Coastal Commission Demands Beach Restaurants Return Parking to the Public

by on December 15, 2022 · 38 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Lori Weisberg / San Diego Union-Tribune / Dec. 14, 2022

Restaurants in San Diego’s beach areas are facing a tough new regulation for outdoor dining that will now require them to replace any lost parking they occupy on public streets.

The new requirement, approved Wednesday by the California Coastal Commission, threatens to upend plans by beach-area restaurateurs looking to retain outdoor seating areas they had erected in the street during the pandemic, when mandated indoor dining closures sharply curtailed business.

The commission, which was required to weigh in on San Diego’s now permanent Spaces as Places outdoor dining program, argued that without such a condition, the public’s access to the shoreline could be impeded.

Specifically impacted by the parking restriction is what’s known as the “beach impact area,” a stretch of coastline that begins at the northern end of Torrey Pines State Reserve and runs about 15 miles south to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. For most areas of the zone, the boundary extends inland approximately a quarter of a mile. The commission describes that area as a part of the city where there are chronic public parking shortages.

For the balance of this article, please go here.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Vern December 15, 2022 at 4:11 pm

Seems right.
Don’t the streets belong to the public (taxpayers) anyway?
Though, there may be parking meters (think, additional parking tax) in the near future.


Paul Webb December 15, 2022 at 5:32 pm

While I feel for the restaurant owners, we need to look at this from a broader perspective. Parking is a scarce commodity in the beach areas. When covid was at its worst, allowing restaurants and bars to accommodate their patrons outside was a sensible thing to do. But now that we are more comfortable eating indoors (am I making to much of a generalization here?), it may be time to re-think the “parklets” that have allowed restaurants and bars to dramatically increase their seating area on public property without paying any additional rent. I mean, c’mon! When to we return to normal?


lyle December 16, 2022 at 8:17 am

I agree with your statement about using public space without paying rent, but I thought they were paying.

Per the PL-OB Monthly, “Though businesses so far have escaped having to pay fees for the right to have what city planners call “streetaries” (also known as parklets) in the public right of way, they will now be subject to annual fees for two-year permits, ranging from $10 to $30 a square foot.”

Thus the restaurants are being charged more than the people who store their private vehicles on city property for free.


Paul Webb December 16, 2022 at 4:39 pm

That is a one time fee for a two year permit. Market rent would be far, far higher.

Oh, and nice move to bring in a completely off-topic dig at those who rely on street parking. Very sly and subtle. Not.


lyle December 16, 2022 at 5:28 pm

It is actually an annual fee, so for a two-year permit it would be doubled. So an area similar to a parking spot could be 6000/year or 500/month. What would be the going rate for a parking spot?

Oh, it wasn’t meant to be subtle. After all, you understood it ;-)


Paul Webb December 17, 2022 at 9:05 am

Apparently you didn’t get it. I was being sarcastic.


lyle December 17, 2022 at 9:35 am

And I was being snide (a close cousin of sarcastic). Given the season I’m in favor of suspending such behavior. Peace and Goodwill.


Paul Webb December 17, 2022 at 1:50 pm

I’m with Ringo. Peace and Love,


lyle December 16, 2022 at 8:19 am
Kathy Blavatt December 16, 2022 at 7:13 am

Now the Coastal Commission needs to nix the street parking spaces scooters take up. Why can’t they pay for spots at Rite Aid, Target, and other business lots?


lyle December 16, 2022 at 8:23 am

If the CC were truly concerned about preserving public parking in the area, they would require ADU development to include off-street parking.


Chris K December 16, 2022 at 8:26 am

I’m glad to see this, too. There is a place at the intersection of Bacon and Niagara where several of these extensions create real blind spots as you turn the corner when driving. Hopefully the overall noise level will drop, as well, and the areas where these are will look less cluttered with them gone (just my opinion).

/s/ Chris K


Chris December 16, 2022 at 9:07 am

Seems pretty unfair.
And here is where I’m confused. What does parking or lack of have to do with beach access? I’m sure I’m missing something.


Paul Webb December 16, 2022 at 4:45 pm

When I worked for the coastal commission back in the 80’s and early 90’s, we considered parking to be a component of public access. You can’t use the beach if there’s nowhere to park. We imposed strict requirements on residential, commercial and, particularly, restaurants, either new restaurants or expansions. This was really a predecessor of racial justice, because the rationale at the time was that coastal communities that could access the beach without a car tended to be more expensive places to rent or buy. Providing parking in beach areas allowed those from less affluent communities the ability to enjoy those publicly owned beaches and shoreline areas without having to live there.

I have been puzzled as to why the CCC did not require parking with ADUs. That is a change from how things were done in the past, and I don’t know what their reasoning is.


Chris December 16, 2022 at 5:38 pm

Hmm interesting. I guess in my mind I thought of lack of access being the beach was blocked off from home/property owners.


Gregg g Sullivan December 16, 2022 at 7:51 pm

Parking has nothing to do with beach access. You’re still able to get to the beach. CC made a stupid mistake by declaring that a lack of parking denies access.


Paul Webb December 17, 2022 at 9:22 am

Gregg g Sullivan (was the lower case g intentional?), because you disagree with something it is stupid. I get it.

Whether you agree or not, it was thought that parking has a role in providing coastal access to those not fortunate enough or affluent enough to live near the coast. This has been a long-standing position of the CCC. If you live in Encanto or Spring Valley or El Cajon, what are your options for getting to the beach? You can take go by bus, having to transfer one or more times, while carrying a surfboard, a beach chair, cooler, etc., or you can drive a car. Which do you think is more practical?

So you drive your car, but nobody has provided parking or protected parking from being removed for new development. Maybe you drive around and find a spot six (eight? ten? twelve?) blocks from the beach. You’ve still got that surfboard and cooler. You still thinking the beach is accessible, and that parking has nothing to do with beach access?

Or, maybe you live at the beach and you just don’t want other people to enjoy access to what you have. This has certainly been true from La Jolla to Malibu, to many other beaches up and down the coast. Residents block public access pathways, remove identifying signs, illegally paint red curbs to deter parking, etc., in order to keep the unwashed masses from enjoying “their” beach.

I’m with the CCC on this issue, and always will be. Maybe I’m just stupid.


Bearded OBcean December 16, 2022 at 9:30 am

Isn’t part of the problem that many restaurants forked over significant capital to improve these outdoor spaces in order to be compliant with the city?


nostalgic December 16, 2022 at 10:03 am

Sidewalks belong to the public too. Weren’t they made for the public to walk on?


GML December 16, 2022 at 2:15 pm

Sidewalks are not blocked…


nostalgic December 16, 2022 at 4:13 pm

How much do restaurants pay for the sidewalk space outside their businesses which IS blocked which was formerly available for anyone, anytime to walk on? A portion of the sidewalk is available if your group likes to walk single-file. Just curious.


fstu December 16, 2022 at 10:07 am

Interesting article. Maybe its time for a parking structure in OB. The old Union Bank lot would fill the need for all of the OB business district. We could keep the outdoor dining on Newport and even go so far as to make a portion of the street a walking mall. I saw that done in Boulder Colo and everyone bitched about how it would kill business. Now no one would want to go back to the former street. Business is better and visitors love it. I think it would draw many more more visitors to OB and make it a SD show place. It is certainly worth examining other areas in the country that have done that.


Chris December 16, 2022 at 10:15 am

State Street up in Santa Barbara is another good example. That whole stretch has been closed off to vehicles for a few years now and business along that street have actually improved now that it’s pedestrian only. As the Funk Zone was becoming a more popular are and taking away business from State Street, closing it off to vehicles helped it come back up.
I always funny how that never gets mentioned when people say taking away parking will hurt businesses. Yeah some those that adapt seem to do just fine.


Zack December 16, 2022 at 7:51 pm

Going by the logic of how bad taking parking away is for businesses then you’d think every downtown area in the country would be a commercial dead zone.

Businesses in areas with little parking generally do pretty well


Chris December 18, 2022 at 10:14 am

In all fairness, some areas will work out better than others where parking is reduced. State Street in SB is a success. How it will be in various parts of San Diego remain to be seen. I’m sure I will vary. Still, I’m glad the bike lanes are there at least for the period they will remain.


Geoff Page December 19, 2022 at 1:54 pm

Downtowns have parking options like lots and garages, they always have.


Geoff Page December 19, 2022 at 1:53 pm

But, has anyone studied what businesses were there before this and seen how many of those left and how long the businesses there now have been there?


Chris December 19, 2022 at 3:17 pm

If you’re responding about State St in SB, I have no idea if what what studies were done. I’m basing this off of a couple things. Friends who live up there and my own personal experience. The businesses we went to were there before the transition and were packed when we were there (this was around April). Obviously we didn’t spend our whole time hitting up every business up and down State St., but the whole are was packed with pedestrians and the places we did hit it up asked the servers and they did in fact say the business picked up after being closed to vehicle traffic. Also as I mentioned friends who live up there tell us that taking away vehicle traffic helped revitalize that area which was losing business to the Funk Zone several blocks over.


frankf December 18, 2022 at 7:57 am

The problem with putting a parking garage in OB would be the height limit of 30′. That would limit a parking garage to just two stories. The cost to build the garage would be very high and the yield of new parking stalls, insignificant.

And I’m not sure a garage would be utilized. Look at the huge garage that the old Center City Development Corporation built in North Park at 30th and North Park Way. Most people heading to restaurants use neighborhood street parking first before choosing to pay to park in the garage, therefore the garage is poorly utilized.

