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LA Will Consider Opening Up Streets And Sidewalks For Restaurant Dining, New System For Fitness Classes In Parks

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The outdoor seating at King Taco in Boyle Heights has been taped off. (Chava Sanchez/Laist)
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In a pair of proposals announced this week, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin said the city needs to “cut the red tape and think differently” in order to help local businesses bounce back, while still following social distancing guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The first proposal: allow restaurants to create temporary outdoor spaces for customers to dine on sidewalks, streets and in private parking lots — once public health rules allow for that.

Bonin, who represents westside neighborhoods including Brentwood, Sawtelle and Venice, said existing city programs that allow for sidewalk dining and converting streets into pedestrian plazas don’t go far enough. He’s calling on the city’s Department of Transportation and Bureau of Engineering to develop a new one. Bonin wrote in the motion:

“There is an urgent need for innovative ways to expand dining capacity or neighborhoods will lose beloved local institutions and Los Angeles will lose one of its defining cultural assets. Temporarily allowing restaurants to use some available space in the public right of way is a relatively simple and cost-effective way of boosting their capacity and helping them survive.”

The motion was inspired in large part by conversations Bonin had with local business owners, according to spokesman David Graham-Caso, and also by a similar plan
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floated by the mayor of Long Beach earlier this month.

Bonin’s second motion seeks to make it easier and less expensive for fitness instructors to hold outdoor classes in city parks — again, once public health guidance allows them to.

The current permitting system used by trainers and instructors “can be confusing and time consuming,” Bonin wrote, with varying rates and application processes, depending on the location. He’s asked the Department of Recreation and Parks to put a “streamlined and discounted process” in place for fitness professionals looking to book park space for classes, in ways that don’t conflict with other public use.

“...until there is a vaccine, physical distancing requirements are likely to require these businesses to stay closed or operate a greatly reduced capacity,” Bonin wrote in the motion. “People will not be able to work out in close quarters or use the same gym machinery. Therefore there is an urgent need for innovative ways to expand the ability of these businesses to operate outdoors to provide proper physical distancing.”

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The motions have been referred to the council’s transportation and public works committees for review.

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