San Diego Mayor To Sign Executive Order To Allow Restaurants To Easily Expand Outdoor Service

July 7, 2020

Following yesterday's announcement mandating restaurants and other businesses cease indoor service, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced he will sign an emergency order to help eateries expand outdoor service by waiving permitting and parking requirements for the use of sidewalks and private parking lots for outdoor dining, which will go into effect this afternoon. Enforcement of municipal codes that would typically prohibit such operations will be suspended.

"The City is finalizing a new ordinance for Council approval that will cut fees and streamline permits to make it easier for businesses to operate outdoors," wrote San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. "Given that the state’s new shutdown order has an immediate impact on local businesses, on Tuesday I’ll be signing an emergency Executive Order that will waive regulatory requirements and help restaurants expand their service outdoors, increasing physical distance between employees and customers.”

Due to increased COVID-19 cases, indoor dining at restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries has been suspended starting July 7 and lasting for at least three weeks. This order follows San Diego County being on the California's Monitoring List for three consecutive days, which resulted in increased precautions as announced by Governor Gavin Newsom. Outdoor and patio dining continues to be permitted until 10pm daily, with the condition that patrons still seated at closing must leave the premises by 11pm. Pickup, delivery and take-out can still occur 24 hours a day.

In an effort to assist San Diego's struggling restaurant industry, Mayor Kevin Faulconer will sign an emergency executive order today that will waive regulatory requirements and fees to help restaurants expand their service outdoors. The executive order applies to sidewalks and private parking lots adjacent to restaurants.  Restaurant owners will immediately be permitted to place tables and chairs on sidewalks and in parking lots, although they will not be able place or build any permanent structures in the public right of way.

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. With the news of indoor dining now forbidden, other neighborhoods like North Park and Hillcrest are expected to soon follow suit.

"The work of Gaslamp and Little Italy has been in line with a community desire to create more space for people in all of our neighborhoods," said San Diego Councilmember Chris Ward, who represents Hillcrest and North Park. "As restaurants face another round of indoor restrictions, my office will work with D3 businesses to find and support opportunities for the public to safely take over the streets for outdoor dining. Outdoor dining can provide San Diegans a safe way to enjoy a meal and allow restaurants to recover from the devastating financial impact of COVID-19."

Last month, Faulconer proposed waiving fees and permits to allow businesses to expand into parking lots, sidewalks and on-street parking spaces, a move intended to maximize social distancing for employees and customers by stretching operations into outdoor spaces. The city is also working on an ordinance that would expedite the process and waive fees to allow street, parking and sidewalk dining. San Diego City Council is tentatively expected to consider their new law on July 14.

The impending ordinance will go beyond waiving  permits for sidewalks and parking lots. It will also decrease building permit fees and expedite the process for approving such permits. Faulconer hopes to reduce the time and cost to get an outdoor dining and retail permit from $1,000 and several months to process, to free and to several days. The ordinance would also adapt the process for encroachment and removal agreements that are frequently required for sidewalk and parking lot dining. Sidewalk and parking set ups will still have to adhere to federal, state and local laws related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the California Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control, and live music restrictions.