A reader wrote to Circling the News on August 15: “Did you notice that Caruso has removed the landscaping along Swarthmore in front of Porta Via? He seems to be widening the public sidewalk to accommodate more even more outdoor tables for the restaurant. They have a huge patio already. The landscaped parkway buffer was a requirement of the City (Public Works) during approval of the development. The reduction of the landscape buffer is dangerous to pedestrians and brings more noise closer to residential uses. Do you know if he has a permit?”
CTN contacted Mary Nemick, director of communications for the L.A. City Bureau of Engineering/Department of Public Works, who responded on August 18: “We have shared this email with our West Valley office. They are investigating right now.”
On August 28, CTN checked back with Nemick, asking: “Has the street issue on Swarthmore been resolved? Did Caruso have a permit to take out landscaping along a city street, pour concrete to expand the sidewalk into the roadway?”
Today, September 2, Nemick responded: “They [Caruso] had mistakenly thought that they could do that work under the City’s new Al Fresco program, but they couldn’t.”
According to the LADOT website: “Through the L.A. Al Fresco program, eligible restaurants can apply to expand dining areas into parking lanes, driving lanes, and private lots adjacent to restaurants. The City will provide planters, barricades, and umbrellas for outdoor dining businesses to use in newly permitted spaces.”
It appears that Caruso, one of the largest developers in the City, didn’t realize that the company would need a permit from the L.A. Al Fresco program. The website explains that during “L.A. Al Fresco Phase 1, the City is offering streamlined, immediate approval for eligible businesses to provide outdoor seating in the following areas:
- Private Parking Lots
“Through Phase 2, launched on June 26, the City is offering streamlined approval for outdoor dining in the following areas:
- Street Parking Spaces (Parklets)
- Lane Closures
- Street Closures
“In this new stage of this effort, 55% of program resources will be directed to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) businesses or [businesses] located in areas that have experienced disproportionate job loss due to COVID-19.”
Nemick explained that Caruso, instead of an Al Fresco permit, applied for and received a revocable permit (R-2085-0009) issued with a minimum pedestrian access route of seven-ft.-wide on the sidewalk.
(Editor’s note: The purpose of the Revocable Permit (R-Permit) is to grant conditional encroachment of the public right-of-way by private parties not authorized to occupy the right-of-way. The R-Permit review process ensures that encroachments are checked for compliance with the City’s specifications for design, use, material and inspection.)
“The work for the brick paving and the additional sidewalk area has started and it is anticipated to be completed by this Friday,” Nemick said.
(Editor’s note: The construction was done on Wednesday by noon when the photo below was taken.)