Kevin Faulconer
Kevin Faulconer speaking during his Jan. 11 State of the City, where he touted the Housing Navigation Center for Homeless Services. Photo: Times of San Diego

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Tuesday that gyms and places of worship would be able to use San Diego’s parks to conduct operations outside beginning Monday morning.

City Councilman Chris Cate proposed the idea in mid-July, and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a similar ordinance for county parks on Aug. 5.

Faulconer said lack of guidance from the state — even as the city and county expects to learn more Tuesday about possibly being removed from a state watchlist monitoring counties with high prevalence of COVID-19 — prompted the action.

“There is no direction currently from the state of California about what a county can and cannot do once it sheds the watchlist designation,” he said. On Friday, myself and Supervisor [Greg] Cox sent a letter to the governor asking for direction.

San Diego County was placed on that state watchlist by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office for testing higher than 100 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the county. The county has been below that number for six days now and is expected to be removed from the list Tuesday. What that means is unclear.

Per Faulconer’s executive order, San Diego’s more than 300 parks, 26 miles of shoreline and 57 recreation centers could be used for gyms, fitness classes and worship services starting Monday. Social distancing and face coverings are still encouraged, but Cate said this could help struggling businesses.

“Mayor Faulconer’s executive order will allow gyms, such as Hardcore Fitness, to bring their physical fitness classes to our city’s parks,” said Cate, chair of the City Council’s Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee. “Opportunities like this will allow our gyms and churches the ability to welcome back their customers and parishioners in a safe manner.”

The directive defers park permit fees for 60 days. Faulconer will bring an ordinance to the council once it is back in session in September that would make the waiving of fees permanent.

Faulconer made the announcement at Mira Mesa Community Park. Joining him were Cate, the city Park and Recreation Department Director, the Mira Mesa Chamber of Commerce, and the owner of Hardcore Fitness on Miramar Road.

It was Faulconer’s third executive order allowing for some businesses to operate outside. Previously, he had allowed for some retail and restaurants, and subsequently for gyms, barbershops, hair salons and massage businesses to expand to sidewalks and private parking lots.

“As San Diego continues to navigate the ever-changing rules regarding doing business during this pandemic, we must become more creative at every turn,” said Bari Vaz, president of the Mira Mesa Chamber of Commerce. “This executive order will allow residents to continue participating in fitness classes and sharing their faith, until such time as we may safely return to the indoor venues.”

Outdoor religious services and outdoor fitness classes and camps are all eligible under the executive order. Businesses must display their San Diego County safe reopening plan, hold insurance naming San Diego as an additional insured, and have a city business tax certificate prior to August 1, 2020. New permits will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for each park depending on the local demand and total space available.

–City News Service