Downtown Turlock is known for its wide selection of restaurants, many of which provide outdoor dining for customers allowing them to soak in the sights and sounds of the city while they enjoy a meal. The canopies, awnings and other outdoor seating arrangements of select downtown businesses will soon be in jeopardy, however, as the City of Turlock is taking a look at structures that are noncompliant with a new outdoor dining permit.
According to Deputy Director of Development Services and Planning Manager Debbie Whitmore, the Planning Department has been working to update the City’s outdoor dining permit, and in doing so collaborated with the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association in order to determine what design practices would be best for future downtown dining establishments. Whitmore, along with Senior Civil Engineer Anthony Orosco and Senior Planner Katie Quintero, met with the TDPOA Board of Directors Wednesday to determine whether or not several downtown design updates will be implemented, including outdoor dining structures which exceed four feet in height, a City standard for the installation of fences and regulations on outdoor lighting.
The issue of downtown outdoor dining structures that are taller than four feet arose when the City was unable to finalize Crust & Crumb Pizza’s certificate of occupancy due to their outdoor seating structure, which features four corner posts and a roof attached to the perimeter fence. According to Whitmore, such a structure requires its own building permit.
The Planning Department brought the issue to the TDPOA Board, which decided not to allow structures taller than four feet to be used for downtown outdoor dining.
Crust & Crumb and Memo’s Cocina & Tequila Bar currently have outdoor dining structures taller than the four feet that is allowed, while Board members pointed out that other businesses have tables and chairs which obstruct the downtown sidewalk.
“What was envisioned when we came up with the outdoor dining permit was seating with open fences, and people kind of near the sidewalk area enjoying the outdoors,” said Whitmore. “These other structures that are being built are more like buildings and enclosed, which is not the same objective as what most other businesses with outdoor dining are trying to achieve.”
According to Crust & Crumb owner George Kosmas, he was told by the City that his pizzeria would be able to keep its outdoor structure, and now that information has changed.
“They told me we could still have the structure, but that moving forward, new businesses would not be able to,” said Kosmas. “I’ll fight it in any way I can if they make me take it down. That’s $5,000 worth of work out there.”
Whitmore said that that Planning Department will conduct a survey of the downtown eateries in order to determine who is and is not in compliance with their outdoor dining permits, and then work with each respective business to help them become compliant through either the modification or removal of said noncompliant features. The City was not proactive in enforcing permits before, she said, but now will take a more preemptive approach.
“Typically, we don’t do sweeps unless we’ve received a complaint, but as a result you end up with inconsistencies occurring within the Downtown,” said Whitmore. “This wouldn’t be a change in the way that we’re approaching the ordinance, it’s more a question that we have some uses that are out there that have elements to them that are not compliant.”
At the request of the Board, Orosco also presented on Wednesday a preliminary design standard for the construction of fences for outdoor dining. The City did not have a standard set prior to this design plan, other than the requirement that the fence must be able to withstand 200 pounds of pressure, and developers would often either anchor their fences to the building or the ground. The TDPOA desired a universal plan so that future downtown developers would not need to spend excess money on an architect’s design.
The preliminary design was ultimately tabled by the Board to be discussed at a later date, however, as it featured an in-ground anchor system that they felt left developers with little options.