SAN DIEGO — Restaurant owners closest to the coastline will now be required to make up for parking spots they use for their outdoor dining.
The new rule is outlined in a new California Coastal Commission regulation for coastal zones.
“I love being able to dine outdoors, it stinks when it has to be in the street and takes away from parking,” said Lacy Cole, who lives in La Jolla.
Parking near the coast continues to prove challenging. In new regulations by the California Coastal Commission, restaurants near the coast will have to replace parking spots taken up by their outdoor dining.
It’s a modification of the city’s “Spaces As Places” outdoor dining program, which launched during the pandemic to help with indoor dining closures.
“It helped build morale, it certainly helped save the retailers and all restaurants,” said Darren Moore, the owner of the Shore Rider Bar and Dough Mama Pizzeria.
Moore said al fresco dining has been a lifeline for him.
“The number of people showing up has been showing up has been larger, it proves that it works, and it should remain,” Moore explained.
The City of San Diego made the outdoor dining program permanent in 2021. However, the California Coastal Commission needs to approve and certify the outdoor dining for the coastal zones.
The new rule affects the coastal stretch beginning at Torrey Pines State Reservation to 15 miles south to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.
San Diego City Council has been discussing with the coastal agency since 2021.
“Our options were really to accept the compromise worked out between the commission staff and the city staff, or to continue that debate which would prolong the conversation and create uncertainty, which I didn’t believe was a good thing for our restaurants or our residents,” San Diego City Councilmember Joe LaCava said.
Parking that is removed from four outdoor dining must be replaced with an equivalent amount of spaces at no cost to the public. The made-up parking must be on the same premises or through a shared parking agreement within a quarter-mile of the lost spaces.
If businesses cannot accommodate the lost spaces, they will have to forfeit their outdoor dining.
“Probably one of the better tools will be to convert existing parallel parking to diagonal parking, which generally is successful in creating more on-street parking,” LaCava explained. “We are going to be looking at any place that the public has access to. There may be negotiations with private property owners that have parking lots, that might be a consideration.”
“I’m optimistic based on the city council saying yes, the coastal commission saying yes and the community saying yes. We are going to find a way to get this done,” Moore said.
The California Coastal Commission will finalize the conditions. The new rules are expected to take place during the summer of 2023.
Businesses in the coastal zone will need a new two-year permit under the new regulations. The city will start with a transitional period of educating on the new guidelines and how to apply for the new permit.