Council may streamline process for outdoor-dining permits
by Mariko Lamb
Feb 14, 2013 | 1438 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
­­City Council President Todd Gloria and council members Lorie Zapf and Kevin Faulconer recently announced their resolve to reform the lengthy and expensive permitting process restaurant owners must endure to establish outdoor dining at restaurants.

“We live in a beautiful city with fantastic weather, and you shouldn’t have to pay thousands of dollars for a permit to eat outside,” said Faulconer at a press conference at OB Noodle House on Jan. 31.

Under current regulations, even for a small restaurant hoping to add a few tables outside, permitting fees are upward of $12,000 before construction can even begin. In beach communities, the prohibitive fees nearly double due to additional coastal regulations, said Faulconer.

The costly, time consuming and, at times, unpredictable permitting process was brought to the attention of the council by the San Diego Chapter of the California Restaurant Association (CRA) last year, leading to a City Council discussion about how to roll back regulations for business owners and ultimately boost the local economy.

According to a local economic impact report released by CRA, San Diego’s 3,315 restaurants helped rake in a projected $2.9 billion in gross sales in 2012.

“Restaurants are the No. 1 contributor of taxable retail sales in San Diego,” said Faulconer. “That’s money that we can use to pave roads, clean beaches and keep police and firefighters out doing what they do best. When restaurants and small businesses win, San Diegans win.”

The sidewalk café proposal limits outdoor expansion of a restaurant to a single row of tables within 4 1/2 feet of the building, while still allowing a clear path of travel on the sidewalk without a barrier in between. The Planning Commission will look at the proposed changes in February and the Land Use & Housing Committee will make recommendations on the proposal in March.

COMMUNITY VOICE

“Lower rates would certainly make outdoor eating more accessible. Current permitting fees are quite onerous for small business owners. I certainly wish the law had been passed before we paid such high fees.”

— Diana Goedhuys, Girard Gourmet

“Any decrease in bureaucracy is always a benefit for small businesses like ours. Anything that can get permit prices down is a good thing. The permitting process is already pretty ridiculous. If they’re going to cut down that red tape, we’re all for it.”

— Doug Tondro, The Spot

“Part of our business is our view of the water. Sitting outside is great.”

— Shannon Fuentes, Gelateria
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