City Plan to Ban Drive-Thru Restaurants Near Mass Transit Faces Backlash

by on December 9, 2021 · 5 comments

in San Diego

By David Garrick / San Diego Union-Tribune / Dec. 8, 2021

A city proposal to ban new drive-thru restaurants near mass transit in San Diego is facing strong opposition from the restaurant industry and some community leaders.

Supporters say the plan would be a logical and necessary step as San Diego strives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging people to give up their cars in favor of public transit, cycling and walking. Drive-thru restaurants, they say, encourage people to use their cars and trucks and make it more dangerous to walk and bike, because drivers are distracted while leaving a drive-thru and because long lines often spill into bike lanes and sidewalks.

But opponents say the plan would discourage restaurants that rely on drive-thrus from opening, especially in low-income neighborhoods. They also say the policy would make life harder for elderly and disabled people who need cars. The proposal would not require existing drive-thrus located near transit to close, but no new ones could open. It would apply only to restaurants, not drive-thru pharmacies or banks.

Opposition groups have persuaded city officials to delay approval of the new policy. Instead, officials will meet with the local restaurant industry to discuss possible impacts and study how such bans were handled in other cities, such as Palm Springs and Long Beach. The ban has been opposed by the city’s Planning Commission, the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee and a coalition of neighborhood leaders called the Community Planners Committee.

The proposed drive-thru ban could be characterized as San Diego’s next step after it eliminated parking requirements for housing developers in transit areas two years ago and then it wiped out parking requirements for businesses near transit last month. The ban would only apply to areas known as “transit priority areas,” which are areas within a half mile of a trolley line, a bus rapid transit station or two high-frequency bus routes.

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Also what is not mentioned is that during the pandemic, many people had to rely on drive-thru restaurants.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Bradley Bang December 9, 2021 at 2:40 pm

You just need to look at the mess at the In and Out Burger on 24th St. in National City to see what a good idea this is. Their great business model makes everyone else pay with terrible traffic.


Carl M Zanolli December 9, 2021 at 5:29 pm

And the one in Mission Valley. You’d think they were giving away something from inside that place


Mat Wahlstrom December 9, 2021 at 4:11 pm

Besides being yet another fiasco in the making, how this is being done seems very strange.

The code update matrix[1] has the part for these changes, Section 34, struck out. The city attorney issued a correction memo[2] on 12/7 that says “The ordinance and digest for…the Update have been corrected to accurately reflect other ordinances that have been recently considered or will be considered in the near future.” And the corrected ordinance digest[3] and corrected ordinance itself[4] contain similar weasel-wording saying that “San Diego Ordinances O-2022-1, O-2022-17, O-2022-34, O-2022-36, O-2022-37, and O 2022-28 have been recently considered by the Council; and that Ordinances O-2022-43 and O-2022-45 will be considered by the Council in the near future which amend the Municipal Code sections also amended by this Ordinance; therefore, the City Clerk, with the written approval and concurrence of the City Attorney, is authorized to reconcile the numbering of sections and placement of text within these sections upon the final passage of the Ordinances, without further action by the Council.”

So we don’t know exactly what the final changes (if any) could be, but this will pre-approve them? Can someone who knows what’s really happening explain it?

[1] Matrix
[2] Memo
[3] Digest
[4] Ordinance


Frank Gormlie December 15, 2021 at 9:53 am

In general, during the pandemic, drive-thru restaurants were a life-saver.


kh December 15, 2021 at 7:40 pm

“encouraging people to give up their cars in favor of public transit, cycling and walking”

Is that like in Mexico where they “encourage” people to vote for someone by shooting the other candidate?

It’s about time the overused equity arguments get used against these vain anti-car folks. Fast food drive thrus serve many hardworking low income folks that can’t spare time the time to utilize our woefully inadequate transit system. Also a transit priority area doesn’t need a bus stop… it just needs one to be planned within a 25 year horizon.


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