City Council Gives Initial Approval for Permanent Outdoor Dining Spaces

by on October 28, 2021 · 12 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

OB restaurateurs must be happy. On Tuesday, October 26, the San Diego City Council tentatively approved a program that will permanently allow outdoor dining previously envisioned as temporary during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Called “Spaces as Places”, proponents claim it will allow for outdoor areas for dining, walking, biking and other activities, and provides ways for temporary outdoor structures to become permanent installations.

The council’s vote was 6-2 in favor the program, with Sean Elo-Rivera and Joe LaCava opposed; Chris Cate was absent.

The program will take effect 30 days after the City Council’s second reading of the ordinance, which is expected in November. Before taking effect in Ocean Beach and other seaside communities, the program needs state Coastal Commission approval.

According to an NBC7 report:

Earlier this year, city staffers began collecting feedback from community members and business owners on the benefits of the program. Staff members then crafted locational, design and permit requirements to continue the use of outdoor areas. They also designed a manual for streetaries, active sidewalks, promenades and outdoor dining on private property. …

On Aug. 4, 2020, the council approved an emergency ordinance allowing temporary outdoor business operations as an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This allowed businesses to conduct outdoor dining within the public right-of-way to allow dining establishments to continue to operate when indoor operations were limited due to public health orders.

In May, the City Council extended the effort through July 13, 2022. Spaces as Places was designed by the city’s Planning Department and intended to transition temporary spaces from an emergency response to a permanent program with established design and safety standards.

It looks certain the Council will approve this program.

Lori Weisberg over at the SD U-T had this to say:

A first-of-its-kind program for San Diego, the new outdoor dining regulations will allow restaurant owners to extend their outdoor seating onto sidewalks, and in metered and unmetered parking spaces in front of their venues as long as they pay a fee, a requirement that up until now has not been imposed.

Spaces as Places, as the program is known, will go into effect next July when the current program expires. It will include a number of design and safety regulations that will permit restaurants to install platforms for seating along unpainted, yellow or green curbs as long as they are at least 20 feet away from an intersection, street corner, alley or driveway.

Such outdoor dining areas, however, will not be allowed along red, blue or white curbs or within an alley. They will also be limited to streets with speed limits of no greater than 30 miles per hour, an aspect of the new ordinance that elicited some differences of opinion among members of the council.

When this program was announced, the OB Rag opposed it as a give-away to private businesses of our public commons, sidewalks, roadways and public space. No considerations of this nature were made by council members in their rush to create an outdoor dining experience for patrons and visitors.

Last July, we raised the alarm about the program:

It’s not being touted as a “sell-off”, but that’s really what it is. The City of San Diego is preparing to sell the public spaces, the sidewalks and parking spaces that restaurants used during the pandemic – to those businesses. It’s called a “fee” but it’s more like a sale or lease.

We continued:

Sure, on the surface, this all seems chill. Those struggling restaurants need a break – they provide jobs and food for locals and tourists.

But, why is the city considering making the expansions “permanent”? The original permits for the expansions have already been extended for a year just recently. So, why can’t they be extended each year with applications?  Why do they have to be permanent?

As a platform for Ocean Beach and beyond, the OB Rag has consistently and historically guarded our public space, our commons over the years. The commons are for the people, the public – it’s space that everyone is allowed to be in, by law, by tradition, it’s a civic right. Private encroachment into that space deserves our attention and review.

The Rag has criticized local OB businesses when they’ve encroached into public space, and we were able to have one restaurant cut back its dangerous encroachment.

Then came the pandemic – and most of us applauded when restaurants were allowed to expand in order to survive. We watched understandably when structures, awnings, plastic – even surfboards – went up and over space that used to belong to the public. In many cases, private enclosures were created where once we were invited without having to pay for a meal and drink.

Yet, what do the residents of the community and the other businesses who aren’t restaurants feel about the take-away of space? Parking issues were real during the pre-pandemic days, and businesses relied on customers finding nearby parking. As did customers.

Sure, there is the concept that has been popularized during the pandemic of making business areas like Newport Avenue free of cars altogether – but that still does not have to include the loss of public space.

If the extensions for outdoor dining are made “permanent” for a lease, or fee, or even “tax”, or whatever you want to call it, this is really a sale of our public space. It’s called privatization, the use for private interests and profit of what was public.

The people already knew spaces were places and have for years been pressuring the city to upgrade and improve those public spaces. More trees, more benches, more street lights that worked and didn’t spy on you. Now the city wants to sell off all that space for the people so it can finally make those improvements people have been clamoring for.

Now that it looks like it will be “law”, residents and other business owners will have to adjust. Our concerns are still valid, but the tide is against them.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

KC October 28, 2021 at 1:56 pm

I agree totally agree with you guys. Think of how ridiculous it would be to let homeowners buy up the adjacent side walk and street parking (at bargain prices) to extend out their homes/yards/porches/etc… Why should businesses get special treatment, just cause the pandemic affected them?!?


