Send a Letter to the Mayor & City Council to Show your Support for Open Air Dining San Diego to Help Businesses Utilize the Public Right of Way during COVID-19

A diverse group of organizations is requesting that the Mayor and City Council consider changes to the special events permits to allow dining and physical distancing for designated businesses.  Join us in requesting that this extra public space be used to provide safer conditions for social distancing due to the COVID-19 crisis.

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May 27, 2020 

The Honorable Kevin Faulconer
Mayor City of San Diego
202 C Street, 11th Floor
San Diego, CA 92101 


Open Air Dining San Diego: Request for an Expedited Permitting Process to Allow San Diego Businesses to Utilize Public Right of Way


Dear Mayor Faulconer,

On May 20th the State approved the County of San Diego’s request to allow the region to accelerate the reopening of the local economy. San Diego is moving further into Stage 2 of the California Resiliency Roadmap.  Under the proposal, in-person dining at restaurants and retail shopping is allowed, as long as businesses enact social distancing measures and follow various restrictions to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Many restaurants, retail establishments and small businesses in San Diego are submitting plans to the County to reopen as a result of Governor Newsom’s announcement allowing a transition from Phase II to Phase III reopening. We should comply with all regulations and facilitate a safe opening by expanding the use of the public right of way to accommodate mobility options such as bicycling, walking and utilizing more public space for shopping and dining while preserving accessibility.

It is critical that we remain flexible and innovative in these unprecedented times to facilitate the reopening of restaurants and businesses while also ensuring their ability to comply with social distancing requirements. To accommodate this, we have identified specific recommendations for the use of the innovative use of special event permits and public right-of-way (PROW) permits and that would enable a swift and safe opening of restaurants that could be referred to as the “Open Air Dining San Diego” program.

We request the following 3 measures be implemented by the City of San Diego:

  1. An expedited process to allow non-profits to apply for special event permits exempted from CEQA that would allow for innovative use of sidewalk areas, parking lanes, streets, or adjacent parking lots through an expanded business footprint for patio dining.
  2. Fast-tracking of Public-Right of Way (PROW) permits for businesses setting up tables and chairs in these newly identified expanded footprints.
  3. Waive the need for Police & Fire Department fees or SETC traffic personnel associated with these new special event permits.

New Alcohol and Beverage control regulations allow for businesses licensed to serve alcohol to apply for a permit to expand their footprint into adjacent property including the public right of way. The application requires a diagram that could also be used by the City of San Diego in an expedited approval process for the applicable Special Event Permit.

Many businesses may not be viable under the required social distancing guidelines, nor will some survive the time it currently takes to secure a Special Event Permit to expand their offerings and gain a critical number of customers. The requested measures will help those businesses and our business districts while preserving the public’s health and safety. As stated by the Downtown San Diego Partnership in their May 20th letter, our commercial zones are suffering, and these zones provide thousands of jobs, important services, and social and entertainment outlets for our residents and visitors. 

This is a matter of protecting public health, supporting our local businesses and making use of our public streets to enable San Diego businesses to reopen both quickly and safely.

We look forward to working with you on the Open Air Dining San Diego program.




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