Some La Jolla restaurants struggle to transition to ‘Spaces as Places’ while awaiting Coastal Commission

Nearly a week after temporary outdoor business permits in San Diego expired on July 13, some La Jolla establishments are scrambling to adjust to the new outdoor dining initiative in San Diego. the city while others appear to be awaiting further guidance.

The city established the temporary outdoor operations permits, called TOBOs, as an emergency measure during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow restaurants and other businesses to use on-street parking spaces in the city and other outdoor public spaces to help them continue to operate and limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The popularity and success of these facilities led the city council in October to approve “Spaces as Places”, an initiative to transform temporary eating and drinking spaces into permanent ones. Businesses must comply with the new regulations to obtain a permit under spaces as places. The city began accepting permit applications in January in preparation for TOBOs expiring on July 13.

Businesses that do not apply for or are denied permits under the new regulations are expected to dismantle their outdoor facilities.

However, in coastal areas such as La Jolla, Spaces as Places cannot take effect until it has been reviewed and certified by the California Coastal Commission, as the ordinance requires modification of local coastal programs, which serve planning documents for coastal communities. This exam has not yet been scheduled. The next committee meeting is scheduled for August 10-12.

Only a “very small percentage” of businesses in the city had applied for permits under Spaces as Places as of July 13, Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said during the La Jolla Village Merchants Association meeting last week.

In La Jolla, the percentage is even lower, given the pending Coastal Commission approval.

“The wrinkle that has caused a lot of confusion” is that the ordinance is not legally effective in La Jolla until the Coast Commission approves it, LaCava said. “So we are in this waiting game. Although we ask restaurants to apply for the [Spaces as Places] permit, we can’t approve it because we don’t have Coastal Commission approval. »

Chris Larson, program coordinator for the city’s Department of Developmental Services, told the La Jolla Light last month that establishments with a temporary permit and an application for a permanent permit on file would not be penalized after July 13, pending review of their application.

The city is producing an interactive map with all the businesses that have applied for the permit and gone far enough in the process to register. However, city spokesman Anthony Santacroce said this week that “there is a delay between the submission of the application, confirmation that it is a Spaces and Places permit application and confirmation that the application has been submitted correctly”.

As of earlier this week, only one business in La Jolla’s Village had applied for the permit, according to the listing: Bernini’s Bistro on Fay Avenue. To do this, the management called on outside help.

“It was way over our heads,” Bernini co-owner Reyhan Gumustekin said. “It was too complicated. We ask for permits with certain conditions that I didn’t understand, so we hired an architectural firm to help us. We feel blessed to be in a financial position to do this; I don’t don’t know how small restaurants are going to do.

Gumustekin added that she thinks the Spaces as Places program is “awesome” and is grateful to the city for providing restaurants with a way to turn their temporary spaces into permanent ones.

Ronald Famorcan of RF Famorcan and Associates, the company that helped Gumustekin, said the permit application was still being processed and they were awaiting “clear instructions” from the Coast Commission.

It was unclear whether other restaurants using parking spaces in The Village, such as Puesto on Wall Street, had applied for Spaces as Places permits. Representatives of Puesto did not respond to the Lights request.

Regarding the application in the coming months, Santacroce said “it is important to understand that the city has been in constant communication with [TOBO] companies in anticipation and during this transition. They know the rules and their responsibilities well.

According to the city, the code enforcement division will investigate complaints from the public about an outdoor operation. If an inspector finds a violation of the guidelines or other codes, the owner will be responsible for correcting the problem and paying any enforcement penalties.

La Jolla Coasts

In La Jolla Shores, which has closed a block of Avenida de la Playa for outdoor street dining since July 2020, restaurant owners have rushed to adjust their outdoor spaces based on three permits they have been asking for over the past few weeks. .

Since The Shores restoration program involves a street closure, organizers have been involved in frantic communication with city officials, often running into confusion over what permits are needed.

“It’s been a challenge,” La Jolla Shores Association board member Phil Wise said at the July 13 group meeting.

Wise, who has led the restoration program on Avenida de la Playa since its inception, said the city first asked him for a TOBO permit, despite its July 13 expiry date, and a Spaces as permit. Squares.

A TOBO permit requires restaurant owners to make room for two-way vehicular traffic 24 hours a day, Wise said, which would significantly reduce space for restaurants on the street and harm the program objective.

To circumvent TOBO, officials from the city’s special events and filming department encouraged Wise to apply for a third municipal permit to establish an “activation,” which allows a street to be closed for a large-scale art exhibit. scale outside of a commercial enterprise.

Wise worked with local artists to install large sculptures at the eastern end of Avenida de la Playa to meet activation requirements.

The approved special events and filming activation permit is valid through December and will allow the street to be closed to vehicular traffic from 8:15 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, Wise said.

However, the permit requires a passage to two-way traffic after 11 p.m., so restaurants have been busy reducing their outdoor dining spaces to accommodate overnight vehicles.

Sites on the south side of Avenida de la Playa, which include Osteria Romantica, Sushi Mori, Barbarella and more, “must move their spaces to the sidewalk and they cannot extend more than six feet from the sidewalk in the street,” Wise said.

These restaurants have lost 58% or more of their dining space, he said.

Restaurants in La Jolla Shores are working July 18 to reduce their street-side dining space to comply with the new requirements.

(Phil Sage)

Shore Rider and others on the north side won’t have to make any changes, but Piatti, also on the north side, will have to change a lot of its layout.

Wise said he was baffled by the amount of work it took to apply, saying there was ‘nothing but tremendous support’ for the outdoor dining program at the from community members.

The process has proven to be a “huge expense” for restaurants given that the Coastal Commission has yet to even approve the spaces as places for the Coastal Zone, Wise said, and with the mandatory reduction of l ‘catering space,’ the city is asking these businesses to spend money to earn less money.

“Now all we need is for the Coast Commission to understand that closing the street doesn’t stop people from getting to the boat launch, it doesn’t stop swimmers. to go to Kellogg. [Park]”Wise said.

The Shores Association voted unanimously to support Wise’s efforts in the art of activation and his ongoing work to maintain the restoration program. ◆

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement