SAN DIEGO—The San Diego City Council tentatively approved on Oct. 26 the Spaces as Places program, which permanently allows outdoor dining and business operations in spaces previously envisioned as temporary during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program opens up outdoor areas for dining, walking, biking, and other activities while providing ways to turn temporary outdoor structures into permanent installations.
Council voted 6-2 in favor of the program, with Sean Elo-Rivera and Joe LaCava opposed, while Chris Cate was absent.
Mayor Todd Gloria said he was proud that the city council approved the program.
“Spaces as Places also allows for whole-street closures to create promenades and will ensure long-term options that are safe, equitable, and accessible for all San Diegans,” Gloria said.
Spaces as Places targets businesses in traditionally underserved communities to ensure outdoor dining investments, along with bicycle and pedestrian improvements, are equitably distributed across the city, according to Gloria’s office.
Council approved temporary outdoor business operations within the public right-of-way last summer, as an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic when indoor operations were limited due to public health orders.
City Planning Director Mike Hansen said since the pandemic began, “we’re seeing more people spend time outdoors and want to continue spending time outdoors with their friends and family.”
“We’re proud to have a program that will strengthen and enhance our neighborhoods by encouraging more opportunities for people to gather with others in safe and comfortable outdoor spaces, all while supporting our city’s economy,” Hansen said.
The program will take effect for business owners 30 days after the city council’s second reading of the ordinance scheduled for November. Approval from the California Coastal Commission is also required before the program becomes applicable for seaside communities, according to Gloria’s office.
Councilmember Mari von Wilpert described allowing outdoor dining as “one of the silver linings we’ve seen in what has been the horrible ordeal of the COVID pandemic.”
Spaces as Places also won praise from several business and civic groups, including the California Restaurant Association, Downtown San Diego Partnership, and San Diego County Bicycle Coalition.