1.  All items publicly displayed shall be in good condition, not require repair, and not be wrapped in plastic or other wrapping material.

2.  Items shall be displayed appropriately (preferably on three-dimensional props) that coordinate with the store facade.  Cardboard boxes and folding tables are not permitted as display racks.

3.  Clothing shall be hung only on mannequins or props, except that clothing may be displayed on hangers on the door(s) of the business.

4.  Books and magazines shall be displayed on racks 3′-0″ to 4′-0″ in height.  Books shall be displayed to allow the title and author of each book to be seen.  Each rack shall be no more than 6′-0″ in length.  Racks shall be in good condition and not require repair.

5.  All items and displays shall be safe and stable with no risk of overturning due to wind  or contact.  Props and items of display shall not project into the clear path of travel; corners shall be rounded.  Businesses shall remove displays when weather conditions create a potentially hazardous condition.

6.  All items (such as racks, mannequins, props, furniture and other display items) must extend to within 2 inches of the ground and have a two-inch wide stripe at all bottom edges or in some other manner be physically and visually detectable in an easy manner by the visually impaired.

What has come to my attention during this research is that notices of non-compliance don’t seem to be issued to all non-compliant businesses (or many businesses have received notices of violation and are rebels and using racks outside and hanging more than 6 items on their awnings and/or doors).

Most of the shops seem to still be wheeling their racks of clothes and merchandise outside every day.  Some of the outdoor dining areas do not seem to consistently provide a clear path of travel (page 17, “Outdoor Dining Area Standards”).  Without a doubt, quite a number of violations to the PROW guidelines are occurring regularly.

I would like to see all the shops have racks of clothes outside, as they have for many years.  It appears that this would involve removing “clothing hung on racks” from the City’s list of merchandise not permitted.  My first article on this topic was more general– that clothing racks and creative shop fronts may be helpful for bringing business to some of Newport’s shops.  And those racks are currently being called code violations.

This may take a village of activists and business owners to help our local shops be able to use racks of clothes if they want to instead of baskets or mannequins, or to display more than 6 or 12 pieces of clothing, shoes, or accessories if they want to.  And to display items outside for sale.  I would consider those to be creative choices for a business owner to help make his/her business stronger.  Let’s let shoppers browse racks of clothes and support local business.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

triggerfinger May 2, 2017 at 5:22 pm

Next time I walk past Ortega’s sidewalk occupation, I’m going to help them comply by knocking all their tables into the street. They have no respect for the pedestrians that the public sidewalk was designed for.


South OB Girl May 2, 2017 at 7:21 pm

I hope you are being sarcastic and I would not advise doing that.  As most people who read this article concluded, there are some aspects to the regulations that are bewildering. Some businesses are helped and some are held back by the regulations.


doug blackwood May 2, 2017 at 7:36 pm

Sidewalks are for walking!
Signs whatever you call them impede travel & are ugly.
Newport & adjacent streets are cluttered with this crap: get rid of them now!


OB Mercy May 4, 2017 at 7:01 pm

All that above is not allowed, but all the new outdoor patio/seating fences jutting out into the sidewalks are?? SMH!!


South OB Girl May 18, 2017 at 9:16 am

Correct, Mercy… As I started to hear stories from the boutique and shop owners and read the City PROW document, and as I started to observe the outdoor patio/seating areas city-wide, I thought the same as you…


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