STATEMENT OF THE ABBOT KINNEY MERCHANTS COMMITEE
First Friday in Venice is where everyone wants to be, and the businesses on Abbot Kinney have taken a bold move. They have paid the Department of Transportation to post the street for “NO PARKING from 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.” with the full understanding that this means that passenger cars are included in the parking ban. The reason for this action is the excessive number of food trucks that show up. Valet parking services will be operating, including one at the corner of Navarre Court which is not restaurant-affiliated.
First Friday began in 2007 when a group of merchants on Abbot Kinney banded together in an effort to promote business on the street. It was slow to start, but attendance gradually increased as more businesses joined in. For years, Abbot Kinney has hosted a holiday event with great success, and they were trying to expand on that concept.
In June, 2009, there was a sudden increase in traffic, as word spread through social media that Abbot Kinney was ‘the place to be on First Fridays’. The increase in pedestrians caused some concern for public safety.
The merchants, working with LAPD and the Fire Marshall, agreed to be more mindful of what they could do to stop contributing to sidewalk congestion. The crowds continued to flock to the street for subsequent First Fridays. The energy was exciting, and businesses flourished.
In early 2009, food trucks began parking in a private lot on Abbot Kinney. These first few trucks were novel and well-received by patrons. By September 2009, what started out as a handful of food trucks quickly snowballed. Presently, anywhere between 40 and 50 trucks park along the full length of the Boulevard which has routinely created a public safety hazard.
Pedestrians walk in the street because of the congestion on the sidewalks — congestion created by scores of people trying to navigate the narrow sidewalks made narrower by those waiting in line for the food trucks.
Many merchants have reported that their businesses have been hurt by the presence of this unsustainably large number of food trucks, and the consequent problems associated with their presence. Many report that ‘scouts’ for the trucks actually park cars on the street early in the day to ensure that a truck will have a space for that evening – one food truck space is roughly equal to two mid-size cars. Trucks that park in front of businesses effectively shut those businesses down by blocking their signage and window displays. The cooking exhaust fills the stores. The associated trash and food waste litters the sidewalk.
There is virtually no legislation in place that governs where and when the food trucks can do business. Most agree that having a few trucks present on First Friday could be an asset, but their attempts to negotiate moderation with the trucks have failed.
The merchants of Abbot Kinney are working together to continue to provide a safe, festive, and welcoming atmosphere on First Fridays. To that end, they have scheduled their “Holiday Street Walk’ on Sunday, December 5th, from 3-8 p.m., with Santa and carolers convening at The Brig parking lot.
The ‘no parking’ posting for this Friday, far from being a long-term solution to the food truck issue, is a first step in the merchant community’s ongoing efforts to preserve Abbot Kinney’s unique appeal by restoring a measure of balance and order to Abbot Kinney Blvd.’s First Friday celebration. Nov. 27, 2010