Customers with appointments can enter the Development Services Center at the City Operations Building using the third-floor bridge connected to the Evan V. Jones Parkade Terrace Level.

78°

San Diego
Weather

Accessibility Tools

  • Check if your spelling is correct, or try removing filters.
  • Remove quotes around phrases to match each word individually: "blue drop" will match less than blue drop.
  • You can require or exclude terms using + and -: big +blue drop will require a match on blue while big blue -drop will exclude results that contain drop.

Temporary Outdoor Business Operation Permit

The Temporary Outdoor Business Operation Permit supports the recovery of businesses devastated by economic impacts from COVID-19 by helping businesses with limited footprints operate in outdoor settings adjacent to their businesses and get closer to the sunshine. The goal is to help dining and retail outlets with space constraints expand operations outdoors to implement safety, health and distancing protocols cost-effectively.

This permit allows for the temporary use of a street, sidewalk or parking lane for business.

Street

Traffic barricades indicating a closed street in downtown San Diego

Sidewalk

A dining table and chairs on the sidewalk outside a restaurant

Parking Lane

Temporary outdoor dining on a parking lane in downtown San Diego

Note: Most operations conducted within private properties, including privately-owned parking lots, are NOT required to obtain this permit.

  • Permit funding is currently exhausted. Standard PDF icon inspection and PDF icon review rates now apply.
  • Other City permits may be required if tents or structures are constructed or placed to support operations.
  • The Temporary Outdoor Business Operations permits will expire on July 13, 2022. 

Who Can Apply?

The following businesses with an active business tax certificate and all other applicable licenses or permits may apply:

  • Eating and drinking establishments
  • Retail and wholesale businesses
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Instructional studios
  • Personal services, including hair and nail salons
  • Massage establishments
  • Religious assembly

Plan Your Project

PDF icon Emergency Ordinance #O-21218 temporarily allows for expanding outdoor dining and retail onto the public right-of-way, private parking lots or public spaces. Please note, most operations conducted within private properties - including privately-owned parking lots- are not required to obtain this permit. Other City permits may be needed if tents or structures are constructed or placed to support operations.

Issuance of the temporary permit is subject to new guidelines or mandates for public gatherings and social distancing following the County of San Diego public health orders and instructions from the California Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As with all guidance related to COVID-19 response, permit requirements will be regularly evaluated or updated to respond to any changes to ensure public health and safety.

Interactive Temporary Outdoor Restaurant Locations Map

Screen shot of interactive temporary outdoor restaurant locations map

The Temporary Outdoor Restaurant Locations Map shows:

  • If your location is within a Business Improvement District;
  • Temporary Outdoor Business Permit locations;
  • Street closures; and 
  • Additional resources to research your application.

Visit the map frequently to view the latest updates.

Inspections

All permitted locations may be inspected.

Permitted Hours and Days of Operation

Outdoor operations may occur during normal business hours, per the San Diego Municipal Code and other state and local requirements. 

Exclusions

All applications will be considered. However, a permit may not be granted in areas with current or planned work in the public right-of-way, transit services, or does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.  Questions? Ask an ADA expert. 

Permit Length

The interim urgency ordinance enacts temporary changes to the San Diego Municipal Code that allow applicants to operate temporarily on the public rights-of-way until social distancing and federal, state and local mandates expire or are waived.

Examples of Compliant Outdoor Expansion

View Photo Gallery of Compliant Outdoor Expansion

Apply for a Permit

Step 2

Download and complete two forms below:

For Custom Decks Only - Upload Original and Amended Drawings

  1. Amended permit drawings must be signed and stamped by a responsible design professional, either registered Civil or Structural Engineer licensed in the State of California.
  2. Design professionals must include the following declarations on drawings:

"I hereby acknowledge that I am the responsible design professional for this project and that I am accountable for compliance with the governing policies, regulations and building code requirements applicable to this installation."

"With this submittal, I confirm that the plans and documents submitted for approval comply with the governing policies, regulations, and building code requirements that are applicable to the proposed installation. I understand that, if the installation deviates from such requirements, the installation may be required to be made code compliant or be removed at no expense to this jurisdiction (City)."

Step 3

Apply for the permit

You will be required to upload the completed documents from Step 2.

Please continue if you are applying for the temporary use of a street, sidewalk or parking lane.

You do NOT need to apply for a permit to conduct business outdoors on private property, including privately-owned parking lots.


Does your proposal include the use of a platform?

NOTE: Platforms are NOT required to conduct business outdoors.


Do you have a Right-of-Way permit for the use of a platform?

