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With City Council Vote, LA's Outdoor Dining Program Takes Big Step Toward Permanence


Los Angeles City Council members are in the final stretches of making the city’s pandemic-era outdoor dining program permanent. 

The council voted Tuesday to prepare an ordinance that would allow the Al Fresco program to continue, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. It also directed city staffers to draft regulations and steps for permitting.

The program, which launched in May 2020 as a temporary way to help restaurants continue to do business during coronavirus-prompted shutdowns, simplified the multidepartmental process for eateries seeking to have outdoor seating on public streets and sidewalks, as well as in parking lots. It quickly became popular with and vital to restaurant owners.

The city is working to balance the Al Fresco program with concerns about compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and the demand for parking. In some instances, outdoor dining uses a parking space or spaces, removing those spots from use for drivers. 

Parking concerns have so far appeared to be a much bigger problem in New York, which started its own program for outdoor dining during the pandemic, than in LA. Transportation officials in LA told Bisnow last spring that few parking spaces had been taken out of the rotation by the program and that feedback about the program didn’t often include criticisms of the parking spaces it sidelined. 

The city council’s vote directs the city’s planning, fire, and building and safety departments, as well as the city attorney, to work on the citywide ordinance that would make the program permanent. The planning and building and safety departments are also charged with reporting back in 90 days on strategies that could encourage public transportation use and decrease parking demand in high-demand areas where outdoor dining is in place. They will also assess noise concerns and explore streamlining methods, including a preapproved “kit of parts” that restaurants could use to quickly set up their outdoor areas.