Council steps in to ease permit headaches on curbside dining
by Mariko Lamb
Published - 02/07/13 - 11:35 AM | 242798 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
District 2 City Councilman Kevin Faulconer announces his commitment to help cut red tape on restaurant permitting fees during a press conference outside the OB Noodle House on Jan. 31. 
Photo by Mariko Lamb | The Beacon
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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 in their districts.

“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 District 2 City Councilman 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, these prohibitive fees nearly double due to additional coastal regulations, said Faulconer.

“This is the end of the road for burdensome fees and the beginning of more sidewalk dining for San Diegans,” he said.

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.

“They’ve really taken a proactive approach to being business friendly, and it’s basically a common-sense approach,” said Mike Morton Jr., president of the CRA in San Diego. “It’s simple. Put more seats out on the sidewalk, create a buzz and get more people to places like the OB Noodle House and other small restaurants.”

He said the small change will help grow the economy in big ways, creating jobs and adding dollars to the city as a result.

“As the economy continues to be a bit stagnant, restaurants continue to be one of the bright spots,” he said. “We’re adding good jobs and we’re adding dollars to the city and the communities they’re part of.”

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 city’s Planning Commission will look at the proposed changes in February and the Land Use & Housing Committee will make recommendations on the proposal in March.
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