The owner of a Little Italy Mexican restaurant and lounge, Entrada Taqueria, says the city-owned and privately run nonprofit Civic San Diego cost him $2 million in damages by closing his restaurant down over noise complaints from residential neighbors in the adjacent apartment.
On August 25, the owners of Entrada Taqueria filed a writ of mandate against Civic San Diego hoping to keep the restaurant open until a judge can review whether Civic San Diego was justified in revoking the company's permit.
According to the complaint, as first reported by the Reader in March of this year, neighbors living in the Finestra Lofts next door to the restaurant objected to loud music and noise coming from Taqueria Entrada in the months following the restaurant's opening in October 2015. Entrada's owners say they were operating in accordance to the Conditional Use Permit that allowed for live entertainment until 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends — the restaurant later agreed to amend the permit to close an hour earlier.
The original permit was issued in 2005 and was transferred to Entrada in 2015. The conditions of the permit remain through transfer if the use stays the same, which in this case it did.
From October 2015 to March, Entrada hosted dance parties and hired deejays to play the lounge after the restaurant shut down. During that time, in order to reduce noise emanating from the lounge, the owners paid for soundproofing.
In February, complaints from residents in Finestra increased. According to the attorneys for the restaurant, the uptick in complaints coincided with a decision by the residents to install a decorative piece of metal flashing adjoining the two buildings. Doing so, says the writ of mandate, caused vibration and amplified the noise from the lounge.
That's when, according to Entrada's attorneys, Civic San Diego entered the fray. On February 19, Civic San Diego issued the restaurant a Notice of Intent to Revoke the Conditional Use Permit. The agency sent the letter only seven days after the initial cease-and-desist letter. By May, the board issued its final decision to revoke the permit.
In the complaint, Entrada's attorneys say the Civic San Diego violated the restaurant's right to due process in several cases throughout the hearing process. The first violation occurred by providing only seven days' notice after the cease-and-desist order and by not allowing time for the owners to work toward a resolution with the residents.
The complaint also accuses Civic San Diego of failing to conduct a proper hearing and ignored repeated attempts to continue the hearing in order to accommodate Entrada's attorney's return from reserve duty.
Civic San Diego's bungled handling of the case cost the owners $2 million, says the complaint, and shows that Civic San Diego is unfit to handle permitting and planning functions in downtown for the City of San Diego.
One of Civic San Diego's own boardmembers, Murtaza Baxamusa, filed a lawsuit against the agency, challenging the City of San Diego's decision to grant planning authority to an outside nonprofit. As reported by the Reader, the city's decision to hand over such responsibilities is the first time a municipality has delegated land-use authority — which the California constitution declares to be an essential city service — to an outside agency.
Earlier this month, as reported by the San Diego Daily Transcript, a judge in that case ruled that the case should move forward.
In the case of Entrada, attorneys are asking that a judge issue a writ ordering that the May 2016 decision to revoke the permit be overturned.