After baby killed, Downtown L.A. Art Walk task force created
In the wake of an accident that left a 2-month-old baby dead, the Los Angeles City Council has created a task force to deal with traffic, crowd control and other safety issues at the popular Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk.
Council members on Wednesday unanimously approved the motion proposing the task force, which was the result of several weeks of meetings between city officials from law enforcement, transportation and other agencies that looked at the safety of the monthly event, which typically draws crowds of 30,000 people.
"Our goal is to bring our safety and crowd control experts in so they can advise us on ways to make the Art Walk as safe as possible," Councilman José Huizar said in a statement. "The Downtown L.A. Art Walk is, for the most part, a fantastic event, but it is evident that the city's full range of expertise is needed in order to maintain safety now and in the future."
Huizar proposed the task force along with Councilwoman Jan Perry.
Concerns about safety were heightened after a driver trying to park near Spring and 4th streets hopped a curb and struck pedestrians on the sidewalk on July 14. Jimmy and Natasha Vasquez were at the Art Walk with their family and were pushing their 2-month-old son, Marcello, in his stroller when the car struck the crowd, knocking the baby and stroller to the ground. A horrified crowd watched as family members screamed and police officers tried to save the infant, who was taken to County-USC Medical Center and put on life support. Marcello died the next day.
The incident prompted downtown residents and city officials to call for additional safety precautions at the event, which takes place the second Thursday of every month. One Spring Street artist circulated a petition asking the city to bar cars from the area on Art Walk nights. The event had drawn criticism in the past for its large, overflowing crowds that jammed sidewalks, with critics saying it was too dangerous to keep the streets open to vehicle traffic at the same time.
Though the city-approved task force has yet to make any recommendations, Huizar said one of the proposed solutions is to limit non-art-focused operations –- such as live music, vending services and food trucks -– in an effort to reduce the size of the crowds which flood the parking lots where these types of venues are typically found.
The Bureau of Street Services will oversee the committee, which will also include input from several different agencies such as police, transportation, fire and public works. The task force will recommend short-term solutions in time for the next Art Walk, scheduled for Aug. 11. It also will develop long-term ideas for future events.
-- Kate Mather
Photo: Photographs, flowers and candles lie at the scene downtown where 2-month-old Marcello Vasquez of Montebello was struck and killed by a motorist trying to park a car. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times