Greg October 28, 2021 at 3:02 pm

Many of these same businesses would fight tooth and nail against any proposals for safer streets citing unacceptable loss of parking. Now they happily take away parking to add capacity. All around disgusting behavior from all parties.


sealintheSelkirks October 28, 2021 at 6:43 pm

Oh come on, who else saw this coming? I can’t be the only one.



Will October 28, 2021 at 7:50 pm

I like the idea of transitioning business districts away from the storage of automobiles and have more walkability. Maybe there could even be like a bike rack or two but the privatization of public space is problematic. Hopefully there are strict leases and provisions to end the program should it be too problematic.


Richard October 29, 2021 at 8:21 am

In my opinion the restaurants owners better hope the city has its back when ADA (American Disability Act) shows up. It wasn’t to many years ago that accessibility was an issue for small businesses without disabled access. . Many where sued and paid $$ dearly. Taking over sidewalks and streets is riddled with accessibility issues. The ADA $lawyers$ will be gnawing at the bit.


Bearded OBcean October 29, 2021 at 12:34 pm

It’s also going to boost the property value and rental rates for those storefronts that don’t have an obstructed sidewalk or street, while a direct neighbor might not be so fortunate.


Geoff Page October 29, 2021 at 2:03 pm

Exactly, bearded. Prime example, Margarita’s Mexican restaurant between Cable and Bacon. They are an OB institution. Their frontage is a crosswalk and handicap parking, they could not do anything out front. Just a few doors down, other breakfast places had large expansions in front of theirs because in front of their places only had regular car parking. By making this permanent, it will affect a whole lot of businesses like Margarita’s, which will change the whole make up of OB. This permanent thing is ridiculous. And, if our public space is to leased to any private entity, the decision to do that should be up to the whole city, on the ballot, not a handful of city council members.


sealintheSelkirks October 29, 2021 at 5:00 pm

How about this:

Since it is PUBLICLY OWNED property that is being leased, the parking spaces should be open to the PUBLIC. Anyone can bid at the public auction because this is America and everyone interested should have the chance to own a piece of Newport, And may the odds always be in your favor!

Then whomever can do whatever they want with it. Like turn it into a street sunbathing spot perhaps. Or put up a wood-fired jacuzzi to hang out in, build a mini-skate ramp! How about turn it into a mini-park with a layer of dirt on top of the asphalt with grass, trees in big planters, and community flower boxes laid out? Maybe a private camping spot for surfers when the waves are good? Couple of tents and a Honey Bucket bathroom would do wonders for the atmosphere don’t you think?

Or, shades of irony, one could paint in large white letters across the space (0r 2 or 3 or 10- you might win) PARKING FOR MARGARITA’S ONLY tow away zone, and the restaurant can split the tow bills paid with the tow company of anybody who loses their car. But probably on 40/60 because the tow company would want more because they’ve always been greedy.

The City should put ALL PARKING SPOTS in the entire city up for bid! Talk about a revenue generator…but if they do I get a cut since I thought of it first.

Hey, just thinking out of the box.



unwashedWalmartThonG October 29, 2021 at 6:54 pm

Oh, come on! Am I the only one who saw sealintheSelkirks call this?

I’m with the Rag. And as a protest, I think I will extend my carport another
five feet into the street so I have more room for more motorcycles and junk.


Dean October 29, 2021 at 7:53 pm

I wonder whats going to happen when it pours rain and Newport, Cable and Bacon are raging rivers. Will the city be liable for damages for the structures built in our public drainage?


Frank J October 30, 2021 at 1:13 pm

So… Can I, as a taxpayer, bring a deck of cards, book, or chessboard and sit a table over the public street without drinking or dining there? After all, I am helping to pay for their foundation. How about if I get some to-go at margarita’s and dine in a neighbor’s structure? Will the structures steer the ‘raging rivers’ enough to damage someone else’s property or moving car, bicycle? Astroturf blocking the barely operable storm drains? Are the wooden structures fire hazards? The lighting & wiring up to codes? How about those that are covered? If a server gets hurt crossing a sidewalk to a structure, sue the city? Does the loss of , example- 50 parking spaces, mean 100 less customers for all businesses? Do the so-called ‘fees’ go back to the neighborhood? And what are the ‘fees’ based on?


Sam November 1, 2021 at 1:40 pm

I’m more concerned about the safety aspect of these “structures.” I’ve seen the 2×4 corral at the kombucha place on Newport destroyed no less than three times in the last 6 months. Hopefully nobody was there when it happened but it will only be a matter of time before a drunk driver plows through a streatery and kills somebody. A 2×4 between you and oncoming traffic is just not up to protect you.

I was in Escondido about a month ago and they are doing it right. They have installed concrete jersey wall barriers to protect people from the inevitable car accident. I don’t see any of those kinds of protections anywhere I’ve driven in the city of SD.


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: