City Council Consents to Coastal Commission ‘Crack-Down’ on Loss of Parking Spaces by Restaurants in Beach Areas

by on May 23, 2023 · 44 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

During the height of the pandemic, OB restaurants erected outdoor dining areas. Photos by Bob Edwards.

The San Diego City Council on Monday, May 22, “reluctantly” consented to new California Coastal Commission regulations that will require restaurant owners in the city’s coastal zone to replace any lost parking spaces taken up by outdoor dining areas they operate on the street, as reported by Lori Weisberg at the U-T.

What is affected is a narrow strip of coastal zone known as the “beach impact area,” defined as 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. And the boundary extends inland approximately a quarter of a mile or more for much of the zone.

Weisberg reported, “The commission has described that area as a part of the city where there are chronic public parking shortages.”

Approved by the Coastal Commission in December 2022, the outdoor dining rules could go into effect for the coastal zone by July, once the new conditions are finalized.

And now that the Council has finally acted (5 months later) coastal zone businesses can expect to be able to finalize their applications for permits for existing and new outdoor dining areas. Businesses must secure special two-year permits and pay fees for the right to erect dining structures in the public right of way.

The new parking restriction is “much stiffer than what is now in effect for all other parts of the city,” Weisberg reported.

The agency staff at the time raised concerns about outdoor seating in the street, which it argued would inhibit access to the beach areas, which are typically frequented by people driving by car as opposed to mass transit.


While permanent outdoor dining regulations are in place citywide, they have not been in effect for the city’s coastal zone because they had to first pass muster with the Coastal Commission.

“The Coastal Commission rules are what they are,” Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said Monday. “Closing streets can actually be effective for improving business. This is one of the most San Diego-appropriate programs we could possibly have. It works in Cincinnati, so how could it not work in San Diego?”

While city planning staff advised the council that it had spent weeks in discussions with planners at the Coastal Commission in hopes of softening the restriction, the parking condition remains.

The council vote was in favor of the Coastal Commission’s modifications to San Diego’s “Spaces as Places” outdoor dining program, a temporary measure installed at the height of the pandemic to help eateries buffet the winds of the challenges to remain open. Despite criticisms from local residents and other businesses about the loss of parking, public space and access, the restaurants that survived and thrived due to the new outdoor dining areas found the program very popular. As did many of their customers.

So much so, that the City Council made the outdoor dining measures permanent in 2021. This allowed 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.

In her article, Weisberg quotes city planning staff in its report to the council:

“City staff’s position was and is that a car-centric focus on loss of parking spaces discounts the many co-benefits of the Spaces As Places (outdoor dining) program, including increased opportunities for the public to access and enjoy coastal communities.”

What a twisted word-salad. Can somebody unpack that statement?

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam May 23, 2023 at 11:04 am

So will the loss of parking spaces apply to restaurants that converted their parking lots into eating spaces? It will be easy for Pizza Port to comply but what about Pizzeria Luigi? They converted the entire parking lot into dining and storage space.


Chris May 23, 2023 at 11:46 am

I’m still having trouble understanding what the controversy is with Pizzeria Luigi? The other three locations have no parking at all and no one seems to have an issue. The overwhelming majority of people who go to the OB location live in OB.


Greg May 23, 2023 at 1:29 pm

Zero issue with what Pizzeria Luigi did. That wasn’t public space gifted to them it is theirs to use as they see fit.


Sam May 23, 2023 at 1:44 pm

The issue is that they have displaced parking spots for the beach area in general. The spots that were available for their establishment no longer exist therefore putting even more pressure on the public parking, which in turn limits coastal access.


Tom H May 23, 2023 at 5:12 pm

The permit and inspection fees charged by the City are not insignificant:

And the Streetary Use fee is approximately $4,800 per parking space per year. see FAQ

So hardly “gifted to them.”


Greg May 24, 2023 at 12:23 pm

$4800 a year for approximately 150 square feet is a DEAL in these high value commercial areas


Tom H May 24, 2023 at 1:25 pm

Actually $30/SF is about market rate for retail in SD.


Greg May 24, 2023 at 7:15 pm

I can get 1000sqft of first floor commercial on Newport for $30k a year aka $2500 a month? That doesn’t sound right but I defer to those who know more than myself.


Tom H May 25, 2023 at 1:46 pm
Greg May 26, 2023 at 1:07 pm

Only one property near the area referenced appears on that site at $56. It is also not on Newport. Think we need more data here. $30 still seems super low.


Tate May 23, 2023 at 12:35 pm

Such a step backwards for the city. In place of multiple tables for a small restaurant will be a single car, maybe two. It’ll barely have an effect on available parking, and it will have a much more significant effect on the number of people a restaurant can accommodate (and the amount of sales tax they generate too). Not to mention it’s much more pleasant to walk around and see a thriving community of people enjoying local eateries than cars sitting empty on the street.


