“It’s the perfect location,” said La Jolla Shores Association president Janie Emerson of Avenida De La Playa, the neighborhood’s commercial business strip.
“But the City’s telling us now that we (LJSA) have to have barricades, insurance to cover all this and a 20-foot area left open in the center of the street for emergency vehicles.”
Added Emerson about the current impasse, “We need to sit down with the mayor – or this is not going to happen. It’s time-sensitive. It has to happen like yesterday, or there is no point.”
Emerson’s perplexed the City thus far is treating the proposed Avenida street closure as a one-time-only “special event,” when the change would be through this summer during dinner hours.
Ed Witt, president of Enhance La Jolla board, which manages the community’s Maintenance Assessment District, concurs ways must be found to help re-opened restaurants, limited to 50% or less seating capacity indoors, move their dining outdoors. He added some progress is being made in negotiations with the City to make that happen.
“This is a big deal, we all need to work together,” said Witt of partially closing off streets in the Village, or Shores, for outside restaurant dining. “We had a Zoom meeting on May 18 and the City has actually changed a lot of the rules, attempting to make it easier to put dining out in the street.”
Added Witt, “They (City) are in favor of doing this. But it’s hard. They’re attempting to do what they can at this point. This doesn’t mean we couldn’t push them further.”
Witt noted the Downtown San Diego Partnership, a nonprofit advocating for the economic vitality and growth of downtown, is attempting to close off streets there and open them for outdoor dining too.
Emerson pointed out LJSA board member Phil Wise has been working on finding ways to open up Avenida since March. Wise recently proposed to the City advisory group putting platforms out onto the street to allow more dining space from 5 to 10 p.m. Wise added that will require a permit to install platforms, to close the street, and allow restaurants to serve alcohol on the platforms.
LJSA also voted recently to create an ad hoc committee to work with Wise in studying how to implement his Avenida platform proposal.
The need for outdoor restaurant space in La Jolla Shores is great, said Emerson.
“You’ve got eight restaurants in that one-block area, enough to make it workable and financially feasible,” she said. “Somebody has got to cut through all this ridiculous red tape.”
Added Emerson of utilizing Avenida for dining: “Restaurants need all the help they can get. It’s a win-win for everybody, as you are putting people back to work, and restaurants will be paying sales and income tax. There’s absolutely no downside to this whatsoever.”
A Village resident himself, Witt said it’s his policy that “If I can’t walk there, I can’t go there.”
Once the lockdown occurred, Witt realized that “If we don’t help the restaurants, we’re going to lose almost everything, as restaurants are hugely important to La Jolla to attract people to the Village. We need to try our best to save our restaurants, otherwise, we’re going to lose more of our retail.”