And just think of the legitimate outrage of OBceans if a giant concrete monster is ever proposed for that site.


Frank J December 16, 2022 at 11:54 am

In the end I believe they are called public streets & public sidewalks. And what good is a parking meter behind a wooden street deck? I’m actually for parking meters in the right places in PB if 50% of the revenue goes back to the community for cleanup & fixes.


Zack December 16, 2022 at 7:52 pm

Public to use but not necessarily public places to leave your car for free. That’s subsidizing parking spaces as though it we’re a shortage unit.

I say this whole owning a car so I’m not a urbanist absolutist kind of person


Eric B December 16, 2022 at 9:26 pm

Yes to the walking mall idea. I’d be interested in Frank running a poll about how many people would like to close Newport to cars.


Emissions guy December 17, 2022 at 11:16 am

Crowds have returned. If the business can’t make it on prior space decisions & food/drink options, maybe they are not a good meal or fun time. Where are those free market people?
Emissions driving around looking for parking has an impact on local residents. Open the streets.


Paul Grimes December 17, 2022 at 9:50 pm

First, I think the city let too many of these parklets in – they should have restricted them to X number of feet per block under a lottery or shared system.
Maybe I’ll bring up a sensitive subject, but it took years for Santa Monica to get diagonal parking on both sides of the street. That’s a 50-foot-wide street with under 20 feet for 2 driving lanes.
I know there are a lot of curb cuts that would affect this proposal, but how about 1-way streets in OB with diagonal parking on 1-side. Several 40′ streets paralleling Newport with parking would have about 16 feet of driving space for the single lane. And speeds are reduced on Newport/Santa Monica/Voltaire with these widths. If fire service works on streets by Long Branch, it would work on such a design.


Will December 18, 2022 at 3:05 pm

I was saddened by this decision when I read it in the UT. Parking around the pier will continue to be horrendous and I will continue to take the bus to that part of OB. Only now, we will no longer be able to sit on the Cable side of Raglans which allowed our 3 year old daughter to sit in a large chair with a back while giving us room to park our stroller.

How are we to ever lessen our dependence on autos when people fail to see how much public space is dedicated and maintained for this forced marriage to cars? The access part of the ruling relies on a private citizens making a huge capital investment in what will most likely be an exhaust belching machine running on hydrocarbons. Encanto is one thing, but if you chose to live in Santee or Alpine that might involve you not the best access to the sea and that is okay. People in these areas have large yards, RVs, boats, 2000 sqft houses and culdesacs that are publicly financed that I will never set foot on. Making space for 3/4 ton pickups to park for free just doesn’t make me warm and fuzzy about our land use decisions. Good luck meeting climate goals while kowtowing to those incapable of moving their robust American haunches without the aid of 1000s of controlled explosions pushing a massive object that ultimately degrades our community.


Paul Webb December 18, 2022 at 3:57 pm

Will, the difference between Santee and the coast is that you and I don’t own any right to go into those large yards on cul-de-sacs, but, as residents of the State of California we do own the coast and the Coastal Act was written to maximize all Californians ability to gain access to the coast. Just because someone had chosen to live in Santee (or El Centro, for that matter), doesn’t mean that they have given up their right to gain access to land that is held in trust by the state for all Californians.

Have you ever seen the reaction of a child from the inner city who has had no access to the coast experiencing the beach for the first time? It is a remarkable thing to see. I spent a big chunk of my life defending the public’s right to gain access to the coast, which is something I’m proud of.

Do I wish that there were better alternatives to the private auto to get to the beach? Absolutely, but we are not there yet.


Sorry not Sorry December 19, 2022 at 12:32 pm

I’m curious as to why there is so many comments about “smog belching” autos on this site from, but not limited to the “cycling” community, and Will above and sometimes Chris. EVs are gaining market share by the minute. Prices are coming down, technology is improving. Whether you like it or not, we will be “married” to our autos for the foreseeable future. It is ingrained in our culture. The ability go anywhere at any time we want no matter the distance. I’m not advocating for less bike lanes or anything, but let’s have a little common sense. Cars aren’t going anywhere any time soon, that’s fact. If we can keep Republicans out of office long enough, fuel efficiency will increase and reliability will dwindle eventually all but be eliminated.


Chris December 19, 2022 at 1:55 pm

EVs are gaining traction but we still have a long way to go before they become the standard norm for what people are driving. Also they are not 100 percent the end all be all for combating climate change. The process extracting the lithium for the batteries is an issue, not to mention what to do with them after their life span. That’s not to say EVs are not a step in the right direction because they are.
As to being married to our cars, no one is advocating for the elimination of vehicles. I still have my truck, but there is no reason we can’t become less car dependent. Cultures change.


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