Sam May 23, 2023 at 1:41 pm

But why should taxpayers subsidize small restaurants, who in many instances never even had any seating at all, by giving away the public’s property? Surely these business owners had a plan prior to opening these restaurants that did not include additional outdoor seating before they signed leases and opened to the public.


FrankF May 24, 2023 at 7:53 am

Let’s turn that question around. Why should taxpayers subsidize parking for people who drive cars? Parking on the street in downtown OB is free.

Ouch. Back to the thought drawing board.


Sam May 24, 2023 at 1:10 pm

Taxpayers don’t subsidize parking, we actually pay for it with state and local taxes. What are you, 12 years old?


Chris May 24, 2023 at 2:49 pm

Isn’t that what what subsidizing means?


Paul Webb May 25, 2023 at 2:30 pm

No, subsidizing means you are paying for something someone else uses, not something you use and that you have paid for through your taxes and fees. How much did your bicycle license and registration fees cost you, and how much of those fees went to pay for the bike lane improvements?
When I was a lad, we had to take our bikes to the police station nearest to us and pay a fee to register our bikes. Now? Zilch.


Chris May 26, 2023 at 7:36 am

I don’t know how old you are or where you grew up, but I’m 61 and have never in my life had to register a bicycle. Whatever requirement you had was not universal.


Sam May 25, 2023 at 6:44 pm

If a single person or business is getting the benefit then that is a subsidy. It is not a subsidy when everybody benefits.


Christo K May 26, 2023 at 7:29 am

Roads are paid for by Gasoline taxes ie users of the road. If you want to pay a 20% additional tax on your restraunt food for outdoor parking spaces turned into eating spaces- put it on the ballot.


sealintheSelkirks May 23, 2023 at 12:52 pm

I just love the smell of half-burned petrochemicals mixing with the smell coming up from my lasagna or pizza, and the added layer of road dust that permeates the air while dining alongside every street in the US adds an indescribable flavor to the nice Cobb salad that I’m eating, along with that distinctly ‘gritty’ topping to the breakfast omelet that makes eggs so pleasurable?

Then there is the noise factor… I mean, really? This is fun? You live at the beach yet all people want to do is dine next to a freaking road???

Why would anybody want to eat a nice meal sitting next to a stinking dirty noisy street is absolutely beyond my comprehension. I just don’t get it.



Christo K May 26, 2023 at 7:25 am

I don’t get why you spend a significant amount of time commenting on a place you don’t live in.


Frank Gormlie May 26, 2023 at 9:57 am

CK – Seal used to live in OB and at the beach in San Diego. He’s one of our most celebrated commenters – although his comments are soooo long that I wonder if others can weed through them.

At any rate, we welcome comments from folks all over, especially if they’ve lived in OB or PL.


Frank Gormlie May 26, 2023 at 10:03 am

Also, since you live in OB apparently, just because you’re a resident doesn’t mean you’re always on top of local OB issues. Here’s what you said about the OB Library expansion:
“My money would be on the city permanently closing the OB Library and selling off the land. That’s what we are being prepped for right now. Someone please prove me wrong and give an actual reopening date of the library or at least the metrics the city has to reopen it- because there are none.”

Were you proven wrong?


Greg May 23, 2023 at 1:28 pm

Whether or not the public space that was gifted should be used for parking or not (I fall on the side of not for parking) is a moot point. The City gave away public space for private use for basically nothing. This cannot be allowed to happen.


Chris May 25, 2023 at 11:45 am

At the time and circumstances it was the right thing to do.


GML May 23, 2023 at 1:39 pm

At least it is not a concern when hundreds of parking spots are lost to make way for rarely used, poorly thought out bike lanes…


Chris May 23, 2023 at 3:26 pm

While the way in which many of the lanes have been laid out (poorly) I’m thankful they are there. I love riding up and down 30th and now Park Blvd (south of Upas). It’s been really nice riding down there and not having to worry about getting doored.


FrankF May 24, 2023 at 7:57 am

Ya but Chris, how about those blind intersections where drivers turning right across the bike lane can’t see us coming? I’d much rather bike in traffic, sharing the space, than in a segregated lane that give me no passing options and dangerous blind intersections every block. That’s why I ride on 29th through the neighborhood and not on 30th, which is a deathtrap.


Chris May 24, 2023 at 8:27 am

As I said, the lanes could have been laid out much better in many places. 30th may not be the best, but I’ve had no problems. I’m aware of where those blind sections are and know to proceed with caution in those very spots. I still prefer the lanes as they are (even if they could be better) than riding along 30th without them. As for riding parallel streets, sometimes I do depending on where I’m going but I’m still glad for the lanes along 30th and enjoy riding them despite their flaws.


Chris May 23, 2023 at 3:27 pm

And as I’ve said before, under utilization (which reports of often get’s over exaggerated) it not a good reason for those lanes to not remain.


