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San Diego Approves Expansion Of Outdoor Options For Restaurants, Retail Stores

Mayor Kevin Falconer at the lectern on July 14, 2020, touting an ordinance th...

Photo by Andi Dukleth

Above: Mayor Kevin Falconer at the lectern on July 14, 2020, touting an ordinance that expands outdoor dining and retail options.

San Diego City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance to expand outdoor operations for restaurants and retail stores.

The rule expands Mayor Kevin Faulconer's July 7 executive order by making it easier for businesses to receive certain permits.

Listen to this story by Shalina Chatlani.

"I have been impressed with their incredible resolve and resilience as they continue to be whipsawed with state orders to close and reopen," Faulconer said at a news conference in Kearny Mesa on Tuesday.

The ordinance allows businesses to expand into nearby street parking, with some new urgency given the state’s order for businesses to close indoor operations yet again.

"[The ordinance] waives special event processing fees. Fire inspection fees for street closure and any late fees and it also retroactively waives any fees for businesses approved after May 1," he said.

Still, with the pandemic raging on, there are concerns about whether the expansion could mean risking COVID-19 spread. Especially when it comes to minority-owned businesses, that could employ essential workers and people of color that are already especially vulnerable.

The city says it’s working closely with the Strategic Alliance of San Diego Ethnic Chambers of Commerce, which includes the Asian Business Association of San Diego, the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce, and the San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The partnership will be working with minority-owned businesses to ensure safety for workers, said Jason Paguio, president of the Asian Business Association.

"We work with these businesses on a daily basis walking them through the process in language and making sure that not only are they following all the health and safety guidelines but also that they are openly properly," Paguio said.

The city said it will also be monitoring sidewalks.

"To ensure we are protecting Americans with disabilities and pedestrian pathways, once you have your pedestrian spot or sidewalk in place, we are gonna go out and inspect it so we will have a database of all of those businesses we will put it on a map," said Elyse Lowe, the city's Development Service Department director.

The city has allocated $300,000 to offset some of the permitting costs for businesses and for outreach efforts to small and disadvantaged businesses.

The mayor's ordinance will authorize:

  • Safe outdoor business operations in parking lots, on-street parking spaces, and sidewalks at all eating and drinking and retail establishments that are eligible;
  • Reductions in fees for special events by waiving processing costs and late fees for applicants to operate in the public right-of-way until physical distancing mandates expire;
  • Waiving and streamlining of permits and review to allow applicants to close streets and conduct business outdoors;
  • Retroactive fee waivers for applicants that were previously approved for an outdoor dining special event permit by May 1, 2020.


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