County Board May Advance Effort to Maintain Outdoor Dining Program

Ocean Ave Miami

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors could move closer today to adopting a permanent outdoor dining program in unincorporated areas, following the success of temporary measures put in place to assist restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The board last year instructed its staff to outline steps required to make the outdoor dining program permanent. A subsequent report noted that a pair of ordinances would be required to amend regulations governing uses of public rights-of-way, and governing uses on private property.  

The board will consider instructing its legal staff to craft those ordinances, and bring them back for approval within the next six months.  

According to a motion by Supervisor Holly Mitchell, the ordinance regarding public rights-of-way must address requirements ``for permits, permit fees, and design plans, including standard design plans; requirements for traffic impacts and controls; standards for maintenance and repair of facilities in the public right-of-way; and procedures for alley closures and other public right-of-way vacations.''  

In terms of private property uses, the ordinance must address issues such as dining area size, barriers, signage, outdoor lighting, live entertainment, amplified sounds and trash disposal, along with parking requirements.  

During the pandemic, when public health regulations banned indoor dining, the county and many other jurisdictions enacted rules allowing eateries to set up temporary outdoor seating areas, often on sidewalks, in parking areas or alleyways.  

With the pandemic now waning, the outdoor dining options have remained popular, leading to calls for the program to be made permanent. In a staff report to the Board of Supervisors in September, county officials noted some potential issues -- most notably the use of tents for dining areas that are sometimes placed in fire access zones. County fire officials also noted that tent structures in place for more than six months are subject to more stringent fire and structural codes.  

Those issues would likely need to be addressed in ordinances brought back to the board for further review.  

In a companion motion also going before the board, Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn -- who initially spearheaded the effort to continue outdoor dining -- call for the county's Public Works, Public Health and Regional Planning departments to craft a joint letter to all 88 incorporated cities in the county to encourage them to also implement or extend outdoor dining programs.

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