Streetside Dining in La Jolla Could End With New Rule

Valorie Hirsch | June 21, 2023

“Streetaries” in La Jolla Shores could shut down as new restriction from the Coastal Commission cites inhibited beach access

In La Jolla Shores, on Avenida de la Playa, the stretch of street between El Paseo Grande and Calle de la Plata, has been closed since July 2020, with restaurants like Piatti, Barbarella, and Shore Rider having extended outdoor streetside dining, or “streetaries.” 

The City defines a streetary as:

“outdoor spaces created in street space formerly dedicated to parking spaces that serve as an extension of a restaurant or other establishment that sells food and drink.”

Due to the Coastal Commission’s concerns that the street closure inhibits beach access, an amendment was made to the City’s current Spaces as Places program. 

The amendment would require any restaurants with an outdoor dining structure occupying parking to pay for the equivalent number of parking spots in an alternative parking area within 1,200 feet from the original parking spots. 

Because of the extended streetside dining in La Jolla Shores, there has been a loss to those available parking spots; 22 to be exact. 

Businesses must apply for the updated Spaces as Places program to continue their streetside dining operations, which includes this new parking provision, or remove their streetside dining structures. 

The popularity of streetside dining across San Diego is also met with debate, especially over the loss of available parking, and some ask who stands to benefit the most from keeping streetside dining. 

Keep reading to learn about streetaries, what’s changing, and when businesses can expect the new rules to go into effect or prepare to remove their dining structures.

The beginning of San Diego’s streetaries

When the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the city in March 2020, bustling restaurants had to bring their business to a screeching halt. 

In August 2020, businesses could operate outdoors with emergency approval from the City, and the surge of outdoor dining space took over. Restaurants spilled out onto sidewalks, busy streets, and commandeered prime parking spots.

Those that wanted to enjoy the experience of dining out could and businesses could breathe a small sigh of relief that they were back and operating. It was a practical solution to the pandemic restrictions, which was only supposed to be temporary.

Many San Diegans grew to love the outdoor extensions to their favorite restaurants, especially if they didn’t have outdoor dining previously. Restaurants were quick to adapt, with some putting a lot of effort into their street dining extensions to make it comfortable for patrons.

Spaces as Places 

streetside dining in La Jolla shores in front of Barbarella restaurant table and chairs and umbrellas

The Spaces as Places program will offer a menu of options to allow for the creation of a variety of quality outdoor places for dining, walking, biking, public artwork and other enjoyable public interaction for the post-pandemic world.

The City soon recognized what was intended to be a temporary option as an opportunity, saying, “The outdoor expansion promotes pedestrian-oriented communities and allows the public to enjoy the public right-of-way in a more active manner than experienced prior to the pandemic.” 

The Spaces as Places initiative was also promoted as an incentive that would encourage public transportation as part of their climate goals. La Jolla Shores, however, isn’t the most conveniently located area for public transport, with most coastal visitors arriving by car. 

Increased fees

In the first year and a half of the pandemic, the temporary Spaces to Places program was at no cost to the business owner as far as permits. In 2021, the program was made permanent, with businesses required to pay annual fees for 2-year permits that range from $10 to $30 per square foot.

It’s estimated that one parking spot is about 200 sq. ft, so business owners are looking at fees between $2,000 and $6,000 per spot depending on the area and number of spots a restaurant occupies. 

These fees come in addition to the Development Impact Fees, which can go up to $1,000 depending on the square footage, and plan-check and inspection fees, which are approximately $1,400.

With the Coastal Commission’s new requirement, it’s expected that many of La Jolla’s restaurants won’t be able to find replacement parking within the 1,200 feet. 

Naturally, this would cause restaurants to forfeit their streetside dining space and return to their pre-pandemic dining operations. 

The Coastal Commision

The Spaces as Places permanent program has already been in effect in all other areas except those within the coastal zone, which falls under the Coastal Commission’s oversight. 

According to the La Jolla Light, “The Coastal Commission was required to weigh in regarding the coastal zone because Spaces as Places requires a change to Local Coastal Programs, which serve as planning documents for coastal communities.” 

Upon reviewing, the Coastal Commission determined that the street closure in this “beach impact area” could inhibit beach access and make parking even more of a challenge in an area already notorious for parking difficulty. 

“Commission staff explained that the parking requirement was necessary to maintain adequate access to the beach areas, which are typically frequented by people driving by car as opposed to mass transit.”

-San Diego Union-Tribune
 

In May, the City reluctantly agreed to the Coastal Commissions parking provision requiring restaurants to find alternative parking. 

Commissioner Linda Escalante told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “While the requirement to provide replacement of removed on-street parking may be challenging for some businesses to achieve, the Beach Impact Area is a relatively small area within coastal communities that are subject to higher levels of traffic congestion and parking needs.”

La Jolla’s restaurant owners speak out

Restaurant owners like Shore Rider’s Darren Moore and other restaurant owners in the La Jolla Shores Business Association fought to keep the Spaces as Places as a permanent option and were happy to see it stay. 

However, with the new parking rules coming down the pipeline, they have had the wind taken out of their sails, feeling like there’s no viable option to replace the parking spots, and they will soon have to remove their streetside dining areas. 

Preparing for the end

Once the conditions set forth by the Coastal Commission are finalized, business owners applying for the new permits should expect the updated rules to take effect by July and make their plans accordingly.

The new rules could mean the end of many street dining options that some of the community has come to enjoy in the last almost three years.

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