Kate Sessions Park, Pacific Beach. Permit fees for gyms, fitness classes, restaurants, churches now waived.
City parks will temporarily make room for certain brick and mortar businesses to carry on outdoors - against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order.
The San Diego City Council passed an emergency ordinance last week to aid the local economic recovery by waiving permit fees for gyms, fitness classes, restaurants and others displaced by the pandemic, including places of worship, to operate on public parkland.
Since Nov. 10, the city has been in the state's purple tier, which prohibits nonessential businesses from being open indoors. Outdoor gyms, however, are considered part of the essential workforce, helping maintain health, as long as there is physical distancing. Churches can also operate outdoors with modifications.
Restaurants, however, are currently barred from even outdoor operations. Last week the city of Encinitas stopped issuing temporary permits for outdoor dining until the state order is lifted.
Several restrictions, including a ban on outdoor dining, take effect when a region's intensive care unit capacity falls below 15 percent. Southern California now has zero percent ICU capacity.
The new ordinance expands on one proposed last July by councilmember Chris Cate, adding more types of businesses and not simply postponing fees but dropping them altogether.
San Diego has more than 450 parks.
Karen Dennison, assistant director of the city's parks and recreation department, said the ordinance is based on Mayor Faulconer's executive orders 10, 11 and 12, the latest issued on Dec. 30, and will carry out their terms.
"What is different from executive order 10 is that we have included certain businesses" to expand the opportunity for other San Diego entities to take advantage of the program, she said.
Only businesses with an existing storefront are eligible. Permits will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Social distancing and other local, state and federal Covid-19 guidelines will apply.
Fees will be waived until indoor operations can resume, or until Dec 31, 2021, whichever comes first. They are for grounds use, $58 - $173 per day; adult outdoor fitness, $44 per quarter; special events application fees, $150 per event; and special events late fees, $10 per day (max. $600).
There have been 105 permits issued to use public parkland since the initial ordinance last year. A large number were for adult fitness in community parks.
While the city has more than 450 parks, they're not spread equally. Lower-income communities such as Logan Heights and National City are considered "park poor."
Councilmember Vivian Moreno, whose district includes Logan Heights, said many communities in District 8 are densely populated with families who live in apartments and condos, and don't have a lot of green space. "The city parks serve as their backyard."
Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera questioned how businesses in park-poor areas would fare, and asked that the city submit information to the environment committee on the businesses that end up using the park permit.
"We want to make sure the folks there can take advantage of this program as much as any other business."