Revised Al Fresco Ordinance Passes LA City Council PLUM Committee

The Process Of Approving The New Version Of The Ordinance Will Continue

By Dolores Quintana

The Los Angeles City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee considered the revised Al Fresco Ordinance that restaurants and the residents of the city have indicated that they would like to make permanent on June 6, 2023. The original ordinance temporarily suspended certain zoning regulations and allowed restaurants to build outdoor dining areas or parklets and utilize sidewalks to encourage people to dine at their restaurants in the open air which was considered safer. 

In an emailed statement, Lien Ta, restauranteur and co-owner of Here’s Looking At You in Koreatown and Silverlake restaurants All Day Baby/Tet A Tet, talked about the issue after she attended the meeting in support of the ordinance, “The PLUM meeting went well — so it’s moving onto to the next step in approval. For the past three years, restaurants have had access to the Al Fresco Permit Program which was a lifesaver for thousands of restaurants in LA when we were relegated to outdoor dining exclusively. Restaurants had to pour money into creating desirable patios. Now, the City is attempting to demand that these restaurants go backward and go through a permitting process to properly permit our outdoor spaces per old red tape regulations — this would take years of time and tens of thousands of dollars. so, most restaurants, which don’t have deep pockets, will be forced to give up their patios. Moving forward, the hope is that it isn’t so difficult and expensive to open a restaurant in the first place. At IHC, it is our hope that we offer better solutions for the permitting process and better policy that helps small businesses thrive.”

The revised version of the ordinance, in summary, says, “The proposed Al Fresco Ordinance is a key component of Los Angeles’s economic strategy, geared toward propping up locally-sourced jobs in the hospitality industry which are recovering from the pandemic. City Planning’s Al Fresco Ordinance amends provisions of Los Angeles’s Zoning Code to facilitate outdoor dining on private property. Recognizing the success of the emergency outdoor dining authorizations, the proposed ordinance will simplify current Zoning Code regulations for restaurant owners who wish to offer outdoor dining in private property areas including but not limited to parking lots, patios, and plazas. Specifically, this ordinance seeks to make permanent the temporary zoning relief measures for private property introduced during the pandemic that allowed restaurant operators to utilize their parking spaces to facilitate outdoor dining.” You can read more about the revised ordinance and find more information here

Speaker 2  1:50  
Could you give me I guess, like a basic overview of the motion that’s going that, you know, obviously, which was just approved by the planning committee, and then just give me an idea of what’s at stake.

Speaker 2  2:25  
Basic, basically just so our readers like kind of understand the basics of the issue, because they may not, you know, they may love restaurants, and they may have no idea what’s really going on.

Speaker 1  2:44  
That passed the planning land use committee meeting on Tuesday. Was was the initial version that came out of City Planning, that was vetted through many community meeting and also the planning commission. Maybe we’re working on this the new version released in November, last year, okay. And so now, I did start, this is the first step of the legislative process now that this, you know, this draft is not a draft approved by the planning commission.

Unknown Speaker  3:30  
This is first, first, this first

Unknown Speaker  3:33  
running. Okay.

Speaker 1  3:38  
It will go to the city attorney’s office, but the language didn’t apply. And the amendments that were approved on Tuesday in this committee, which I will definitely get to will be applied in the appropriate areas in the process. Once that is that new document has been provided, go to the local board of city council members of the council members for them to vote on this then they will go to you know, obviously care about to sign into

Unknown Speaker  4:19  
law. Okay.

Speaker 2  4:21  
And what is this particular measure controversial in some way?

Speaker 1  4:30  
Yes, surprising. I think it’s controversial because folks, I think are very infatuated with restaurants and movies. Used to be a culture of restaurants boys have to come to them for permission. And so those folks are getting down In this for this overdone is set, but it’s currently written, bypassed a lot of that those community meetings theory, which really have been a huge burden on small restaurants, small businesses who just can’t really afford to go into that process. You have to hire consultant architects to do presentations and, you know, go to many community meetings to pay rent while they’re going through this process to get a permit for their sidewalk seating permit. And so this process allows us to sidestep all of that making our small business community much more adaptable, much more equity in the process, as far as how easy it is for the restaurant person, any restaurant person in any area in Los Angeles, to navigate through the rooms themselves. So, you know, the opposition coming again, from what I think a lot of neighborhood associations who still are really holding on to that way of doing things, the way that the process has always been, that is what I’ve been seeing from the opposition that’s been coming.

