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Kogi BBQ food truck
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Street vendors can now set up temporary dining spaces—and get free design help from the city

Mayor Garcetti announces phase two of the L.A. Al Fresco program.

Written by
Stephanie Breijo

One month after the initiative’s announcement, today Mayor Garcetti revealed plans to help Los Angeles street vendors and food trucks via his L.A. Al Fresco initiative. The program, which launched May 27, allows restaurants and bars to extend service areas to surrounding sidewalks and parking lots, gaining quick, 90-day approval for temporary seating and offering a new setup in the age of social distancing.

Initially the program was limited to operations that have a brick-and-mortar address, but as of today street vendors such as taqueros and eloteros can participate—provided they already hold a vending permit. The process to obtain one is costly at $291, and increasing to $541 next week, and requires multiple permits and inspections even before it can be received, placing the necessary vending permit out of reach for thousands of vendors whose product can yield as little as $1 per item. 

For the few street vendors who do possess a permit, Mayor Garcetti’s new phase is aimed at helping those especially in need. Its second phase will direct 55 percent of its resources to BIPOC businesses or those located in areas hit especially hard during coronavirus, though which areas or neighborhoods remain unclear. 

In addition to phase one’s fast-tracking of seating for parking lots and sidewalks, phase two opens up potential for lane closures, street closures and repurposed parking spaces, plus provides additional aid. Approved restaurants and vendors can now be provided with barricades, planters and umbrellas to help designate their dining areas, while those looking to boost their visibility can find free consulting through at least three dozen architecture firms attached to L.A. Al Fresco. 

According to the mayor’s office, since the program’s launch more than 560 businesses have been approved for additional, temporary seating, and it tends to move quickly. For those looking to expand on private property, the approval is instant; those hoping to add seating to street parking spaces or street closures will need to wait roughly five days for review. Interested restaurants, bars, food trucks and street vendors can apply here.

“As a city, we have a long way to go to repair broken policies that too often shut communities out,” LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds said in the announcement. “L.A. Al Fresco is a step towards overcoming long-standing challenges and reversing disinvestment—but we are looking to community leaders and long-silenced voices to lead us as we strive to build thriving public spaces that invite economic vitality and social cohesion.”

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