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Encanto Group Told To Get Permit Or Get Rid Of Sidewalk Improvements

Photo caption: A resident sits on a bench at the corner of Euclid and Imperial avenues in Sa...

Photo by Claire Trageser

A resident sits on a bench at the corner of Euclid and Imperial avenues in San Diego, Oct. 31, 2015.

Members of the group Better Block San Diego would need to get a permit from the city and pay $13,000 to $25,000 in fees to leave up the benches and planter boxes they installed last month.

It looks like the wooden planter boxes and benches installed by a community group in San Diego's Encanto neighborhood will come down unless the group can get a city permit and raise thousands of dollars.

City officials told the group Better Block San Diego it would need to go through the permit process and get approval, as well as pay $13,000 to $25,000 in fees, including an $8,000 deposit, Barry Pollard, an organizer with the group, said Friday.

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Letter to Barry Pollard

Letter to Barry Pollard

A letter from San Diego's Code Enforcement Division to Barry Pollard telling him he broke municipal code by installing benches and planters at the corner of Euclid and Imperial avenues. The letter also says Pollard needs a permit to remove the structures.

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"The city has not budged. They basically told us to remove the planters and to remove the furniture, and that that plaza area is going to remain the way it was before we made the improvements," Pollard said.

Pollard said he thought the group had the necessary permit to add the amenities to a small strip of land at Euclid and Imperial avenues, but a letter from the city's Development Services Department proved them wrong.

It said the group would have to remove the structures by Nov. 20 or face a fine.

Some confusion ensued on Oct. 31, when the group's members realized the city letter said they would need a permit to remove the structures. They had planned to take down them down that day.

But Pollard said he met with city staff on Friday and was told the benches and planters would need to come down.

Craig Gustafson, a spokesman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer, wrote in an email that Pollard "knew what steps he needed to take to receive City approval of his project, but he chose not to apply for a permit and moved forward anyway."

"The City is always willing to work with community groups on projects that help beautify and improve public spaces in San Diego," Gustafson added. "The Mayor’s Office and Councilmember (Myrtle) Cole’s office both worked directly with Mr. Pollard to assist him in his efforts, but he chose to ignore that advice and violated the municipal code."

Pollard said he will discuss with other group members whether to take the structures down or try to raise the money and get the required approvals.

He said the group would like to continue to work on the permitting process to allow the benches to stay up, "as well as continue to work on a policy to make it easier for community groups to improve their own neighborhoods and open spaces."

Better Block may try to raise funds to pay the city fees, and then continue to try to get approval from the city if they get the required funds, he said.

Pollard, who also heads the nonprofit Urban Collaborative Project, said he's also hoping to hear from other neighborhood groups that have struggled to get project approvals from the city.

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