Unknown Speaker  6:08  
Okay. So,

Speaker 1  6:13  
you indoors, I also see some opposition coming from folks that are just concerned about noise. Oh, really? Are people taking advantage? These new regulations? I think whenever people have an opportunity, you know, to, to get involved in, maybe go get something opposed something. I mean, I think that it can happen often whenever we would apply for, for example, when all I knew that a lot of folks in the neighborhood would come out drinking wine, you know, for demand. And it’s actually been shocking how small opposition we have, when you take the consideration the magnitude of all the different communities that are going to be where this is going to be applied to. Me Maybe just one conditional use permit application for free, what kind of steps for someone out, you know, if you are having a question on Monday, they would have to go randomly. And now you’re kind of eliminated with the skateboard things. It is really interesting. The 100 Bowling was in the process, how many people would normally come out? Sometimes we’d have like 30 people who would come or you would get a lot of signatures and get into an application for this kind of like proposal seating. You know, you’d have many different organizations coming out of the woodwork just a little restaurant who would like to have, you know, this amenity. And for this nationwide thing, I mean, I started at this point, the city very large city wide thing. We’re getting fairly opposition,

Speaker 2  8:04  
really. So it’s actually going well. Okay, yeah.

Speaker 1  8:09  
And I will tell you that, you know, not the pot ourselves on the back, but the community has grown, it’s really evolved in being more unified. A lot of independent hospitality is not the only organization that come together. COVID. You know, we also have regarding her, which is a restaurant owner support movement, that evolved out of Los Angeles, like, it’s really great to be the community that evolved from COVID. So I feel like I’ve also made a huge difference because the restaurant community themselves have been able to come out and speak on this very important item. Okay.

Unknown Speaker  8:52  
That’s good. So what is it that

Speaker 2  8:55  
you Wii U, the restaurant coalition is seeking to get out of this particular motion?

Speaker 1  9:05  
We think it’s great just the way that it is. Okay. We worked really hard with our city planning department, they allowed a lot of feedback to be given. Of course, we were very aggressive and coming out in their community meeting, I think have a lot to do with it. You know, we made sure that they understood the specifics of what we wanted to have in this new ordinance, so would have access and equity. And, and, you know, with that hard work that we had, again, it wasn’t not everything was always pleasant. We came up with a really great ordinance and that ordinance before plum, and they approved everything that we wanted, there were amendments, and I can get into it because the amendments work, but they’re all within the spirit of what we want it so we feel very good about within this morning. The only thing with the Lord’s is that this is only the planning and zoning ordinance. that allows for the perimeters, right? Like the entitlements, or rather, like, you know, what, what’s going to be allowed from a zoning perspective? What is the Department of City Planning going to, you know, charge for any applications? Or, you know, how are they going to, you know, permanent time, these temporary office durations, from a planning perspective, this still does not cover the other department that play a role in the permitting process, that the property building and date, the Department of Transportation, and also the Bureau of Engineering, there’s all different departments, that will still require some process, and you giving off the rubber getting you that permit is normally only around the perimeter of the picture. Okay.

Speaker 2  10:51  
So basically, you know, because I assume that this is, at least in part about the parklets, that restaurants have been able to, to basically build outside of their restaurants that allows, you know, people to dine out in the open air, you know, was a coat basically a pandemic? Innovation, because, you know, people think that if you’re out in the open air, it’s safer. And you’re less likely to catch COVID. So I assume that that’s part of the language. And I guess I’ll ask and see if you can point me in the direction of where to find like the actual ordinance itself. But was there anything? Is that true? And is there anything else that the restaurants are looking for?

Speaker 1  11:50  
I think, initially, yes, that was the basis of why the program was going to exist, they weren’t going to allow things, or to have dining inside, right. And then, so that was completely gone, we had to pivot into doing delivery on the no and probably experience we weren’t even allowed to have. And then slowly, we were giving some, some benefit resources. And this was one of the first until eventually, they allowed, you know, 20%, occupancy, and then it first time and so forth, and so on where we are today. But Alfresco was one of the first solutions, that would give us some relief, and what else we could do and how to deal with it. And so that was the intent originally, but then I think, why most leaders really appreciate it, and the program to continue, what they found that the vibrancy that have brought to the streets and communities was beautiful. How can they make hay? And how can they build on that so that we can have that more progressive results, community development, you know, much like you would be in a European neighborhood, that vibrancy, that social togetherness, you know, people being on the street, people feeling more comfortable, to walk in, you know, to, to highlight public transportation and to activate other retail establishments. I think that that is really the premise of why they want this to say, and that is definitely the argument that we make sure are still at the table of how important the outdoor dining program and the convenience and, you know, not only the convenience, but the what is it the the fact that it was such an easy program for us to

Unknown Speaker  13:52  
do?

