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As Dust of New Rules Settles, Art Walk Prepares for Another Month of Crowds

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, August 10, 2011, at 11:30PM
July Downtown Art Walk Ed Fuentes

Attendees crowd around an art installation during the July 2010 Art Walk.

Less than 24 hours before the August edition of the Downtown Art Walk, all the dust has yet to settle from the new rules put in place this week by the city's task force on public safety. Still, Art Walk director Joe Moller is confident that Thursday's event will turn out to be a good one.

"Overall, curiosity is going to get the best of people," he said on Wednesday night. "Because of the recent publicity, the media coverage, and overall curiosity, the crowd is going to show up."

What that crowd will find is an Art Walk where food trucks and vendors are banned from the blocks bounded by Spring, Main, 3rd and 7th, and one where city personnel are out in force to make sure that the event complies with the law.

The new rules, first finalized on Tuesday and the topic of intense debate here on blogdowntown and elsewhere, are the city's response to the tragic crash that took place during the July event, killing a two-month-old infant.

Many have struggled to see the connection between a car that struck a parking meter and food trucks operating in private parking lots.

A press release put out by the offices of Councilmembers Jose Huizar and Jan Perry on Wednesday emphasized the need to thin out "areas identified to be overly congested by art walk activities."

They're doing that be cracking down on parking lot events that have long operated without the required city "change of use" permits.

Moller believes that will be a good thing for the Art Walk over the long term.

"I'm optimistic this process will shake loose the organizations and individuals who have benefited from Art Walk without contributing," he said.

The crackdown on sidewalk vending should also lead to the realization that there is plenty of space for the event's 30,000 attendees, Moller believes.

"When the regulatory agencies who are responding to unauthorized uses of the sidewalk slim those safety hazards and the sidewalks are returned, people will see that the Downtown urban fabric is perfect capable of supporting our crowd size."

"[Art Walk attendees] don't walk in the street voluntarily," he said. "They do so because there's someone with a six-foot card table set up in front of a doorway and blocking the way."

Food trucks will remain a big part of the event, but will just be forced to do so from the periphery. Trucks are expected to line up on Broadway, in a parking lot at 710 S. Spring, and north of 3rd on Main Street.

The vendor lots will be outside the core as well, though it doesn't seem that they all got the same message. ARTsquare, which in July took place at 434 S. Spring, now says it will be located at 340 S. Spring, still inside the boundaries where the city says no permits for vending will be issued.

Moller said that location is "pending permitting-agency approval." While the ARTsquare event is not run by the Art Walk, Moller said that the two have an "arms-length relationship."

Once the dust settles, Moller hopes the outcome is a "sustainable and regulated environment" for Art Walk.

"These are growing pains," he noted. "Downtown for a number of years was an unregulated environment."

"In light of having everyone's focus and attention for a brief period, we want to use this window as effectively as we can."

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