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Convoluted New Guidelines May Force SF Restaurants to Tear Down Parklets in Coming Weeks

Plus the former Sparky’s Diner building is officially being razed, and more food news

Tosca Cafe Patricia Chang
Lauren Saria is the editor of Eater SF and has been writing about food, drinks, and restaurants for more than a decade.

The majority of San Francisco’s parklets — up to 90 percent — may be torn down in the coming weeks, thanks to 60-plus pages of new rules and regulations approved after the vote that made the Shared Spaces program permanent in July. The estimate comes from Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and owner of two SF restaurants, who told the San Francisco Chronicle she was “totally blindsided” when she and others received packets with the extended new guidelines in September.

Since the Shared Spaces program first launched as a temporary emergency measure in spring 2020, the rules governing the outdoor dining structures have changed several times. The complexity, confusion, and cost already caused some restaurateurs including Danel de Betelu of Maison Danel, who spent about $20,000 to build a parklet in 2020, to tear down their parklets earlier this year. But when the Board of Supervisors made the program permanent this summer, others took it as a go-ahead to invest in construction. Now, business owners including Elmer Mejicanos of Red Window in North Beach say they’re being told they must alter their parklets or face hundreds of dollars of fines every day.

The extended regulations are meant to make outdoor dining safer and more accessible, but the rollout has been problematic with some business owners receiving conflicting notices about what needs to be done to bring their parklets up to code. “It’s the most uncoordinated, messed up, insulting display of government incompetence,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the Chronicle. [SF Chronicle]

The former Sparky’s Diner is officially being demolished

Last week the Planning Commission approved plans to demolish and redevelop the former home of Sparky’s Diner in the Castro, Hoodline reports. The 24-hour neighborhood favorite closed abruptly in 2016 and has sat vacant ever since, though the building next door is still home to Thorough Bread and Pastry. The developer says he’s working with the decade-old bakery to create a space the business can move back into after construction is complete. [Hoodline]

San Francisco brunch sensation Sweet Maple is expanding

The owner of Sweet Maple, the hit brunch spot known for its breakfast pizza and Millionaire’s bacon, has plans to open an impressive six new restaurants in 2022. Owner Hoyul Steven Choi tells the SF Chronicle he plans to bring Sweet Maple to Palo Alto, Walnut Creek, Cupertino, and Santa Monica, plus open a joint Kitchen Story and U:Dessert Story in Mountain View, and debut a new restaurant called Noodle Story in Parkside in SF. [SF Chronicle]

Cult-favorite Santa Clara Mongolian barbecue spot to close

Due to the impacts of the pandemic, El Camino Mongolian BBQ will close on December 15 after nearly 30 years in business, according to SFGate. Owner John Seo will also have to move back to South Korea with his wife Sunny after the restaurant closes, since they’ll no longer be able to stay legally in the United States. [SFGate]

Sacramento is getting its first Puerto Rican restaurant

A trio of Sacramento industry vets plan to open the city’s first expressly Puerto Rican restaurant in March at 6401 Riverside Blvd. in the Greenhaven neighborhood. Called Bodega, it’ll serve both “tacos and burgers with island touches” and “traditional dishes” including Jamaican patties and tripleta, the Sacramento Bee reports. [Sacramento Bee]