Inspectors hit SF restaurants with ‘puzzling’ parklet violations despite mayor’s promise to delay enforcement

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Despite assurances from the Mayor of London Breed that restaurants would not face immediate fines for parklets now considered out of code, city inspectors hit a block of North Beach on Wednesday with more notices of ‘breach – posts that threatened fines of up to $ 500 per day if their parklets are not in compliance within two weeks.

Breed released an online statement on Tuesday reaffirming his commitment to the city’s shared spaces program following a Chronicle article about restaurant owners struggling to comply with the city’s new rules on time. they had received. But the Wednesday morning notices sparked fear among homeowners who thought they had more time.

The contrast illustrates the confusion over the state of shared spaces, as the program shifts from a temporary emergency effort to a permanent one: as city authorities attempt to ensure parks comply with safety guidelines and accessibility, communication about regulations and their enforcement has not been consistent or clear to small business owners.

Shared spaces manager Robin Abad-Ocubillo said the notices were part of the latest batch based on inspections from a few weeks ago, as part of an effort to change parklets with safety concerns or “extreme” accessibility.

“The mayor’s article was very clear that we are still working with these extreme cases to put them in safer conditions,” he said by text message.

These North Beach businesses will not be fined if they are “responsive and communicative with city departments,” he said, noting that some departments are required to put fines in writing even if they don’t provide for not to perceive them. “Our approach is to educate and collaborate, not to punish.”

However, the messages on notices to restaurateurs did not mention this pause on fines and enforcement. Kamal Kandel, owner of Yarsa Nepalese Cuisine, received a notice on Wednesday saying he has 14 days to remove the roof of his restaurant’s parklet and provide 3ft emergency access space in the parklet, among other things. changes. While he also received the 60-page guidance package with more explanation, the advisory itself did not explain why the specific changes were needed. He has until next summer to make further adjustments, including reducing the structure by 3 feet on each side.

“This is very moving news. We’re going through a rough patch right now and the outside seating is helping a lot, ”he said, adding that he borrowed money from staff to build the parklet and never received any loans. during the pandemic. Because the changes are so big, he said he thinks he needs to tear down the parklet and start over, which he doesn’t have the funds to do at the moment.

North Beach Portofino restaurant received a notice on Wednesday that it needed to remove its park roof, among other things.

Janelle Bitker / The Chronicle

Beside, Portofino received a similar notice. Co-owner Evelyn Balistreri said she couldn’t find a contractor to change her parklet within two weeks and she didn’t understand the reasoning behind the requests. His review also did not explain safety considerations, such as how the roof of his parklet would prevent a firefighter from leaning a ladder against the building.

“Why do we have to take it off?” Why? I don’t understand, ”she said. “It’s very confusing.”

San Francisco business owners received updated guidelines for their parklets this fall, with many new requirements focused on access for people with disabilities or emergency responders, as well as improving visibility . They have until next summer to bring their parklets up to standard, but the 14-day warnings for “extreme” cases have been confusing and frightening for homeowners.

While the mayor’s office told The Chronicle earlier this week that it would not actually assess any fines, that message has not reached everyone who receives notices of violation. And the fact that some businesses have received new threats of fines has raised fears for others in the neighborhood that they will soon receive something similar.

“If we have until (next summer) why are people getting notices that they will be fined in two weeks?” Said Teague Kearnan, owner of Tupelo in North Beach. He expected to receive a notice Wednesday like the others on his block, but did not. “No one knows who to listen to, and it’s really frustrating for small business owners. “

More than 1,000 businesses have shared space permits in San Francisco, and many restaurants credit their new parklets with credit for saving their businesses during the pandemic.

Structures, however, are not universally popular. Some residents told The Chronicle that the noise created by alfresco dining and music impacted apartments above restaurants, while others complained about the lack of parking hurting neighboring businesses without parklets. . Some also told The Chronicle that they believe some parklets are poorly constructed and look like horrors in certain neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, political think tank SPUR argued in a recent report for even more, but truly public, parklets that could contain children’s play areas or benches that people could sit on without buying something. In a restaurant.

Ida Zoubi, owner of Caffe Trieste in North Beach, said she agrees parklets need to be safe and up to code. But she argued restaurants should be given more time, ideally until March 2023, when the license fee exemption expires.

The city’s catering group, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, is also pushing for an extension to March 2023 to get business owners through the busy holiday season and secure funding for reconstruction.

“This pressure – 14 days for some violations – it’s really scary,” Zoubi said. “The city says it wants to help?” More time would help.

Janelle Bitker is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @janellebitker


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