If No, you will be directed to the Right-of-Way permit page. A Right-of-Way permit must be obtained before applying for a Temporary Outdoor Business Operation Permit. A Right-of-Way permit costs on average about $2,000. A Temporary Outdoor Business Operation Permit without a platform is free.


Modify a Permit

Add a deck or platform

1. Request to Modify Your Permit

  • Simple Deck/Platform: Use PDF icon City Engineer pre-approved specifications with no additional architectural or engineering services to apply for a new Temporary Outdoor Business Operations Permit or amend an existing one.   
  • Custom Deck/Platform: Submitted permit drawings must be signed and stamped by a responsible design professional such as a registered Civil or Structural Engineer licensed in the State of California.

Submit a Request to Modify Your Permit

2. Get an Inspection

Once your permit modification is approved, you will receive an email with instructions on scheduling a field inspection. Before using the approved deck, platform, heater, tent or awning, you must schedule an inspection. Updates to existing permits require inspections at least 24-hours before being implemented.  

Add heaters, tents or awnings

For tents or temporary structures covering more than 400 square feet, email a completed PDF icon Fire-Rescue Department special event permit application, along with dimensioned floor and/or site plans and any other supporting documentation, to sdfdevents@sandiego.gov. Learn about the PDF icon use of tents and temporary structures for outdoor dining, beverage service and events.

The Fire-Rescue Department will waive permit applications and late fees.

How to Apply for a Temporary Outdoor Business Operations Grant

To assist small businesses with adapting operations amid COVID-19, the City of San Diego is offering grants of up to $3,000 to businesses constructing outdoor decks and platforms compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Compliant Outdoor Expansion

Learn More and Apply for a Temporary Outdoor Business Operation Grant

Additional Resources

Updates

Presentations

Guidelines: Americans With Disabilities Act 

Guidelines: Enclosures

    Guidelines for Outdoor Businesses:

    Guidelines: Special Events

    • PDF icon Special Event Planning Guide: The guide provides direction on special event management in the City of San Diego. This is an indispensable reference guide to develop your event plans and complete your permit application.

    Operations Requiring a Fire-Rescue Department Permit

    Other Resources

    • Resource Map: This map shows if your location is within a Business Improvement District, Temporary Outdoor Business Permit and street closure locations, and more resources to research your application. Visit the map frequently to view the latest updates. 

    FAQ

    Who is eligible?

    All eating and drinking establishments, including restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets, coffee shops, bars, taverns, brewpubs, breweries, microbreweries, distillery pubs, wineries, tasting rooms and other similar places of public accommodations offering food, beverages or alcoholic beverages for on‐premises consumption are eligible.

    All retail establishments, including the sale of food, beverages, groceries, building supplies, equipment, consumer goods, furniture, appliances, pet supplies, sundries, apparel and convenience sales, are eligible.

    Gyms and fitness centers, instructional studios, personal services, including hair and nail salons, massage establishments, and religious assembly are also eligible. 

    All existing rules and regulations still apply to food trucks and other mobile food establishments. While this program doesn't apply to these, they can continue operating and serving to‐go food while following recommended social distancing, sanitary and hygiene practices.

    How long does this program last?

    The Temporary Outdoor Business Operations permits will expire on July 13, 2022. Special Event Permits for complete street closures expire on December 31 of the year it was issued and must be renewed annually.

    What are the allowed hours of operation for the temporary outdoor expansion?

    Sunday through Thursday, outdoor business operations are required to close by 10 p.m. Friday, and Saturday outdoor business operations are required to close by 11 p.m. These hours apply to the new, temporary outdoor business expansions only. Existing permanent patios may have different hours that were allowed by separate permits.

    Can I erect or install furniture, tents, railings, etc.?

    • Tables, Benches, Chairs: The outdoor area may include temporary tables, benches, chairs, and shade devices such as umbrellas supported directly on the ground.
    • Railings: Temporary railings and other means of containment and separation between patrons and the public are allowed.
    • Canopies are not allowed. 
    • Tents (with or without sidewalls) that cover areas less than 401 square feet are not allowed. A Single-Event Permit from the Fire Department may be obtained for tents that cover areas that are 401 square feet or larger. PDF icon Learn more or email sdfdevents@sandiego.gov for more information. 
    • ADA Requirements for Parking Lot/Lane Use: Outdoor expansion into a private parking lot or the street parking lane requires installing a visible and tactile edge pursuant to Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. This edge shall consist of temporary posts, wheel stops, barricades, or their equivalents. Retro reflectors shall be installed along the edge.
    • Simple Deck/Platform: Business owners can use a PDF icon City Engineer pre-approved specifications with no additional engineering services to apply for a new Temporary Outdoor Business Operations Permit or amend an existing one.
    • Custom Decks/Platforms: Submitted permit drawings must be signed and stamped by a responsible design professional such as a registered Civil or Structural Engineer licensed in the State of California.

