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The City Just Took The First Steps To Make LA Al Fresco Permanent

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Two people walk down a Burbank street that has been closed to vehicular traffic to allow restaurants to serve food outside during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The Los Angeles City Council voted this morning to take the first steps to make L.A. Al Fresco, an outdoor dining program initiated during the pandemic, a permanent feature of city life.

Launched last spring, the program allowed restaurants and bars to expand their dining areas into streets, sidewalks and parking lots so they could seat more customers while adhering to physical distancing requirements. The city also streamlined the permitting and approval process for these new outdoor dining areas. In some cases, it provided planters, barricades and umbrellas to dining establishments.

Today, the City Council voted almost unanimously — 14 yes votes and one absent — to approve a motion that directs various city agencies to issue reports on the pros and cons, the challenges and issues, of making L.A. Al Fresco permanent. (The motion was introduced in August 2020 by David Ryu, who was then the councilman for District 4. That seat is now held by Nithya Raman.)

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A server at Casa Vega wears a face shield and a face mask while working at the restaurant.
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The Bureau of Engineering will need to offer recommendations on transitioning all existing al fresco participants into permanent sidewalk dining locations — while adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The city attorney will need to report on the feasibility of revising the Department of Transportation's People St. Program to let restaurants have the exclusive use of the public right-of-way.

The Department of Building and Safety, Los Angeles City Planning and the Los Angeles Fire Department will need to draft recommendations for a regulatory framework for a permanent al fresco program.

During a State of the City address in April 2021, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, "In a city whose unofficial motto is 72 and sunny, let's make al fresco dining permanent."

His proposed budget for the 2021/2022 fiscal year includes $2 million in grants for low-income neighborhood restaurants to create permanent areas for outdoor dining. The budget is currently being reviewed by the city's Budget and Finance Committee.

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