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La Jolla an ‘al fresco dining experience?’ Traffic & Transportation Board supports restaurant parklets

The La Jolla Traffic and Transportation boarded voted to support restaurant parklets at its July 15 Zoom meeting.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation board offered its support for outdoor dining proposals in La Jolla at its July 15 meeting. La Jolla Village Merchants Association executive director Jodi Rudick asked T&T for its endorsement following a City Council vote to waive permit application fees for outdoor dining that took place July 14.

Calling the City Council vote “an extension of the mayor’s order on July 7 that allows restaurants to bring their seating out into the public right of way,” Rudick said, “We are going to become a kind of al fresco dining experience, until further notice.”

The mayoral order and subsequent council vote, Rudick said, allows restaurants to use the sidewalks and “parking spaces directly adjacent to their business, as well as a neighboring business with permission” for tables and chairs.

City Council isn’t requiring community groups’ approval, but Rudick said “it would be a good idea to get [the T&T] board’s support for the concept,” as there may be “some traffic implications. This is a goodwill effort, to let the restaurants know you as a board supporting their need to survive, stay in business and expand during these COVID modifications.”

Rudick said her request for support does not concern a “street closure concept,” but refers to the parklet system, in which a structure placed over the parking spaces that leaves the street clear for traffic.

La Jolla Shores Association president Janie Emerson added that the LJSA is starting its outdoor dining program, which involves a complete closure of Avenida de la Playa from El Paseo Grande to Calle de la Plata, starting Wednesday, July 22 through Sunday, September 27. “This is a big experiment,” Emerson told T&T. “I would encourage that you all support not just LJVMA but any group in La Jolla that would like to do these types of things to support their local businesses.”

T&T chair Dave Abrams offered his support for both parklets and street-closure dining ideas.

Board member Nancy Warwick said “I’m very supportive of [these] ideas,” and asked if the use of parklets would be terminated when indoor dining is allowed to resume.

Rudick replied that “the city will determine when that is no longer required.”

Board member Tom Brady said “I think it’s a great idea. I think we should be very supportive of what the LJVMA is trying to do.”

The T&T board unanimously approved the motion to lend its support for La Jolla dining on the streets and in the public right of way.

Other T&T news:

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation board voted to approve converting this 2-hour parking space into a 15-minute spot.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Conversion of 2-hour parking to 15-minute parking at 7524 La Jolla Blvd: Mike Eastwood, owner of Smallgoods, a cheese shop and café that provides fresh foods for pickup, asked the T&T board to recommend the conversion of one parking space immediately fronting his business from a 2-hour limit to a 15-minute limit.

“We’ve set up a curbside [pickup] area out front” he said, for customers to pick up their online or called-in orders. “The area in front of our building, and the whole street, is 2-hour parking. Those spots get taken up very quickly, and mostly by beach-goers flaunting the 2-hour limit…now that summer is around.”

Eastwood said he first approached the LJVMA with a 12-page petition signed by customers and neighboring business owners. “We have tremendous support from everyone in the community. The spots will also benefit other businesses on the street,” citing Shoe Repair and Leather Goods at 7514 La Jolla Blvd., which also has customers “come and grab things and go” and other nearby businesses that cater to patrons who are only there for a few minutes at a time. The LJVMA supported Eastwood’s request.

“As it stands now, we have people double-parking to quickly grab their platters of meat and cheese and take off,” Eastwood said. “We also have a lot of people circling the block, and we do have a lot of elderly in the area, a lot of wheelchairs and strollers. Anything we can do to make it safe for them will aid everyone on the block.”

Abrams said the “city has indicated to me they would be open to [the conversion], with [T&T] recommendation.”

Warwick asked if any businesses were opposed to the change, with Eastwood replying, “I have not heard of any.”

The motion to support the conversion of one 2-hour parking spot to a 15-minute spot as Eastwood proposed passed unanimously.

Proposal to place warning signs in various medians: Following a resident concern about “panhandlers who operate out of the median islands in La Jolla,” Abrams said a suggestion had come forward to install signage “to urge motorists not to stop” focusing on “the safety element of it.”

The board showed photos of sample, similar signage currently in use in El Cajon that discourages drivers from offering handouts to people in the medians and suggests donations to charitable organizations that aid those in need.

“My position is that they shouldn’t be allowed in there at all,” Abrams said. “Forget the signage; just keep people out of the median, because it is a safety issue for sure.”

Speaking to the legality of people being in the medians at all, City Councilwoman Barbara Bry’s field representative Steve Hadley said, “I don’t remember all the constitutional issues, but this was discussed in City Council in 2014. The council pretty much threw up its hands. You have people asking for money, but you have other activities that happen on the medians from time to time – advertising, campaigning, other free speech activities. The council said it’s not going to weigh in on this.”

Warwick expressed her concern that “in El Cajon it is a city-wide program; to have these signs only in La Jolla when the rest of San Diego isn’t part of the program [is] going to create a very negative perception of a very affluent community. Even though there’s a charitable idea with the signage to contribute directly to homeless shelters and other organizations, I think it would really backfire.”

The board agreed to revisit the matter at a future meeting, to hear further resident comment. The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation advisory board next meets (pending items to review) 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19. Learn more: lajollacpa.org. ◆