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Sunday, Aug 7, 2022
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Proposed Parking Law Another Obstacle to Businesses

It is no secret that the restaurant industry was hit particularly hard by the economic downturn. When consumers begin reducing their discretionary spending, dining out is often one of the first places they cutback. While hard times present their own set of challenges for restaurant owners, a strong economy does not guarantee success either. Even in good times, many establishments close their doors within the first two years. With the many obstacles faced by the restaurant industry, one would think the City of Los Angeles would find ways to support and encourage these businesses, rather than erecting additional barriers. However, in the Los Angeles tradition of business-unfriendly behavior, city officials are currently considering additional parking space requirements for restaurants that use sidewalk seating. The changes under consideration could potentially cause problems for existing restaurant owners and make it even more difficult to open new establishments. Currently parking space calculations are based on what is called the footprint of the location. This includes everything that is part of that structural blueprint for the restaurant’s property (in some cases outdoor patios, depending on the structure). The typical parking requirement for restaurants is one parking space per 250 square feet, already the most stringent requirement of any business. Going beyond the restaurant property line and offering seating in the public right-of-way is a separate permitting process done through the Department of Public Works. These permits are revocable and allow restaurants to place tables, chairs, heat lamps, planters and other furniture on public property if certain conditions are met and safety concerns addressed. Currently these permits do not include a parking requirement. That could all change, pending a report and draft ordinance expected soon from several city departments, as requested by Councilmember Paul Koretz. The full impact of the expanded parking requirements is still unknown, but there are several scenarios that are potentially damaging for businesses. The proposed ordinance assumes that the city has an unlimited amount of parking, which residents know is not the case. In particular, high density areas like the Ventura Boulevard corridor have a very limited number of parking spaces. Asking restaurants to acquire more than the number of spaces already mandated by the property footprint would be costly and impossible in some cases. It is also important to keep in mind that the permit received from the Department of Public Works is revocable. Restaurants already take a risk investing in furniture and other items necessary for sidewalk dining; the additional cost of securing parking spaces may make it unfeasible for some establishments to offer outdoor seating to their customers. It is hard to miss the vacant storefronts across the city. Many once-booming retail, dining and entertainment areas are sitting empty. The new sidewalk parking requirement could make it even harder for new businesses to open. The motion accuses restaurant owners who offer sidewalk seating of maliciously trying to avoid parking requirements. This accusation is not only false, but completely misguided. Restaurants that provide sidewalk seating are allowing their customers to take advantage of the beautiful Southern California weather, which they would otherwise not be able to enjoy at that particular establishment. The proposed ordinance is just another example of the city’s poor relationship with businesses and a lack of understanding for the struggles they face. VICA has said repeatedly that governments should be doing what they can to help aid the economic recovery and the only way to do that is to give business a boost. Instead, businesses are burdened with new regulations and extra red tape. Do you think the revocable sidewalk dining permits should include a parking requirement? Should the City of Los Angeles be doing more to help struggling businesses? Email your responses or thoughts about the column to angela@vica.com

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