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San Diego City Council passes extensions for businesses to operate outdoors during COVID-19 crisis

Restaurants in La Jolla Shores have decorated their outdoor seating areas along Avenida de la Playa.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The San Diego City Council unanimously passed a pair of measures Aug. 4 extending the ability of local businesses to operate outdoors to help them survive the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under one item, the waiving of permitting requirements to allow restaurants and retail stores to conduct business on private parking lots, adjacent sidewalks and on-street parking areas was extended from 45 days to 10 months and 15 days (for a total of one year).

Outdoor dining on Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores has begun after months of planning and negotiating hurdles that nearly took the program off the table.

In the other item, the council followed up on an executive order issued last month by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer granting similar outdoor options to businesses such as barbershops, hair and nail salons and gyms for 45 days. The directive also applies to religious assemblies. The item will return to the council in coming weeks and can be extended by 10-plus months, just as the restaurant and retailer measure allows.


The difference in length for each item is due to the fact that they came from executive orders issued at different times in July because state restrictions at the time differed for various businesses.

“Whether it’s allowing a barber to set up shop in a parking lot or providing a grant that helps a restaurant make payroll, we know small changes can make a big difference between closing for now or closing for good,” Faulconer said in a statement.

The council’s action extends an emergency ordinance allowing restaurants and retailers to open sidewalk cafes, use sidewalks as long as at least a 4-foot path is maintained for pedestrians, create pedestrian plazas and close some streets for business.

Through an expedited process, permits have been simplified, taking just one to two days to be issued. About 200 permits have been granted so far.

Under the ordinance, if social distancing requirements end within the 10-month and 15-day period, the businesses will have to pull back to their private property or their interior locations.

“Everything we can do to allow our small businesses to survive this pandemic, we should be doing,” said Councilwoman Barbara Bry, whose District 1 includes La Jolla.

To further help local businesses, the city has allocated $300,000 to absorb the permitting costs of the first 500 businesses that apply, with remaining applicants paying fees that have been greatly reduced. City staff said about one-third of the $300,000 has been used so far.

The measure aimed at local restaurants is expected to affect up to 4,000 eateries in San Diego that employ about 55,000 workers. ◆