I initially became aware of a problem involving the placement of tables and chairs associated with various businesses in downtown Encinitas when I observed a woman pushing a baby stroller being forced to enter Coast Highway 101 in order to circumvent diners in front of a restaurant as patrons were encroaching upon the public sidewalk right-of-way. This was several years ago.
The issue has since escalated from that of an innocuous right-of-way to one that also includes public safety concerning the illegality of curbside table and chair placement.
It has been well over two years since I first appeared before the Encinitas City Council bringing to their attention the placement of such tables and chairs located along Coast Highway 101 and nearby side streets.
They were set in front of particular establishments, namely restaurants, which infringed upon the public right-of-way.
In a subsequent meeting, a city representative reviewing the state law, stated that the tables and chairs situated at the curb adjacent to vehicles, either parallel or angle parked, were illegally there without the existence of a permanent fixed barrier. This fact certainly added to the dimension of the problem.
Finally, close to eight months ago, City Planning Director Patrick Murphy reported to the council the consequences of chair and table locations, as well as that of the public right-of-way involving them.
At that meeting, the council voted to allow no fixed to the sidewalk bolted down tables and chairs, as well as no fastened permanent barriers.
That for all intent and purposes eliminated curbside table and chair placement. In addition, a five-foot sidewalk public right-of-way corridor was agreed upon. Mr. Murphy was requested to return to the council stating those facts among others with a final draft to be voted upon.
I now ask the following: Has Mr. Murphy finished the report. If completed, where is it? Has the report been shelved for various reasons? Are we being stonewalled by a council majority, which intends to skirt the issue?
Particular council members have indicated that the position of a rotated figurehead mayor is not very important. I totally disagree. The mayor chooses the items to be discussed at council meetings in conjunction with the city manager, or so we are led to believe.
The council has a sworn obligation to enforce “all” laws and not yield to individual business proprietors who may not cherish adhering to them.
This was the case concerning two restaurant owners who appeared immediately before the council expounding their exemption from curbside table and chair location and/or the required five foot public sidewalk right-of-way. If granted, what prevents others from requesting such?
Mayor Bond, judging by his comments at the forum, appeared to be quite cozy with them.
The City Council, as well as some business owners, must relish sitting on the edge of an absolute potential lawsuit. If a vehicle jumps the curb and maims a curbside table patron, it is a documented fact that the issue has been brought before the City Council on several occasions.
The Encinitas City Attorney, Glen Sabine, may be losing sleep in anticipation of such a lawsuit. Perhaps not, as required additional services add to his normal retainer fee.
In retrospect, is it possible that Mayor Bond, with his power of setting the meeting agenda, has placed the subject in limbo hoping that public interest for one reason or other will fade away.
Remember that it took five years for the illegally placed temporary yurts (located on downtown Encinitas property) issue to be resolved with a former mayor intimately associated with one that was generating income. Was rent compensation involved? Why weren’t our fire and building inspectors interested sooner in challenging yurts safety and illegality?
Using an analogy, the current matter was brought to the attention of the City Council years ago. The wheels of justice seemingly do move at a snail’s pace, especially if certain individuals have an influence in and command of the matter.
Are we once again observing a City Council majority more aligned with established business/real estate interests than the public welfare and for what reasons?
They must stop stonewalling and proceed with the implementation of Mr. Murphy’s report.
For the public’s safety, all curbside tables and chairs must go. That is the law. For the public’s benefit, a five-foot sidewalk corridor with enforcement must be established. That is the council’s decree.
Filed Under: Community Commentary