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Alley Closures and Public Spaces

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, September 28, 2006, at 02:20PM
Alley Between 7th & 8th Eric Richardson [Flickr]

I feel like I'm pretty good at keeping up with Council actions that affect Downtown, but every once in a while one slips by. For instance just today I found that back in June the City Council approved installing gates on the alley that runs from 7th to 8th street in between Spring and Broadway.

Alley closures are sort of an interesting subject because they take public right-of-way and close it off to public use. The property owners are given keys and everyone else is kept out. On the surface that's a bad thing.

But alley closures can also be great for fighting crime. The Bureau of Engineering's report on the closure (PDF) quotes a letter by Captain Smith of LAPD's Central Division stating that officers had made 88 arrests in that particular alley since the start of 2004. The alley just to the north that links 6th and 7th used to be known as "Crack Alley" after all the illegal activity that went on there. That alley was fenced off in the late 1980s.

The closure of this alley is approved to last 18 months. The Historic Downtown BID is paying for gates to be erected.

What happens in 18 months? What's the end goal here? Should this space permanently become off-limits or should those of us Downtown be working on a plan to use the alleys we have to bring more life Downtown?

Over in the Old Bank District Tom Gilmore has great plans for Harlem Alley and Lost Souls is already providing cool off-the-street life.

The sometimes-maligned Historic Core streetscaping plan (which I posted about back in 2004 but you can't find online) had some great elements in it regarding taking alleys and making them into pedestrian ways.

The ideas are out there, but without a lot of pushing I'd imagine 18 months will quickly turn into a permanent closure.

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