Confusion over outdoor dining emerges as temporary permit expiration looms

As temporary permits for outdoor business operations approach their July 13 expiration date, there is confusion in La Jolla about the next steps to continue doing business on public property.

The temporary permits, called TOBO, were established by the City of San Diego as an emergency measure during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow businesses to use parking spaces on city streets. and other outdoor public spaces to help them continue to operate and limit the spread of the coronavirus. The popularity and success of such installations led the city to initiate a “Spaces as Places” ordinance to transition temporary to permanent spaces.

City Council approved the Spaces as Places program in October, and the city began accepting permit applications in January. Spaces as Places is intended for food and beverage establishments only.

Businesses with temporary outdoor operations permits have until Wednesday, July 13 – when those permits will expire – to comply with the new regulations and obtain a Spaces as Places permit.

However, in coastal areas such as La Jolla, spaces and places cannot go into effect until they have been reviewed and certified by the California Coastal Commission, as the ordinance requires modification of local coastal programs. , which serve as planning documents for coastal communities. This exam has not yet been scheduled. The next committee meeting is scheduled for July 13-15.

Earlier this week, Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said the city is not yet accepting applications for spaces as locations for businesses in the Coastal Zone as the city waits. Coastal Commission review.

But LaCava field rep Steve Hadley told the Jolla Village Merchants Association meeting on June 8 that he has been going door-to-door throughout La Jolla to help businesses comply with order before the July 13 deadline. He said he distributed a May 20 letter from Chris Larson of the city’s Department of Developmental Services outlining the Spaces as Places permit application protocols.

“We made sure that anyone on a sidewalk or in a parking space was warned and not suddenly caught off guard,” Hadley said.

La Jolla Village Merchants Association meets June 8 at the La Jolla/Riford Library.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

Latrell Crenshaw, a small business support specialist with the city’s economic development department, said the city is encouraging coastal area businesses to apply for the Spaces as Places permit even while awaiting advice from the Coast Commission.

“From what the Coast Commission is saying, we want to make sure companies are still in this process so that if something happens sooner rather than later, they don’t let their TOBO permits expire,” Crenshaw said.

On June 10, LaCava acknowledged the confusion as city employees tried to ensure that businesses across the city complied with requests for spaces as places. But he stuck to his comments earlier this week that the city suggests that coastal businesses with outdoor operations apply for a right-of-way permit rather than a Spaces as Places permit.

“We want you to continue operating in the Coastal Zone until we fix this because from July 13 your trespassing on the street will be considered illegal,” LaCava said.

Filing for the right-of-way permit “will put these businesses in a comfortable holding area until we get that resolution through the Coastal Commission,” he added.

LaCava also said his office “advocates for [restaurants’] name to try to minimize what this right of way permit costs them to apply for and the documentation they need as part of the application.

“I don’t want them spending a lot of time and money on something that could go away,” he said, noting that regulations could change after the Coast Commission approves spaces as premises.

Spaces as Places has stricter requirements for outdoor structures than TOBOs, including fees and several design and safety rules. Larson’s May 20 letter says some ongoing temporary operations may not be eligible for a Spaces as Places permit and may require “substantial investment and the assistance of a licensed engineer to comply” with the new requirements.

La Jolla Coasts

At the La Jolla Shores Association meeting on June 8, board member Phil Wise, who launched The Shores outdoor dining program in July 2020 to close a block of Avenida de la Playa for restaurant use, said the costs of a new permit would be particularly significant. at The Shores, as the program involves a road closure.

A new permit would not allow outdoor dining to operate as is, Wise said, as it would require the street to be open to traffic, and the extent to which tables and chairs can be placed in the street would be reduced. .

“We also need to get an encroachment maintenance removal agreement, and to get that you need an engineering report, which costs $30,000 or more, plus architectural fees” , Wise said. “All in all, it’s almost six figures to do that. What is more distressing is that if we do this, we have no assurance that it will go ahead, as it is subject to the approval of the Coastal Commission.

LJSA voted unanimously to send a letter to the Coastal Commission recommending that The Shores outdoor dining program become permanent.

Shores resident Tricia Riha opposed the idea. “I’m glad everyone came back and thrived during this terrible time with the pandemic, but… there’s plenty of seating even though [restaurants] don’t have the sidewalk,” she says.

municipal Council

At the La Jolla City Council meeting on June 9, administrators voted to send a letter to the city council and city attorney requesting a one-year TOBO extension for all affected local businesses in the Coastal Zone.

In introducing the motion, Administrator Chuck Merriman, who is also a board member of the La Jolla Shores Business Association, said “we are all looking for alternative ways to continue our business activities.”

He added that the expiry of TOBOs does not make sense given that the pandemic continues. He noted that the number of coronavirus cases is higher now than it was a year ago.

“It seems strange to me that we now want to eliminate something that helped us during COVID and COVID continues to climb in the region,” Merriman said.

The motion passed 12-4, with opponents opposing it without comment.

But LaCava said on June 10 that “rules and laws apparently don’t allow for another temporary extension.”

City Council approved the TOBO emergency ordinance in the summer of 2020 and granted an extension in May 2021 that allowed temporary spaces until July 13 of this year. ◆

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