OutZones are here to stay

WeHo’s OutZones are officially in the clear.

West Hollywood’s City Council voted this week to make permanent the COVID-era pilot program that allowed local businesses, particularly restaurants, to use sidewalk areas and public parking spaces to seat diners when indoor dining was still forbidden.

As the council deliberated whether to extend the program by six months, Councilmember John D’Amico proposed that they become a permanent amenity available for WeHo businesses.

“We have human activity at a scale that was unthinkable two years ago, fve years ago,” he said. “Now, that that activity exists, I just can’t imagine getting rid of it.”

Mayor Lauren Meister urged caution, citing the challenges the OutZones had created for pedestrians and automobiles.

“My concern is we’re not thinking about the other initiatives that we’ve brought forward, such as bike lines,” she said. “Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to have OutZones on Santa Monica Blvd. I can understand on Melrose and other streets that aren’t as trafficked.”

“Santa Monica Blvd. has changed,” D’Amico countered, from a traffic corridor to “an extraordinary, spectacular walkable experience.”

Councilmember Lindsey Horvath thought that more permanent infrastructure and regulation of the OutZones would actually improve mobility issues in the city.

Councilmember Sepi Shyne was wary of the increased noise that has affected nearby residential neighborhoods, but she felt that the OutZones’ positive effects outweighed the negative.

“Supporting our businesses this way is crucial,” she said.

WeHo residents were given the chance to voice their concerns at a virtual neighborhood meeting in August.

54 percent of those polled said their experience walking in OutZone areas was uncomfortable or congested, while 50 percent said they had experienced noise-related issues.

Residents like Alex Kurtzman brought up the traffic issues noted by Mayor Meister.

“My concern is not so much the outdoor dining as our situation with traffic and parking,” he said. “And in some situations where the valet parking has to be pushed out into the middle of the street and there’s only one lane. You just run into these dangerous situations, especially at night. People are stopping their cars and getting out in the middle of the street.”

D’Amico’s motion included the following seven points:

  1. OutZones will be made permanent.
  2. New businesses may apply for them, not just those that did so during the pandemic.
  3. Parking requirements will not change.
  4. Staff will make an effort to standardize walking paths on sidewalks on a block-by-block basis.
  5. Compliance issues must be resolved within 120 days.
  6. No additional restrooms nor other compliance requests will be required.
  7. Design guidelines will be drawn up and implemented.

The council approved the motion 4-1, with Mayor Meister casting the sole “no” vote. City staff will draw up the ordinances and present it to City Council on Dec. 20.

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Randy
Randy
9 months ago

I do not agree that they should be made permanent. However, I think they should be allowed for a designated period of time, at least. Many, many of these businesses are still recovering. Some, only survived because of this program (I’m not including The Abbey here). People will be sad, and complain, when businesses go under. Then they will complain when the City continues to add a viable option for them to recover, or stay alive. The fall-out from COVID is not complete. In fact, the COVID pandemic is still alive and well. I fear for our Winter, and how… Read more »

voter
voter
9 months ago

Another empty-headed idea from John D’Amico! I really wonder about that man’s cognitive abilities. The Outzones should be temporary and reevaluated as the Covid emergency progresses. The Outzones are bad for pedestrians, handicapped people, and cyclists, and give businesses an unfair advantage that they only dreamt of before this Covid era.

Cognitive Abilities
Cognitive Abilities
9 months ago
Reply to  voter

IMHO, John D’Amico may have skewed cognitive abilities, he always maintained that he was an architect prior to his election and did nothing to disavow that perception. In actuality he is a project manager for UCLA which is another concert. He appears to be taken to arbitrary actions and emotional outbursts.

Rock
Rock
9 months ago

Yes they’re awful and a blight. Funny how over and over WH pushes moneyed interests and ignores the will of its residents.

JESS
JESS
9 months ago

THE main problem of course: egress! When the general public has to navigate around diners. Will they all be NON SMOKING? After all, it is NOT the Champs-Élysées or Via Veneto Roma al fresco dining, is it!

C.R.
C.R.
9 months ago
Reply to  JESS

People can either smoke outdoors or they can smoke indoors. Make up your mind.

Rudi Logan
Rudi Logan
9 months ago
Reply to  C.R.

If you know of a restaurant that permits indoor cigarette smoking, please advise me and I’ll patronize it. Haven’t seen one of those in decades.

