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Art Walk Task Force Makes First Move To Curb Crowds

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Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk I Ed Fuentes
Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk I Ed Fuentes

A city task force assembled to seek safe alternatives for the popular Downtown Art Walk have passed down its first mandate and will be in effect tonight.

Food trucks and vendors will not be allowed to operate on the streets and parking lots between Spring and Main between Third and Seventh.

It's the short term solution to reduce foot traffic on congested sidewalks, a problem that has grown in the last few years, stirred controversy, and was punctuated when a car fatally struck an infant in a stroller 28 days ago.

Within the boundaries, craft or food stalls, food trucks, DJs, street musicians or performers will not be allowed permits and unable to operate. Police will be on hand, and varied city departments are prepared to cite offenders.

The immediate news has caused quite a stir, with many interpreting the limited access of pop up businesses as a full ban.

"Trucks will be allowed outside the boundary and will be permitted," says Eva Kandarpa Behrend, spokeswoman for Ninth District Councilwoman Jan Perry. She confirmed the new rules will be monitored, and if it stems the crowd flow as expected, be applied to September's Art Walk along with long term solutions that are now being prepared.

Outside the non-food truck zone, at 2nd and Main, an alternative food court site was being arranged, said Art Walk Executive director Joe Moller the night he tweeted the initial announcement. Food truck operators' instinct for finding spots may make Broadway active, especially the corners near the Metro station, or just south of Seventh.

Also, city departments were working to "expedite permits" for vendors interested in the areas outside the newly formed zone.

"Art Walk is an organic event that has grown in attendance and popularity alongside the revitalization of our urban downtown," said Councilwoman Perry in the statement. "Our number one priority is to support public safety efforts and ensure that Art Walk continues as a sustainable, positive event for the entire Los Angeles community."

"Art Walk is a fantastic event that draws thousands downtown and we want to ensure that it remains active and viable," says Councilmember José Huizar., who a few days before, told KCET that the task force mission is "keeping Art Walk as focused as much as possible on its original intent."

The Bureau of Street Services is overseeing the task force, which various city departments, representatives from Council Districts 9 and 14, the Los Angeles County Health Department, and the City Fire Department. The task force is joined by downtown stakeholders, property owners, HDBID, and Downtown Art Walk

"The task force is identifying and responding to all illegal, unpermitted and unsanctioned usage of sidewalks and pedestrian areas," says Moller. "The focus and goal has always to create the safest Art Walk experience as possible. None of the galleries will be impacted."

Scouring the responses with the initial announcements, residents and business owners working within the Historic Core have applauded the decision, while attendees who tour bars and food trucks have been critical.

Even so, it should not be a surprise. As reported before, there is no governing board that oversees events held in private parking lots during Art Walk, and it confounds attempts to raise monies to support administrative and security costs for the monthly event. "Historically the food truck operators have not made financial contributions to the art walk organization," said Moller last week.

It may have become so crowded, even saloons are packed. "Art Walk is the busiest night of the month for the bars, but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone looking to bar hop," says Amanda Leon, a CSULA sociology graduate who covers downtown's nightlife. "It's too crowded to get a drink quickly, or to find a place to sit and enjoy the real experience the bars have to offer on any other night of the month."

Related Downtown Art Walk coverage
- City Creates Downtown Art Walk Task Force to Address Crowds, Incidents
- Opinion: Should Downtown's 'Art Walk' Be Closed to Cars? Obviously
- Closing Art Walk to Cars Makes Sense, But It Needs to Be Done Right

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