Puppeteer Eli Presser entertains outside the Crossfit Mean Streets gym on Main Street
On the second Thursday of each month, the Art Walk attracts thousands of people to Downtown L.A. Last month during the event, a driver struck a parking meter that then fell over onto a stroller on the sidewalk, killing a two-month old baby inside. That incident sparked a review of Art Walk. Among the many people covering the story was KPCC.org's Eric Richardson, who also runs the popular Blogdowntown website. Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson talked with Eric Friday about how the incident might impact the massive monthly gathering.
“We covered the incident that night. I started seeing some tweets, grabbed a camera and ran out. Right away you saw people trying to figure out, ‘Wait. What is this? Why am I seeing all of these lights and hearing the sirens?’” Richardson said.
“The [L.A. City Council] put a motion forward bringing the city departments together to form a task force and take a look at Art Walk. What they came back for August was they needed to take the core of Art Walk and find ways to reduce the number of places where people congregate,” he said. “You know you have 30,000 people coming down to Art Walk. Food trucks and vendors got targeted in this initial set of rules because they’re the things that cause people to stop and stay in one place on the sidewalk. You end up with people clustered around a vendor, and that forces someone else to walk on the street to get around this group of people that are blocking the sidewalk.”
Acquiring a permit from the city to close off the streets isn’t feasible.
“For an event the size of Art Walk, you’re looking at a permit that really is going to run you close to $100,000 a month, and that’s not something that the Downtown Art Walk has any financial means to be able to support," said Richardson. “But also LAPD was really the one that raised the issue of: ‘We don’t really want to see the streets closed off because that’s just going to encourage more people to come down, more people to congregate in this same little area.’ They were worried crowds could escalate to a point where they just wouldn’t have the resources to patrol it. There was a worry that the event could turn into Mardi Gras. As it’s become a later and later event, and more and more bars have opened along the streets, you create a situation where you have thousands of people spilling out of bars onto the street in the middle of the night. Who knows what could happen.”
The August event saw the largest deployment of LAPD that they’ve had.