    Can these patios be used for standing areas, games, movies, broadcast sports, etc.?

    No, outdoor patios established or expanded under this program can only be used for sit‐down dining, customer pick‐up, carry‐out service or retail sales.

    They cannot be used for "standing areas," as these would promote congregating. They cannot be used for yard games or other similar activities that would encourage people to congregate or share equipment. Businesses cannot offer entertainment on their temporary outdoor patios, including but not limited to live entertainment, outdoor games, amplified sound or entertainment such as music over speakers, movies or broadcast sports, or loudspeaker call systems.

    These restrictions apply to the new, temporary outdoor business expansions only. Existing permanent patios may have different allowances that were a part of separate permit approvals.

    Can alcohol be served in these new outdoor areas?

    The California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control is allowing additional sale areas through a Temporary Catering Authorization. Please visit PDF icon abc.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/forms/ABC218CV19.pdf.

    What about temporary signs?

    1. Temporary banners and temporary A-frame signs are allowed.
    2. Temporary banners may be attached to permitted structures, guard rails, perimeter protective barriers and temporary fences.
    3. Temporary A-frame signs may be placed within the public right of way, provided the sign's placement complies with all applicable accessibility requirements allowing for a clear pedestrian path of 4 feet along the sidewalk.
    4. The dimensions of the base of a temporary A-frame sign shall not exceed two feet by three feet, and its height shall not exceed four feet.
    5. A permit is not be required for temporary banners or temporary A-frame signs.

    Can a business improvement district (BID) or shopping center be the applicant, or would each business need to apply separately?

    BIDs, commercial centers, owners, and businesses can apply jointly for permits. Businesses are encouraged to work with property owners and neighboring businesses to ensure multiple establishments are not applying for the same physical space. Likewise, establishments must coordinate when requesting complete street closures. However, businesses may not share outdoor space and must maintain control of all operations and food and beverage service within their outdoor premises.

    How will enforcement be handled?

    Residents can call 619-236-5500 or visit sandiego.gov/ced to report concerns about how an expanded patio space is operating. The City's Code Enforcement Division will investigate complaints received from the public about the location or operation of an outdoor area. If an inspector finds a violation of these guidelines or any other applicable provision of San Diego municipal codes, the eligible business and property owner will be responsible for resolving the issue and paying any enforcement‐related fines or penalties.

    Is the risk of transmission lower for outdoor dining compared to indoor dining?

    Outbreak trends suggest risk outdoors may be lower. However, this does not diminish the need for
    physical distancing and continued use of face coverings. People from different households are discouraged from dining together to reduce the risk of transmission. Outdoor seating and congregating should follow the same guidelines as indoor dining, to the extent possible, including tables adequately spaced.

    What if public health guidelines for COVID‐19 change? Can this program be revoked?

    Requirements may evolve to reflect new public health guidelines. The City can revoke this temporary program and associated approvals at any time, mainly if there is an increase in COVID‐19 cases tied to any of these locations. These requirements will remain in effect until July 13, 2022, unless repealed.

    What do I need to provide to apply for a permit?

    Permits for expansion onto a sidewalk or parking lane of the street are obtained online at sandiego.gov/DSD. All permits will require the following documents that will be made available on the program website.

    1. Temporary Outdoor Business Expansion Agreement
    2. Temporary Outdoor Business Expansion Traffic Plan/Permit form including exhibit drawing.

    A permit is not required for expansion onto a private parking lot. However, there are still disabled access and other requirements that need to be considered by businesses.

    If your business is located within a Business Improvement District, then please contact your Business Improvement District for their requirements. You can find contact information for Business improvement Districts here: sandiego.gov/economic-development/resources/bidorgs.

    This is a helpful planning guide if you are planning to close a complete street: PDF icon sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/specialevents/pdf/planningguide.pdf.

    This is the application for a Special Event Permit to close a complete street: PDF icon sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/specialevents/pdf/application.pdf.

    What is a Temporary Outdoor Expansion Encroachment Agreement?

    This agreement allows for the business expansion or encroachment into the public right-of-way, including the sidewalk and/or street parking lane. The agreement makes the applicant responsible for maintenance and for removal. The agreement requires liability insurance.

    What will the permit cost?

    Standard PDF icon inspection and PDF icon review rates apply, with the average cost per application being $520.

    What will be reviewed for these permits?

