LA City Council seeks to make COVID outdoor dining program permanent

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The Los Angeles City Council took a major step toward making the COVID-19 "al fresco'' outdoor dining program permanent, with a vote instructing the Department of City Planning to prepare an ordinance that would keep the program intact.

The program, which began in May 2020 to help restaurants safely serve guests during the COVID-19 pandemic, streamlines requirements and approvals across multiple city departments for outdoor dining on sidewalks, parking lots and streets. The City Council voted last year to have reports prepared on the possibility of making the program permanent while following Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

Mayor Eric Garcetti signaled his support for making the program permanent during his State of the City address last April.

"In a city whose unofficial motto is 72 and sunny, let's make al fresco dining permanent, including nearly $2 million (in the 2021-22 fiscal year) in grants for restaurants in low-income neighborhoods to set up permanent parklets for outdoor dining,'' the mayor said.

The motion approved on a 12-0 vote Tuesday instructs the Department of City Planning, the City Attorney, the Department of Building and Safety and the Fire Department to collaborate on a citywide ordinance to make the program permanent and generally streamline outdoor dining provisions through the zoning code. It also instructs several city departments to develop a set of proposed regulations and processes for the program.

The departments of City Planning and Building and safety will also report to the City Council within 90 days on the development of outdoor dining provisions, including:

-- strategies for managing public parking in high-demand areas;

-- strategies for the promotion of transit and other modes of transportation to reduce parking demand;

-- noise issues, including whether different rules should apply depending on whether the outdoor dining is on a side of structure facing residential uses;

-- alcohol service;

-- strategies for streamlining the approval process, such as the Restaurant Beverage Program or creating standard plans or a pre-approved kit of parts for outdoor dining areas; and

-- enforcement of requirements and conditions, including cooperation among the LADBS, BOE, Bureau of Street Services, and Los Angeles Police Department, and include ability to conduct inspections and enforcement during evening and weekend hours.
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