L.A. Councilmembers, Food Trucks Picking Up Tab for October’s Downtown Art Walk

By Eric Richardson |

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — After seven years operating underneath the radar of the city’s special events permitting process, the Downtown Art Walk got its first big bill on Friday when it was put on the hook for $8,731 in estimated fees for this week’s event.

The Art Walk non-profit and those who participate in the event will only have to raise half that total, with City Councilmembers Jose Huizar and Jan Perry each committing to contributing $2,200 to cover October’s expenses.

“We wanted to give them time to establish themselves,” explained Eva Kandarpa Behrend, spokeswoman for Perry.

While he noted that “We’re not writing anyone thank you cards over the extra expenses,” Downtown Art Walk director Joe Moller said Wednesday night that he hoped the discussion would soon be able to return to the activities and exhibits going on during the event, which attracts up to 30,000 people to the Historic Core.

“With the support of those who are able to participate, we’re looking forward to celebrating a beautiful Art Walk,” he said.

The $8,731 fee, which is an estimate of what non-LAPD city deployment will cost during the event, is due to the Bureau of Street Services on Thursday. The final number can be revised up or down after the fact as departments report their actual costs.

[Update (8:30am): On Thursday, the Downtown Art Walk organization paid the amount due after the Councilmember contributions, Moller said this morning. The organization, as the permitholder is responsible for paying the bill and then collecting funds from those who are participating.]

As of Wednesday evening, the bulk of the funds was set to come from the organizers of two food truck lots. Moller said that “as of 9pm on Wednesday,” the remaining $4,400 bill would be split between the Art Walk organization, the lot at Vibiana organized by the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, and Truckit Fest, which operates two lots at 7th and Main.

“I applaud their efforts in stepping up to the plate,” said Moller. “I think that sets a great example for the city.”

For Truckit Fest organizer Phillip Dane, the ever-changing rules have presented a greater challenge than the fee itself.

When the city’s Art Walk Task Force first started meeting to discuss public safety after the July tragedy in which an infant was killed, Dane said he was approved to operate with 36 trucks in one lot and 60 vendors in the other. Rules that have evolved since have drastically limited those numbers, and have put a hard cap on the number of permits that can be issued around the event and how many permits an organizer can receive.

“I’m not asking for anything other than a fair playing field,” Dane said Wednesday. “Don’t turn around and go ‘wait wait wait, don’t do that.'”

For October, Dane expects to have roughly two dozen trucks.

Moller takes a similar issue with the way in which the fees were set.

“It takes 30 days in Los Angeles to raise your rent, but somehow they were able to designate us a special event and charge us thousands of dollars in fees in just a week,” he said.

Still, Moller realizes that his only choice is to figure out how to make the event work in the new system.

“Until people tell me no, I’m going to proceed with the operating assumption that people want to continue with Art Walk,” he said.