    City staff will review permits for:

    • Expansion onto a sidewalk or street parking lane for a completely filled-out General Application.
    • A completely filled-out Temporary Outdoor Business Expansion Agreement.
    • A four-foot clear path for pedestrians is provided through the expansion area.
    • That a proper barrier is provided for expansions into the street parking lane.

    What does the permit process entail?

    First, applicants must apply for the permit to expand onto a sidewalk or street parking lane. Second, Development Services staff will review the application and other submitted items. Third, the permit will be issued. Fourth, a City inspection will occur. Last, the business will be able to utilize the new temporary outdoor expansion area.

    How will you handle it if a City project or private development project has already pulled a right-of-way permit for a particular area or location?

    There may be planned construction, including the installation of 5G networking equipment and other utilities, that may impact a business's ability to expand outdoors. The Development Services Department may be reviewing work that may already be moving through city processes. That would take priority over a newly received request for temporary outdoor business expansion. However, both may be accommodated, depending on the proposal and timing of the closures.

    What are the general requirements to expand onto a private parking lot?

    • Businesses may expand onto parking lots for business purposes. This allows for the placement of items for sale, tables and chairs, and equipment in the parking lot. Items placed in the parking lot shall not be placed in any manner that blocks or hinders access to a stormwater drainage structure or building access required by the California Fire Code.
    • Platforms and decks require a Building Permit and shall not impede building access required by the California Fire Code.
    • Outdoor expansion into a private parking lot requires installing a visible and tactile edge, pursuant to Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. This edge shall consist of temporary posts, wheel stops, barricades, or their equivalents. Retro reflectors shall be installed along the edge.
    • Canopies or umbrellas may be used in conjunction with an outdoor business expansion but shall not be used as a permanent roof or shelter.
    • An unobstructed path of ingress and egress travel with a minimum four-foot width that leads occupants directly from exit doors to the public right-of-way shall be required to be maintained for the existing building and be provided for the new temporary outdoor business expansion.
    • A tent that exceeds 400 square feet or use of a fence that limits entrances and exits requires a PDF icon Single Event Permit from the Fire-Rescue Department. Please email sdfdevents@sandiego.gov for questions.
    • Items placed in the parking lot shall not be placed in any manner that blocks or hinders access to a stormwater drainage structure.
    • The parking lot shall be kept free of debris and grime to prevent pollutants/contaminants from entering the adjacent storm drain system.
    • Any non-stormwater discharges from the parking lot shall be controlled in accordance with PDF icon Chapter 4, Article 3, Division 3 of the San Diego Municipal Code

    I don't have any outdoor space to use. Can I use a neighbor's parking lot or an open area?

    Yes, with approval from the adjacent business and/or property owner.

    Can I share an outdoor space with another restaurant/bar?

    No. This is not allowed because it will make performing contact tracing very difficult. Businesses must maintain control of all operations and food and beverage service within their outdoor premises.

    Do I need to provide additional parking for the new expanded outdoor business area?

    No. Parking requirements for existing buildings are being waived. Parking for the disabled should not be removed or access to the spots blocked. If you remove accessible parking spaces, then you must replace those spaces elsewhere.

    What are the general requirements to expand onto the sidewalk?

    • Businesses may expand onto sidewalks for business purposes. This allows for the placement of items for sale, tables and chairs, and equipment on the sidewalk.
    • Canopies or umbrellas may be used in conjunction with an outdoor business expansion but shall not be used as a permanent roof or shelter over the sidewalk cafe area.
    • A clear path, free of all obstructions to the flow of pedestrian traffic, shall be provided in the public right-of-way and shall always be maintained. The path must remain free of all obstructions to the flow of pedestrian traffic, having a minimum clear width of 4 feet shall be provided and maintained to the entrance of a building or business to allow for Fire-Rescue Department access. Obstacles include traffic signals or signs, light standards, parking meters, phone booths, bus stops, trash receptacles, benches, trees, gates that open outward beyond the perimeter of the temporary business expansion, and similar objects.
    • The clear path shall be a paved sidewalk that is at least four feet wide.
    • The clear path may meander from side to side to avoid obstructions but shall maintain a continuous, common surface at least 3-feet in width that provides a direct path of travel past the sidewalk cafe.
    • Recesses in the building facade shall not be used to satisfy the clear path requirement.
    • An unobstructed path of ingress and egress travel with a minimum four-foot width that leads occupants directly from exit doors to the public right-of-way shall be required to be maintained for the existing building.
    • Items placed on the sidewalk shall not be placed in any manner that blocks or hinders access to a stormwater drainage structure.
    • The sidewalk shall be kept free of debris and grime to prevent pollutants/contaminants from entering the adjacent storm drain system.
    • Any non-stormwater discharges from the sidewalk shall be controlled in accordance with PDF icon Chapter 4, Article 3, Division 3 of the San Diego Municipal Code.