Speaker 1  13:53  
Because that access was there. It encouraged I think that was the word I was looking for the Lord if I’m sorry, it was It encouraged us to want to increase our dining area on public streets, because it was so easy. You know, it’s not that people want to have didn’t want to have outdoor dining before COVID. It just said, you have to go through so much red tape in order for you to have the outdoor dining. Now that many people didn’t want to do it. Yeah. Now because this new ordinance is going to allow this flexibility, it encourages a lot more small businesses that are going through so much as we know, especially now with inflation and levers. The dark the weather is having a huge impact, especially on our coastal restaurants. You know, it really encouraged us to continue and to give us some other ways of resiliency and and you know it, it does a huge benefit to neighborhoods and you know, when it comes to the streets and sidewalks, you know, and I could go on I think that’s the reason why.

Speaker 2  14:59  
Okay, So do you think that basically, that it’s going to do you anticipate there being any difficulty passing, having the ordinance pass through the full city council? City council? Okay. And

Speaker 1  15:24  
I hate that sounds so arrogant, but I feel like city leaders have made it very clear, including Mayor bath, that they wanted it that they want to double down. In fact, as quoted by Mayor Karen, back on this program,

Speaker 2  15:37  
okay, that’s great to hear. So, is there any way that people could show support for the ordinance? Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  15:55  
Still have a lot of hard work in getting

Unknown Speaker  16:06  
the initial program,

Speaker 2  16:09  
okay, so basically, kind of get back to the, the process that was much easier to get approval for, say, a restaurant, and maybe not as expensive is it expensive to get this approval?

Speaker 1  16:28  
As it is right now? Yes, because departments have not developed a streamlined process. At this moment, we are required to get a traditional permit from the Department

Unknown Speaker  16:41  
to permanent outdoor dining experience, which

Speaker 1  16:43  
many of these departments many does not know yet, how they’re going to process or

Unknown Speaker  16:57  
enforce or to

Speaker 1  16:59  
use only to the very new way, that’s allowed a lot of our building departments. So they’re very, very old, older version of their zoning code, and they came to afterwards, now they’re getting this brand new set of rules, to have to go through a lot of light, are always, you know, I didn’t get paid. In that case, because the city of LA is so big, there are so many different plans of how they’re going to figure out how they’re going to apply them are still identified with those challenges, we’ll go about started building this morning, waiting for it. Okay.

Unknown Speaker  18:03  
When it comes to preparing

Speaker 1  18:06  
permits, for our restaurant, at this point, we’re still gonna have to hire a contractor the building permits already for that to how they’re out there with it, which is what we’re working on that now that we know that it’s going to be, you know, this ship has been leaders wanted, wonderful, but also

Unknown Speaker  18:32  
acknowledge

Speaker 1  18:34  
the process, the process of what you need, again, these programs that will

Speaker 1  18:48  
help you be able to go online and get your permit within 20 minutes. Right now, other than what departments do not, do not are not allowing. So that’s what we need to put that final pressure of bachelor we’re gonna need to get our community to keep applying pressure on city leaders to accomplish.

Unknown Speaker  19:11  
Okay.

Speaker 2  19:14  
Great. Well, thank you very much for giving me your time. And I’ll send you an email. I’m just kind of looking for a little more detail about the ordinance itself. But it’s good to hear that you’re anticipating that it’s going to pass and that yeah, maybe just need to like work on a few tweaks to make it easier for everyone.

Speaker 1  19:42  
That’s right. I mean, I don’t I don’t think it’s gonna be a huge proportion. Like it’s gonna be, there’s gonna be some major mountains. Okay. To push. I feel like we have a lot of a lot of momentum. There’s awareness on you know, these

Speaker 4  19:56  
other steps that are involved. Yeah. out, you know, we’ve been very thick, befuddled and raving

Unknown Speaker  20:03  
about getting the same attention on the process.

Speaker 2  20:07  
Okay. And when do you think that you might start working on, like streamlining the process getting the city council to streamline the process?

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