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.”

  • DTLA Hipster

    Sorry but linking to that video was certainly a mistake. The newscasters calling Downtown LA “hipster paradise” is why you should never watch these clowns.

  • Anonymous

    The need for wider sidewalks is really noticeable on 7th and the intersecting streets. There are often so many people waiting at the bus stop at 7th/Flower that people walking by are forced out into the street.

    The traffic on 7th often seems to be really bad, maybe because it is two-way and drivers are often trying to take (illegal and dangerous) lefts. Logically, in this area, if you are driving to the 110, you should be taking 8th, and if you are driving from the 110, you should be taking 6th or 9th. Since 7th is currently two lanes each way, I’d be curious to see the feasibility of reducing it to one lane each way, maybe with a two-way left turn lane, and giving the extra space to the sidewalks.

  • It’s very likely that 7th will get a road diet and bike lanes from Fig to Main as part of the first-year bike plan implementation package.

  • grrlyrida

    I always thought that a section of Spring Street should go the same way as 3rd Street in Santa Monica. During the day, 3rd Street would be closed to vehicular traffic and during rush hour they would open it up again. Then eventually it would become a pubic square and closed permanently to vehicular traffic.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Of course, we’ll have to see how that works with the streetcar plans.


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