La Jolla Shores restaurants want to extend daily street closure for outdoor dining program

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

Restaurants in La Jolla Shores have decided to seek a permit extension allowing the daily closure of a block of Avenida de la Playa for outdoor dining to continue through the end of the year, and opted to retain an overnight security guard through at least October.

“They’ll reevaluate things then,” La Jolla Shores Association board member Phil Wise said Aug. 17.

The current permit issued by the San Diego Special Events & Filming Department would end the seven-day-a-week closure Sept. 27 and transition the program to Fridays through Sundays only.

“There is concern of what’s going to happen after Sept. 27, when our permit only allows us three nights a week of dining instead of seven,” Wise said. “The restaurants want to do seven nights a week through the end of the year.”

The La Jolla Shores Association is looking to continue its daily outdoor dining program through the rest of the year and is in talks with city officials and the restaurants involved to determine the best way forward.

Aug. 14, 2020

The outdoor dining project “seems to be going very well,” Wise told the LJSA board at its Aug. 12 meeting. The program, which began in The Shores on July 22, closed Avenida de la Playa between El Paseo Grande and Calle de la Plata to enable several restaurants and food shops to place seats and tables on the street. A 20-foot-wide pedestrian walkway runs down the middle of Avenida de la Playa, and metal barricades and signs mark both ends of the closure. Restaurants can serve from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., depending on their individual operating hours.

The program is intended to aid safety measures related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and salvage some of the restaurants’ lost revenue resulting from the outbreak.

Wise said “the restaurants are very happy. They’re doing really well, it’s a safe environment. It’s a good vibe.”

La Jolla Village Merchants Association’s questions yielded surprisingly positive responses.

Aug. 17, 2020

If Special Events extends the seven-day-a-week permit, Wise said, “there’s still the issue of the security guard who’s there from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m. His sole purpose is to move the barricades that are there in case there’s a fire on that block and fire engines have to get to that block.”

The guard costs $6,000 a month, with each restaurant paying a portion based on how much square footage of the street it occupies.

Another option is to “stop using the Special Events permit and switch over to ‘parklets,’” Wise said, referring to structures that are placed over parking spaces and allow vehicle traffic to pass. Parklets are approved via a permit application process through the city’s Development Services Department.

“They can virtually leave their dining facilities where they are on the street,” Wise said. “They might have to move it in toward the sidewalk, maybe a foot on each side. The big negative is that vehicles will be able to go up and down the street.”

With parklets, restaurants could “continue to dine on the street until the end of April, or when the COVID restrictions go away,” Wise said.

Restaurants weighed their options and chose to stick with the street closure and guard and will see in October if they want to stay with that or go to individual parklets, Wise said this week.

Wise told the La Jolla Light on Aug. 13 that he had a meeting with Special Events director Natasha Collura and others to discuss extending the permit application to seven days a week after Sept. 27 and was told LJSA could reapply to make it seven days.

As for the requirement of a nightly security guard, Wise said he was told the rule stands. “We can’t leave a street closed permanently without the ability of a firetruck to get through,” he said.

Wise said one proposed solution was to use the Special Events permit during the day to keep Avenida de la Playa closed and use a separate permit from Development Services for a parklet, moving the barriers and opening the street at 11 p.m. daily.

Transitioning to a parklet system, however, creates an issue of space, Wise said. Some of the restaurants, he said, “have an issue reducing the width of their dining space. It works perfectly as it is for keeping tables six feet apart” to follow public health regulations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“If they have to come in a foot, they might lose a whole row of tables,” Wise said. ◆