The city of West Hollywood has approved a plan to give businesses more outdoor space.
Just after midnight Wednesday, the West Hollywood City Council voted to turn Robertson Boulevard, between Santa Monica and El Tovar Place near Melrose, into a pedestrian-only walkway.
Some neighbors worry the plan could drive more traffic onto residential streets and draw large crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even during the pandemic, weekend nights still draw a crowd to outdoor patios in West Hollywood. During normal times, those crowds often spill onto the street creating a traffic hazard.
"We really are trying to think about public safety first," said West Hollywood City Councilmember John D'Amico.
D'Amico proposed the plan to shut down traffic on Robertson Boulevard between Santa Monica and El Tovar Place near Melrose, from Saturday at 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday, turning the quarter-mile stretch of road into a weekend pedestrian walkway.
The closure would be similar to what we see during the LA Pride Festival -- the road would be blocked off by K-rails, daytime markets could be set up, and area businesses could expand outdoor seating. People would have more room to maintain social distancing.
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"The public safety risks on a Saturday night at 11 p.m. when 2,000 people are on the street and 150 cars and people want to get into parking spots...all that disappears," said D'Amico.
While the closure might be good for businesses, some nearby residents worry it could draw even bigger crowds during the coronavirus pandemic and divert traffic into their neighborhoods, which might make emergency access difficult.
"Do they go through our neighborhood and cut through in the middle of all this confusion?... This is the question for the council, and what are their plans to mitigate that?" said Manny Rodriguez, VP of the West Hollywood West Residents Association.
If the pilot project is approved, part of Robertson Boulevard would close for weekends beginning April 1. The plan would be reassessed in three months to determine whether to make the closure permanent, an idea some residents support.