Sidewalk dining may boost business along Figueroa, says councilman

Sidewalk set up/Robert S. Donovan/Flickr

Sidewalk cafes are not only cute  but  they may also stir up economic development, attract new businesses and raise city tax revenues. Or at least that’s what Councilman Gil Cedillo  hopes will happen by allowing Cypress Park and Highland Park cafes and restaurants along a two-mile stretch of Figueroa Street to expand their dining rooms out into the sidewalk without receiving any special permits.

The City Council motion introduced by Cedillo last week would allow cafes to set up tables and chairs on the sidewalk without having to go through the process of obtaining what’s called an R-Permit, which allows the placement of chairs, tables and other “private structures” on sidewalks and other public rights of way.  While tables and chairs will leave less room for pedestrians, Cedillo says the neighborhood and city economy stand to benefit. Says the motion:

The implementation of the outdoor dining concept has had a positive impact on the dining customers, participating restaurants, and the City of Los Angles. An outdoor dining experience can result in a unique sense of community that helps to attract business growth in the area. Restaurants benefit by the expanded square footage and very visible image. The City can see a direct benefit from outdoor dining with possible increased tax dollars generated from the additional foot traffic.

Normally, it takes two to eight weeks to process an R-Permit. Of course, there’s no guarantee those permits will be issued and in some cases business owners might be required to canvas neighbors about taking over part of the sidewalk.

But under the Cedillo motion, which must still be reviewed and approved by the City Council, sidewalk dining would be allowed  “by right”  and be exempted from the R-Permit under a 12-month pilot program.  If approved, the pilot program would be applied on Figueroa Street from Cypress Avenue on the south to Avenue 60 on the north.


  1. Sounds cool; however, it seems the problem is really that it takes so long to actually receive a permit. I think that’s what needs to be fixed instead of having yet another if-then-else statement in the code.

  2. A calmer, more civil Figueroa would enhance the outdoor dining experience. I hope Cedillo supports the road diet and buffered bike lanes on N. Figueroa– it’d improve safety, slow the street down, and make walking and outdoor dining on Figueroa more pleasant and comfortable while increasing the levels of cycling on the street.

  3. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!
    The 6th word in the artical says it all…cute. Cute factor is a huge appeal to people and draws crowds, especially with the new restaurants & cafes coming soon to Figueroa. The architecture on Figueroa is beautiful and it’s great that the new store owners are preserving and creating spaces that reflect the beauty of the neighborhood.

  4. I think Silver Lake definitely has a severe lack of outdoor dining options. There’s several places that are decent, and a few good ones, but with the weather we have here, it really ought to be every place! Some of them don’t have a good outdoor space that keeps you isolated from speeding cars, but hopefully if they allow it by right, then new places will start to use some of their old parking lots for outdoor dining, and new places will build better spaces.

  5. Sounds nice, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the Transit Village construction project, which Cedillo approved, will kill the businesses along Figueroa (and drive away the Farmers Market) by taking away their parking! In order to have a sidewalk cafe, the restaurant has to still be in business. An eight-week wait for a permit is nothing compared to the three-year lack of access to parking these businesses are facing. Think of a new idea, Mr. Cedillo. You can’t improve a mud pie by putting frosting on it..

    • Tom, based on a survey of people shopping on nearby York Blvd., and on similar results in cities as diverse as Toronto in Canada and San Francisco, most of the retail business on streets like N. Figueroa comes not from people driving cars but from people walking or taking transit to the shops. They don’t buy in bulk the way car drivers do, but they buy more frequently and that adds up. We don’t see this – but in several thorough surveys of commercial areas like N. Figueroa the relationship is pretty clear – there is an oversupply of parking and the parking that is being used isn’t returning as much in sales and foot traffic.

      Shifting the focus away from car drivers needs (as we have half done and half not done in HLP) will help foster the existing foot traffic in the area. I would expect that having a built-in population right next to the train station, bus lines, and all the local shops in HLP would, for the most part, help local business. Not during construction (of course), but afterwards for sure.

      The projects that don’t help local businesses are the ones that are too turned over to automobiles – just look at the Heritage Square or Cypress Park/Lincoln Heights stations for great examples of nothing much happening to benefit local business. I would argue that this is the result of focusing on too much parking and auto access for the station and adjacent development instead of making a nice, walkable, place for humans to be *in* and not just travel through.

      The Transit Village, I think, really is going to suffer from the maintenance costs of all that underground parking – which if the S. Pasadena development in a similar style is an example of a successful TOD, the parking is still costing the city between $80k to $200k a year in unfunded maintenance. Subsidizing car trips, and car storage, is what leads to this crazy situation where “parking is a nightmare”. If we’re giving away public space to car owners we should expect that to be of some benefit to society – when it many instances it is quite the opposite. We need to balance the needs of the few who are living off of public largesse with those who are supporting a more sustainable and capital efficient city infrastructure.

    • Exactly!!! People (either new to the area, or blinded by the prospect of turning Hp into a version of Old Town Pasadena) fail to see that #1 even the DWP (who is nothing, if not money-hungry) stated that the current infrastructure could NOT handle any more additions to it, and #2 a three YEAR hiatus in parking is going to do nothing to improve the businesses that are currently there (or maybe that’s the plan…drive out the old, hike up the rents, and bring in the new), but adding a three building apartment complex, which includes an increase in people (where there is already TOO MANY), cut down on traffic lanes in an already busy MAIN STREET, and drive most of that traffic into surrounding residential area (as happened on York Bl), and then sugar-coating it by allowing permit-free cafe tables…well, I guess I’m the only one who doesn’t see this as a logical solution.

  6. About time we had a city councilmember that tried to give the area some much needed jobs and supported businesses. Ex-Councilmember Ed Reyes never did that.

    • How many jobs do you think will actually be created, outside of the short-term construction jobs that will be used in the building of “Transit Disaster”?! Perspectively bringing in MORE people, to live at “Transit Disaster”, and MAYBE 40 more jobs, TOPS…hmmm sure doesn’t add up to anything remotely resembling economic stimulus in my book.

  7. Cafe tables do not create jobs. Most of the businesses along N. Figueroa are not restaurants. And as far as Mr. Cedillo doing something to better the neighborhood, his pushing through the approval of “Transit Village” in Highland Park is a very maligned issue amongst MOST Highland Park residents, yet he refuses to listen to the residents, instead favoring the developer’s desire to add to our already strained infrastructure. Mr. Cedillo like to put jewelry on our ailing town, thinking that it’ll fix everything else that’s ailing it. Superficial acts don’t do much to better Highland Park.

    • But it may help attract more restaurants to the area. Or maybe you prefer empty storefronts and dollars stores.

      • NO, I do NOT favor Dollar Store, Medical Clinics, Latin Markets, Liquor Stores, EVERYTHING on that huge, wasted space where the 99cent store is, as well as all apartments, or the low income people that live here! HOWEVER, you cannot ignore the fact that our infrastructure is EXTREMELY old, and strained…and when even the GREEDY DWP states that they are against the project due to an overburdened infrastructure, you have to stop and think, “Hmmm Transit Village, which will cause busted pipes and blown transformers, or maybe rethink the project to modernize and strengthen the current, archaic system? Oh well, I guess I’ll go with the Transit Village..after all, it’s ONLY HP!” Understand?

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