The Coast News Group
Despite retailers' continued frustrations over a lack of parking, members of the Encinitas City Council suggest outdoor dining could be a permanent fixture downtown. File photo
Despite retailers' continued frustrations over a lack of parking, members of the Encinitas City Council suggest outdoor dining could be a permanent fixture downtown. File photo
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Despite frustrated retailers, Encinitas officials support outdoor dining

ENCINITAS — During the coronavirus pandemic in June 2020, the City of Encinitas issued 20 temporary encroachment permits allowing local businesses to utilize public rights-of-way, including sidewalks and parking spaces, for outdoor dining.

Last April, the council approved an extension on the encroachments until January 2024.

But three years later and with COVID-19 under control, non-restaurant business owners and residents continue to voice concerns over the loss of valuable downtown parking spots and potential safety issues associated with outdoor seating.

“The City of Encinitas has created an unfair disadvantage to non-restaurant businesses,” Encinitas resident Patrick Crilly told The Coast News. “There are customers that have lost 50% of their parking downtown, and there’s nothing being done about it.”

Several businesses in Encinitas have also come forward to speak about how the lack of parking spaces for their customers has affected their sales over the past couple of years.

“Three years after COVID, we’re still seeing neighbors hit hard,” said Vicki Bass, owner of Encinitas Coin & Jewelry. “Last year was one of our worst financially. Our largest preventative to recouping our business has been the lack of parking for our customers.”

Raul Villamar, an owner of Encinitas Barbers, also expressed concerns over the ongoing lack of parking for downtown businesses at a March council meeting.

“We’re just hurting downtown, but nobody has come down to help us,” Villamar said.

While Bass and Villamar previously supported outdoor dining at the height of the pandemic, they both feel the city has largely ignored their concerns about the impact of ongoing relief measures.

According to Crilly, there is also an incredible amount of safety hazards, along with ADA violations, in front of some restaurants.

“The worst, in my opinion, is the infringements on the ADA,” Crilly said. “You’re supposed to keep a minimum of a five-foot space available to use on the sidewalk. But when you put tables on both sides of the curb, one against the curb and one against the building structure, the space gets extremely narrow to walk along.”

Many residents have attended Encinitas City Council meetings over the past couple of months to share these concerns and point out the council’s seeming lack of initiative to change emergency protocols.

But council members want to keep the current use of the public rights-of-way for longer, possibly even making them a permanent fixture downtown.

“I am supportive of outdoor dining encroachments continuing as a permanent fixture in Encinitas,” Councilmember Kellie Hinze said. “Many of the encroachments currently operating are still temporary from the city’s COVID-19 response to provide a lifeline to restaurants who couldn’t serve indoors. However, they are clearly popular and useful for the foreseeable future. While we do receive vocal criticism about certain aspects, I believe many of the frustrations can be resolved with the long-term policy. I think most agree the temporary orange barricades should be replaced with more visually appealing barricades.”

Hinze mentioned that the council might be working on a long-term policy, including charging a fee to operate in public spaces.

“Our long-term policy should include a fee to operate, as parking is in the public right of way,” Hinze said. “Any fees collected from this use should be used to improve mobility downtown. For example, an electric shuttle service would be a great addition to our vibrant downtown.”

2 comments

steve333 June 7, 2023 at 2:25 pm

Will Kellie Hinze give money out of her own pocket to help these businesses?
How did this fool ever get elected? Then again, how did Kranz and Lyndes?
The Council feels that other businesses should go out of business because outdoor dining is nice?
Vote these people out of office, they clearly aren’t competent.

Ronski June 7, 2023 at 2:17 pm

Yes! Love the outdoor dining. Encinitas needs to make this permanent.

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