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Food Trucks, Vendors Out of Art Walk Core

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, August 09, 2011, at 08:14PM
Art Walk Streets Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Art Walk crowds navigate Spring Street during the July event.

The city's task force on Art Walk safety has banned vendors and food trucks from parking lots and streets this Thursday, and that could lead to some confused people walking around the streets of the Historic Core.

Trucks and parking lot events will be banned from the area bounded by Spring, Main, 3rd and 7th.

The crackdown may have been prompted by the tragic crash that claimed the life of a two-month-old infant in July, but the resulting actions have focused on issues that have garnered split opinions from Downtown residents for much longer.

In the wake of the crash, Councilmembers Jose Huizar and Jan Perry convened a task force of city departments to look at measures needed to maintain a safe environment during Downtown's largest monthly event.

Agencies involved in the decision feel that the events and trucks create too dense a crowd, leading to unsafe situations. By pushing the uses outside the core, they hope to spread out attendees and make sidewalks easier to navigate.

The tight timeline will undoubtably lead to confusion on Thursday night. 48 hours before the August event, no official notice has yet been given of the impending changes, and those involved realize that

Downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council President Patti Berman presented the changes to the council's monthly board meeting on Tuesday night, just hours after the task force's fourth meeting.

The board passed a motion that Berman presented urging the city to make the decision permanent to ban the permits that legalize parking lot events during Art Walk.

The decision to push food trucks outside the event's core boundaries brought a much more split opinion on the Art Walk's Facebook page.

"FYI: THERE WILL BE NO FOOD TRUCKS BETWEEN 3RD & 7TH ON THUR!," the event posted to its wall at 6pm on Tuesday. Within an hour, three dozen comments had been posted on both sides of the issue.

Trucks will be allowed on Broadway, as well as both north and south of the core boundaries.

Rules eventually put in place for the event will likely not look exactly like those in place for August. The task force moved to implement quick solutions for Thursday's event, but will continue to meet as it searches for more permanent solutions.

What is almost certainly gone is the Art Walk's ability to operate under the city's permitting radar. By design, the Art Walk was set up as a cloud of loosely-coordinated events rather than one event that would require permits and city fees.

The feasibility of that setup has been tested in recent months as crowds have continued to swell. Estimates are that 30,000 people attended the July event.

Meanwhile, other parts of the city are trying to get in on the Art Walk game.

A special event permit request was filed on Tuesday morning for "Westwood Live," a "third Thursday" event organized by neighborhood businesses and the W Hotel. Planning for the event, which the application says would include art installations, DJs, street performers and paid "passports" offering food and drink specials at area venues, lists October 20 as a potential first event date.

Ironically, it is Westwood's past that is driving some of the Downtown fear over Art Walk's growth. A gang shooting that took place amidst bustling Saturday night crowds in 1988 left a bystander dead and is widely-regarded to have killed a lively Westwood street scene. The area is just now starting to recover.

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