As for sidewalks, they’re public property. I’ve heard diners in Outzones complain about pedestrians who smoke tobacco as they pass by — which is pretty ballsy since those same diners are inhaling huge quantities of carbon monoxide with their meals and don’t seem to mind. Maybe it depends on which side of your bread is buttered.

Paul Peniscocker
Paul Peniscocker
9 months ago
Reply to  Rudi Logan

I don’t know about you but I personally hate it when people are smoking around me as I publicly smoke some fentyal off a piece of tin foil. I hate to think of all the crap I might inhale from their nasty cigarettes. Some people have no consideration of anyone but themselves.

old timer
old timer
9 months ago

Oh great! Permanent out zones. We need this like we need more scooters, less sidewalk, less street space, fewer parking places, more crime, and fewer decisions made by listening to public input!
West Hollywood used to be a lovely safe little refuge for the LGBT community and its straight allies! What is it now? A money driven mess!
SMH 😢

Paul Peniscocker
Paul Peniscocker
9 months ago
Reply to  old timer

I haven’t been to West Hollywood for really much of anything in such a long time. Parking alone is crazy expensive, then everything is way overpriced for an experience that is more a commercialized version of its former self. I’ve lived in LA about 15 years and find the experience as gay clubs and bars outside of weho is less aof a hastle, it’s more affordable, and the crowds are more like I used to find in weho. Used to be in weho every night in my 20s and what I spent in a week on clubs then now is… Read more »

WehoFan
WehoFan
9 months ago

Why do John Erickson’s friends like to insult readers on wehoville?

Rudi Logan
Rudi Logan
9 months ago
Reply to  WehoFan

You must have a persecution complex about Erickson. This is the only consistent comment you ever make. It was old months ago.

Paul Peniscocker
Paul Peniscocker
9 months ago
Reply to  WehoFan

People tend to not just disagree with someone and handle that, they seem to have made every opinion they have part of their personal identity. So they take take an opposing view as an attack on them for not agreeing. Therefore they need to attack anyone saying those opinions that often has very little to do with them. This goes especially for the subject of politics.

Do what I do, laugh at how they lose their freaking mind over things like this.

David
David
9 months ago

I agree about should have been a public process not a council decision. 1) They need to monitor foot traffic flows just like they do cars in these areas and plan accordingly and for ADA access. 2) If the zones are permanent they need to have a coherent, comprehensive design instead of the piecemeal additions we see currently. 3) They need to set aside nearby (like a block away) designated drop-off areas for Lyft, Uber, taxis and cars.

JF1
JF1
9 months ago

Once again the council is not listening to the majority of residents. I think that there should be a lawsuit filed by a wheel chair bound individual. These out zones were necessity but that time has passed. Indoor dining is now available again. Total disregard for residents complaints about extra noise. The current shanty shacks and haphazardly placed out zones build outs are an eyesore (for the most part). This council really does need to go. Putting the ghetto back on gay ghetto.

C.R.
C.R.
9 months ago
Reply to  JF1

No, some people cannot eat indoors. Until the pandemic is over, we need outzones. However long it takes.

JF1
JF1
9 months ago
Reply to  C.R.

Fine, I’ll go along with that. But still shouldn’t be made “permanent.”

Paul Peniscocker
Paul Peniscocker
9 months ago
Reply to  C.R.

Oh, I was not aware that there were people who couldn’t eat indoors and only could eat in west Hollywood. Thats so interesting. Must be a hard life. I hope you make it through this pandemic OK. If you ate outside of west Hollywood or at home do you have an allergic reaction? To you swell up with entitlement and that’s why you feel the world should change for you? Your so brave. Hope it gets better.

I’m so glad I’m just lactose intolerant.

TomSmart
TomSmart
9 months ago

Seems like an unnecessary liability to the city if someone plows into these things which are too close to crazy drivers. Also, the city made business pay monthly for patio spaces on the sidewalk and now that they’ve approved Outzones, will they make them pay for this added real estate too???

Art
Art
9 months ago
Reply to  TomSmart

Yes–I never dine in them because I don’t want to be the first person killed while dining when plowed into by a vehicle. Also, ADA issues on sidewalks with some of them, and parking is already a problem.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Eric Jon Schmidt
9 months ago

Sounds like D’Amico’s latest “gift to donors” in return for campaign donations and other “considerations” is at the expense of the safety of the Residents. Classic D’Amico move. Line your pockets with cash at any cost including the safety of Residents and visitors to West Hollywood. I’m sure the Chamber of Commerce had their hand in this knowing what a pushover D’Amico is when it comes to cash. Look at the proposal and voting record of D’Amico. Most of it reflects “payback” to donors with little to no consideration of the safety and quality of life of Residents and visitors.… Read more »

:dpb
:dpb
9 months ago

I can’t believe I like this, but I’m all for the out-zones that exist and I am hopeful any new out-zones will be as successful. My only concern is the ADA (American Disabilities Act) issues that I have found up and down Santa Monica Blvd. I know these can be corrected and encourage the city to do so while maintaining all the out-zones.

