Over the last year, Angelenos have found themselves sitting down to eat in the street. And it hasn't been bad.
From Figueroa Street in Highland Park to Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz, restaurants have been replacing street parking spaces with dining areas in front of their businesses under temporary city programs. And two Eastside City Councilmember support keeping "street-side dining” for good, even after the pandemic is finally over.
Councilmembers Gil Cedillo of Dist. 1 and Mitch O’Farrell of Dist. 13 said they support making it permanent - with O’Farrell already focusing on making these dining spaces look better.
“I was just in Philadelphia,” O’Farrell said. “They have such beautiful examples of what a city can do.”
Currently, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation installs safety barriers that surround all approved on-street dining spaces, according to the LADOT Public Information Office. But program requirements for al fresco dining also allow restaurants to build out those areas in their own way. There’s nothing prohibiting the strings of lights, or the wooden walls below a certain height, the LADOT said.
Should street-side dining be made permanent?
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Restaurant owner John Borghetti said he spent just under $10,000 to build out the on-street parking areas in front of his restaurants Nossa and Farfalla along Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz. He also shelled out an additional $14,000 to $15,000 to add seating in his side parking lot. Those prices seem on par with what other restaurants in his neighborhood have been spending, he said.
He also credited the outdoor seating with saving his business.
“The pandemic is not going away soon,” he said. “It would be wise to keep this going for a long time.”
The City of L.A. took a step in that direction in June when Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an order extending the temporary use provisions for street-side dining by an additional 12 months. Attached to that order was also an option for the City Council to extend provisions even further - to 24 months, or 36.
That could mean a new kind of cityscape, in the long run.
Not that everyone will necessarily be happy about it. After all, it does mean losing a couple of parking spaces. Plus, outdoor dining can get noisy. A noise complaint about al fresco dining recently went before the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council's Land Use Committee - with a neighbor complaining about outdoor seating that went late into the evening and featured background music.
"I am hoping to do outreach to some of the restaurants to get a more open discussion between our business owners and residents," said Mary Allison, co-chair of the Land Use Committee.
Meanwhile O’Farrell said he's exploring - in advisement with the fire department over safety standards - how future street-side dining areas might be designed to express neighborhood character, as he looks at examples in Glendale, Hermosa Beach, and elsewhere.
“I thinks the aesthetics are going to be really important,” O’Farrell said.