Sorry not Sorry May 24, 2023 at 8:12 am

How is that Chris? Under-utilization (agreed, maybe exaggerated many times) should be the MAIN reason for to remove those lanes. As Mr. Spock so famously said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. In my opinion, the lanes on 30th and probably other places, should have been moved a block over to begin with, off the main thoroughfare.


Chris May 24, 2023 at 8:19 am

I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this.


:Paul Grimes May 24, 2023 at 10:01 pm

Too bad the Coastal Commission couldn’t use their wisdom to ban the grabbing of parking spaces on 30tth street, Park Blvd and other heavily parked streets. Instead of the city getting $30/SF for use of the parking, the city paid for the design, posts and paint to take those spaces away. Why would the spaces on 30th street and Park Blvd not be as necessary as those in the beach areas? It might be different if there was a real use of the bike lanes. If you build it they are not coming and Portland has seen a big dropoff in bike use over the past 6 years.


Chris May 25, 2023 at 11:56 am

I ride those bike lanes so I am glad for the parking that was taken away. Underutilization is not a good reason to have them removed scoff those who think otherwise. Also the underutilization that people claim is over exaggerated. As for Portland, the drop off is also over exaggerated. Also it’s a mixture of fluctuations that always happen and that the city itself is going through a lot of problems, some if which are resulting in a drop in their population. Either way, bike lanes should remain and more should be built.


Sam May 25, 2023 at 6:49 pm

Underutilization is absolutely a reason to do away with these recreational bike lanes. Give the people a viable alternative to the current state public transportation and I’d be the first in line to advocate for bike lanes, but until then we should be using our limited resources for the good of the many, not the entitled few.


Sorry not Sorry May 26, 2023 at 4:41 am

With all due respect Chris, you have said multiple times that underutilization is not a reason to remove bike lanes, but fail to explain your opinion. I am very curious to your reasoning. Please explain.


Chris May 26, 2023 at 7:32 am

I don’t really understand how that even needs explaining. There are many services paid for with tax dollars that only benefit a few. In this case, safety of the few who do ride them. Granted, many are laid out poorly (Harbor Drive is a death trap) but the key is fix what’s wrong with them, not remove them. That will probably get more people to use them. Ive had a few close calls riding down Park south of Upas heading towards DT. Same in some other areas. Call me selfish but I’ve reach the point where I don’t care about the inconvenience these lanes are causing others. I pay the same taxes as them and like most cyclists I DO drive also which means I pay vehicle registration, gas, etc. I ride both recreationally AND commute to work and back (Hillcrest to North Island).


Sam May 26, 2023 at 9:19 am

I find it very odd that you are so vocal on a blog that is intended for a specific neighborhood that you don’t live in. And your comments are seemingly only about biking.


Frank Gormlie May 26, 2023 at 10:05 am

Sam, Chris is one of our cherished daily commenters, and he has commented on a wide range of topics and issues over the last few years. We don’t always agree but he (usually) keeps it civil – as I’d hope you do.


Chris May 26, 2023 at 10:15 am

Thanks Frank:))


Chris May 26, 2023 at 10:14 am

I’ve been commenting on the Rag for years about all kinds of issues. The biking comments are more recent. How is it you don’t know that? Also I DID live just on the outskirts of OB a long time ago. I still hang out there from time to time so my opinions are as valid as any current OB local. Yes I have been commenting a lot about biking because I care about it. The anti bike infrastructure attitudes on here are very surprising to me coming from a progressive blog. That fact you find my comments odd is odd in its own right.


Paul Webb May 26, 2023 at 2:16 pm

Chris, viz a vis Harbor Dr. as a death trap, I know a large number of daily commuters and other serious riders who will not use bike lanes as configured on 30th St., 5th & 6th Aves, W. Point Loma, etc., as they feel they are an unsafe design for anyone riding at speed. I learned this, to my great surprise, many years ago working on the Bay Route Bikeway (still unfinished).


Frank Gormlie May 26, 2023 at 10:08 am

Plus, we welcome comments from readers all over the city. The Rag is NOT just about OB and PL. We have people from all over the nation that comment occasionally.


sealintheSelkirks May 26, 2023 at 1:27 pm

Hell Sam, I live way the hell north just below the Canadian border and have been out of the beach areas for half my life now (69 is coming this year) from my birth town of OB and MB where I was mostly raised from 1st grade on. Surfing snow in three different western mountain ranges in three different states since 1987, and I ruled Southside of OB Pier (no brag, I have pics and even put two in my book Massacre Sites!).

And I still find myself with a serious connection to both beach towns though I considered MB a lost cause when I was forced move back to OB in 1980 due to radically spiraling rents as it gentrified horribly in the late 70s. I was going to lose my surf shop-ding repair/fiberglassing repair business but found the perfect place for it and kept going for another 7 years in OB…

Sometimes places get inside one and never leave. OB is one of those places, at least for some of us.



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