JustSaying
JustSaying
9 months ago

In theory, these are a nice idea but they should be reevaluated on a case-by-case basis and changes implemented to address pedestrian flow issues. Some of them really make it challenging to comfortable and sometimes safely walk on the sidewalk (Pump to Rocco). The area in front of Mickeys has always been a mess and the out zone makes it even worse. Also, the one on the N/S side of Santa Monica between Sweetzer and Harper do not leave much room at all for pedestrians. Hopefully, the City will get a clue and address these issues so we can have… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
9 months ago
Reply to  JustSaying

While we all like seeing places like Vida and Rocco having success, sidewalks and streets are for everyone. There are ADA issues regarding the sidewalks and if the Out Zones as they currently exist are made permanent there may be a lawsuit, (again the City Attorney/City Manager are MIA). Santa Monica is tough for cyclist and Out Zones have only made it tougher. While the Chamber would support restaurants but we didn’t hear from other small businesses who may miss the lost street parking and loading zones. I do support making changes and allowing for more outdoor dining but where… Read more »

PUBLIC PROCESS?
PUBLIC PROCESS?
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

The Public Process appears to remain a concept but very often not an engaged process. Starting with ideas consistently developed by expensive outside consultants that have no real connection with the city. In actuality there are no authentic goals and consistent strategies, simply loose undeveloped concepts that attract attention but lack coherence and follow through. The end result is insidious window dressing. A great way to avoid responsibility.Opportunities for lawsuits.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
9 months ago

Very insightful. The last General Plan process was total window dressing and staff has embraced COVID as a way to avoid pesky public input. As you said, without authentic goals there can only be ad hoc, fly by night decision making.

Public Process
Public Process
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Have long held the opinion that folks in leadership council members and staff have little sense about how to grow a town, understood what they had at its birth and we’re not sophisticated enough to be well traveled and observant to understand the benefits of well oiled towns. One great town that struggled for new life was Charleston, South Carolina who was fortunate to have the great Mayor Joe Riley Chart it’s course. A remarkable story given its challenges. He leveraged old wealth and sheer will to prevail over struggles of the poor, out of work and uneducated largely black… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
9 months ago
Reply to  Public Process

Knowing where you have been is the best way to figure out where you are going, or at least where you want to go. Having the humility to know what you don’t know is also a good start for anyone in public service.

Big Picture
Big Picture
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Agreed. The current city council has very little scope. Although Lauren Meister may be adept at the small picture and details, having folks with a true grasp, including some credentials to see the bigger picture have been missing. The city relies on consultants to keep the city lurching forward without continuity and some staff while knowledgable about postage stamp sized issues never get the big picture.

JF1
JF1
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

I agree with you that when you make a major policy change the public needs to be more engaged and the zoom meetings are not adequate. But I think this current council likes to rule not for the people by the people but for themselves.

JESS
JESS
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Obviously “Council” has not thought this through for the long term. Maybe take a year-by-year approach instead of making this a ‘permanent’ decision. I’m waiting for some horrific incident, like the one in another city, where such places were plowed down by an irate driver. Just a matter of time.

JF1
JF1
9 months ago
Reply to  JustSaying

The clueless will not likely get a clue. They are a disaster.

Just Sayin Back
Just Sayin Back
9 months ago
Reply to  JustSaying

You seem to have all the answers. when these were erected the city didn’t have any guidelines in place and businesses spent thousands on putting them up. So now they “evaluate” them on a case by case basis? There will definitely be preferential treatment. If the city forces some to come down then the businesses should be reimbursed for not only the cost of the structure but lost sales. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander…except in the village.

JustSaying
JustSaying
9 months ago

I wish I had all the answers – but I merely have my own opinion. Not sure why you’re so upset with what I said but I stand by it – as you stated, it was all done very quickly and haphazardly during the pandemic, and now that people are getting back to a more “normal” life and going out more, many of them have created unsafe and non-pedestrian-friendly areas – you think they should just be kept as is??!! I’m simply saying they should be evaluated and adjustments should be made to make them safe, keep pedestrian and auto… Read more »

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