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San Diego Could Make Outdoor Dining Permit Program Permanent

Permanent 'Spaces as Places' Would Collect Fess From Restaurants To Maintain Amenities

By Lou Hirsh CoStar News July 27, 2021 | 1:30 P.M.

San Diego is considering making a temporary outdoor dining permit program, considered a crucial lifeline for many restaurants and bars during the pandemic, permanent.

The City Council, which discussed the "Spaces as Places" program this week, said a vote could be on the docket as early as this fall. If the council votes to make the program permanent, the city would collect fees from participating restaurants to help defray safety and other costs associated with maintaining dining on public sidewalks, curbsides and parking lots.

Like other cities that introduced similar measures during the pandemic, the city is considering adjusting the program to be one "proposed for the post-pandemic world when restaurants can function at full capacity indoors and outdoor dining would add to the total seating capacity, thus creating additional real estate for businesses.”

A fee structure is yet to be determined, but some portion of the collected funds could go toward amenities to make those spaces more welcoming, such as shady trees and recreational elements.

City officials have also said they would like to see the program contribute to the city's environmental goals by reducing the amount of cars on the road. That's going to mean a balancing act juggling the needs of drivers, pedestrians and residents; outdoor dining spaces have already reduced or eliminated available parking spaces in several San Diego neighborhoods.

During a meeting of the council’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Committee this week, Council President Jennifer Campbell said officials may need to ensure that parking spaces are preserved near dining areas for the disabled, elderly and other visitors who need close access and can’t avoid using their cars.

“We don’t want to leave them out of enjoying life and enjoying these public spaces,” Campbell said.

San Diego officials in May voted to extend current permits for outdoor dining on city streets and sidewalks through July 13, 2022, expanding the program that started in July 2020 to help businesses survive pandemic lockdowns and capacity restrictions.

Outdoor dining is expected to remain a crucial business generator for the foreseeable future in California, where Los Angeles and other counties have recently reimposed indoor mask mandates amid a rise in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations,

particularly among unvaccinated people. More counties are considering similar moves that would affect customers regardless of vaccination status, though San Diego had yet to do so as of Tuesday.

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