Restaurants in the Gaslamp on Fifth Avenue set up dining in the street.
Restaurants in the Gaslamp on Fifth Avenue set up dining in the street. Photo by Chris Stone

The San Diego City Council Tuesday approved an update to the city code regulating the development and use of properties, including removing the minimum parking limit downtown and allowing businesses to permanently use their private parking lots for outdoor dining.

Among the 44 items in the Land Development Code Update, applicants can also now turn ground-floor commercial spaces into residential uses more quickly.

Additionally, recreational amenities in the public right-of-way will no longer need a development permit, and adult day care facility regulations will now be defined in the city’s Municipal Code.

“Each component of this update is a step toward fulfilling the city’s goals of creating more dynamic neighborhoods that are more inclusive and sustainable,” Mayor Todd Gloria said.

“These updates are also about adapting to the challenges we face during this time,” he said. “We are enduring a housing crisis and it’s important we make it easier to build more homes for San Diegans. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s also critical that we support local businesses and help them get through this.”

The city makes updates to the Land Development Code yearly, however several of the updates Tuesday came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Land Development Code updates are crucial to keeping the city progressing in a positive direction, adapting to new trends such as an aging population, and anticipating for what is expected to come,” said Planning Department Director Mike Hansen. “These updates remove unnecessary barriers to ensure our city’s needs, like making it easier to create housing, are met.”

Highlights from the update include:

— eliminating minimum parking limits in the Gaslamp Quarter and instead establishing a maximum parking limit. Further, it creates design standards for above-grade parking levels throughout Downtown to allow those structures to be converted to residential, office and other uses in the future if parking demands change.

— requiring moving storage companies to have a temporary use permit if storage containers are placed within the public right-of-way. Storage containers in the public right-of-way were previously not allowed at all.

— converting ground-floor commercial space to temporary housing more quickly. Previously, an applicant wanting to convert ground-floor commercial space to temporary residential uses was required to provide evidence the commercial space had been vacant for six months. The update eliminates that requirement and allows for space to be more quickly turned into housing units.

— adding a recreational amenity with a public right-of-way permit. A recreational amenity, which is any improvement that provides recreational value to residents or visitors and that enhances pedestrian or bicycle travel experience, will be defined and will no longer require a development permit within the public right-of-way, which is intended to make it easier to add amenities such as linear parks and bike racks.

— allowing for anyone issued a construction permit between March 2020 and March 2022 to defer their development impact fees for three years instead of two years. DIFs are one-time fees to help pay for public facilities.

— allowing outdoor dining on private property. This will allow outdoor dining on parking lots into the future, after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, businesses in the downtown area, including the Gaslamp Quarter, will be allowed to offer outdoor dining on their property, with some restrictions, without obtaining a discretionary permit.

— providing regulations for adult daycare facilities, which were not a defined use in the city’s code. The update provides regulations for those facilities, similar to regulations in place for childcare centers.

— City News Service