    What disabled access issues should I keep in mind?

    • The City's Office of ADA Compliance and Accessibility has several helpful links that can be found here: sandiego.gov/adacompliance/links
    • The Development Services Department has published an PDF icon Accessibility Guide for Small Businesses
    • A four-foot clear path for accessibility purposes is required to be provided through any business expansion onto the sidewalk or street parking lane. 
    • Parking for the disabled should not be removed or access to the spots blocked. If you cannot avoid the use of accessible parking spaces, you are required to replace those spaces elsewhere. 
    • The temporary business expansion shall be designed and operated so that unsafe conditions are not created for the physically disabled, blind, or partially sighted.
    • The surface of accessible portions of the temporary business expansion shall be level and have a running slope and a cross slope that does not exceed 2% (1-unit vertical in 50 units horizontal).
    • The temporary business expansion shall not be located in a sunken area unless an accessible ramp is provided per the California Building Code or the Americans with Disabilities Act, whichever provides greater accessibility.
    • If a temporary business expansion has multiple outdoor areas, then accessible access and accommodations only need to be provided to one of the areas as long as all areas are equivalent. 
    • At least one wheelchair seating space shall be provided for every 20 seats or portion thereof.
    • When multiple accessible seating spaces are provided, they shall be reasonably distributed and integrated within the sidewalk cafe area.
    • Accessible wheelchair spaces shall have a minimum unobstructed maneuverability dimension of four feet. 
    • Access to designated wheelchair spaces shall be provided via an accessible path with not less than a four-foot unobstructed width.
    • All areas of newly designed facilities and altered portions of facilities shall comply with accessibility requirements, including all services provided outside of the building, on sidewalks and parking lots, in patios, etc.
    • At least one accessible route shall be provided within the site from accessible parking spaces and accessible passenger drop-off and loading zones, public streets and sidewalks, and public transportation stops to the accessible building or facility entrance they serve. This means that persons with mobility impairments shall be able to access the outdoor facilities by an accessible route from the location they arrive on the site, from the public right-of-way and accessible parking spaces.
    • At least one accessible route shall connect accessible buildings, accessible facilities, accessible elements, and accessible spaces that are on the same site. This means that an accessible route shall be provided from the outdoor facility to the building entrance and the toilet facilities.
    • Floor and ground surfaces shall be stable, firm and slip-resistant.
    • Carpet or carpet tile shall be securely attached and shall have a firm cushion, pad, or backing or no cushion or pad. Carpet or carpet tile shall have a level loop, textured loop, level cut pile, level cut/uncut pile texture. The pile height shall be ½ inch (12.7 mm) maximum. Exposed edges of carpet shall be fastened to floor surfaces and shall have trim on the entire length of the exposed edge. This means that the edges of the carpet turf shall be adequately secured to prevent it from getting tangled in the wheels of wheelchairs or scooters, creating an obstruction for such wheels to maneuver. 
    • Where dining and drinking surfaces are provided for the consumption of food or drink, at least 5% of the seating spaces and standing spaces shall comply with the accessibility standards.

    Can I use a new or existing Pedestrian Plaza as a Temporary Outdoor Business Operation during the effective period for the program? 

    A PDF icon Pedestrian Plaza is the temporary use of space in the dedicated public right-of-way for public use such as seating or bicycle racks. A Pedestrian Plaza could be used and is PDF icon permitted through placemaking, however, the Pedestrian Plaza and any amenities would need to be open to the general public. Pedestrian Plazas complying with requirements for Temporary Outdoor Business Operations may be operated until July 13, 2022, and shall revert to required public use if it remains operation after the expiration date of the program.

    What are the general requirements to expand into the street parking lane?  

    • Businesses may expand onto the street parking lane for business purposes. This allows for the placement of items for sale, tables and chairs, and equipment in the street parking lane. The use of the street parking lane is sometimes called a parklet or pedestrian plaza.
    • Expansion is only allowed into existing parking spaces. Expansion into red-painted curb areas of the street is prohibited. Accessible or blue-painted curb spaces should not be used unless those spaces are replaced elsewhere.
    • The business expansion shall not expand within two feet of the vehicle travel lane.
    • Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act Guidelines, the installation of a visible and tactile edge is required. This edge shall consist of temporary posts, wheel stops, barricades, or their equivalents. Retro reflectors shall be installed along the edge.
    • Canopies or umbrellas may be used in conjunction with an outdoor business expansion but shall not be used as a permanent roof or shelter.