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The Downtown Los Angeles Livability Wars: Outdoor Seating

In recent months, Downtown Los Angeles, and especially Spring Street, have become ground zero for the battle over creating a Livable city. As the urban core densifies and diversifies, the older way of doing things keeps butting up against a evolving, truly urban, community. This is reflected in dustups over bike lanes, but also in easier-to-fix issues, such as the recent dustups over outdoor seating.

The issue: In order to maximize revenue business in Downtown Los Angeles were putting chairs and tables on the sidewalks, often times without a permit.
The response: Recently, the city began ticketing these businesses and handing out "cease and desist" notices promising more, and steeper, fines. Outdoor seating permits cost thousands of dollars and can take eight to nine months, roughly the same time it takes a human baby to come to term, for the permit to be approved or disapproved.

Fortunately, the stretch of Downtown Los Angeles with the most offenders is represented in the City Council by Jose Huizar, who's becoming something of a regular on Streetsblog.

"It shouldn't cost thousands of dollars and take nine months to get a permit," Huizar says. "We want to support and encourage Downtown business, not hinder it."

Huizar pushed city officials to provide amnesty for businesses while they can apply for the correct permits. The city is also working on a pilot program to expedite and reduce the cost of permits. The pilot program will apply to all restaurants seeking outdoor seating, not just those in Huizar's district.

For once, it looks like the problem may be solved without a major issue. Streetsblog will follow up as the permit pilot program is developed and moves through City Council.

However, some Downtown residents believe a pilot program for outdoor business isn't enough.

"Not only should we have our outdoor sidewalk dining, the sidewalks themselves need to be widened," writes Brigham Yen, author of DTLA Rising. "Downtown LA should cater to pedestrians, not cars."

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