San Diego City Council Approves Mayor's Plan To Expand Street Restaurants & Retail

July 14, 2020

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously today to support Mayor Kevin Faulconer's plan to expand outdoor dining and retail options during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vote follows Faulconer's July 7 executive order that waived requirements for the temporary use of sidewalks and private parking lots as outdoor dining and retail venues to increase space for physical distancing. Tuesday's vote allows businesses to use adjacent on-street parking to operate while also waiving a majority of permitting fees. The plan is expected to impact up to 4,000 restaurants in San Diego that employ more than 55,000 individuals.  

"Our local restaurant and retail owners have shown incredible resolve and resilience throughout this pandemic," said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. "Many of those small businesses have been among the hardest hit and San Diegans are ready to support them safely and responsibly. The response we've seen to outdoor dining has been overwhelmingly positive, and this ordinance opens up so many more options for our small businesses as they work hard to rebound and recover."  

Previously, securing an outdoor sidewalk cafe permit could cost businesses more than $1,000 and take several months to process. This ordinance will help reduce applicant costs and the review process. The ordinance also allocates $300,000 in further assistance by absorbing permitting costs for the first 500 businesses that apply with remaining applicants paying significantly reduced fees. Part of the funding is specifically for outreach and education on the program for small and disadvantaged businesses.

"Small businesses account for 98% of San Diego companies," explained San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate. "Needless to say, the impact COVID-19 is having on our small, independent, and family- owned businesses is monumental. Outdoor dining gives businesses a fighting chance to make it another day, and I applaud Mayor Faulconer for his innovative efforts."  

The city will enter into an agreement with the Strategic Alliance of San Diego Ethnic Chambers of Commerce - comprised of the Asian Business Association of San Diego, the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce, and the San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce - to provide informational materials in multiple languages and target hard-to-reach communities and disadvantaged businesses.  

"Working together to support communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 will help restaurants in these communities recover and continue to contribute to this vibrant economic and cultural landscape in San Diego," said Donna DeBerry, spokeswoman for the Strategic Alliance of Ethnic Chambers of Commerce.  

Upon implementation, the mayor's ordinance will allow outdoor business operations for dining and retail in parking lots, on-street parking spaces, and sidewalks as well as neighboring business frontage with written permission of neighboring business owners; waive special event permit fees to allow nonprofit applicants to close streets and conduct business outdoors faster and cheaper; broaden allowances and reduce required permits for temporary signs; allow for expanded wholesale distribution of food, beverages, and groceries directly to consumers while allowing for social distancing; preserve mobility, safety and emergency access for pedestrians, and preserve requirements that ADA access and path of travel be maintained at all times. Businesses will still be required to be in full compliance with all state and county health orders and guidance.

San Diego neighborhoods like Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter have already begun closing parts of certain streets on weekend evenings to give restaurants more room to expand outdoor dining. Other expanded outdoor dining programs are currently underway in Encinitas, El Cajon and Kearny Mesa, with communities like Coronado, Hillcrest, La Jolla North Park and Poway in the process of increasing areas where restaurants could grow their outdoor presence.