West Hollywood City Council approved an extension to the deadline for transforming the temporary outdoor dining spaces throughout the city known as OUTZones into permanent establishments.
The initiative emerged from a council meeting on March 6, 2023, where an amendment to the West Hollywood Municipal Code was ratified, setting in stone the city’s outdoor dining policy. Accompanied by the Outdoor Dining Eligibility and Design Guide, this policy directed businesses with temporary OUTZones to conform to new regulations by either removing their setups from public spaces or upgrading them by January 12, 2024.
As of now, West Hollywood is home to 28 OUTZones, with 17 located in public rights-of-way (PROW) and 11 on private properties. The adaptation to the new standards presents unique challenges, influencing their operational and physical configurations based on their locations.
To address these challenges, a multidisciplinary city team from Planning, Building & Safety, Urban Design & Architecture Studio, Business Development, and Engineering Divisions engaged with business owners through on-site meetings. These meetings were aimed at providing clarity on the new requirements and aiding businesses in aligning with the updated regulations.
During these consultations, business owners requested more time to transition to the permanent outdoor dining model, citing the need for additional time to finalize plans, submit applications for city approval, and arrange for construction work.
City staff proposed a staggered timeline for transitioning OUTZones in PROW and on private properties. For OUTZones in PROW, the new deadlines are January 12, 2024, for plan submissions, and June 1, 2024, for completing construction and transitioning to permanent outdoor dining. This timeline is designed to accommodate major events like WEHO PRIDE 2024 and the summer season. Additionally, by June 1, 2024, businesses are required to dismantle all equipment from OUTZones that are not transitioning to permanent status or have opted out.
For OUTZones on private property, the updated deadlines are April 12, 2024, for plan submissions, and September 1, 2024, for the completion of construction. This extended timeline is due to additional requirements such as constructing new restrooms, foundations, or shade structures, necessitating more time for review and approval by the City and other agencies.
The decision to prioritize OUTZones in the PROW over those on private property is grounded in several critical factors. These include deferred maintenance issues, as these OUTZones have been operating temporarily close to city-owned or utility infrastructure needing maintenance. There’s also the need for adequate paths of travel, as temporary OUTZones were initially approved when pedestrian levels were lower, and indoor capacity was restricted. With the change in conditions, increased pedestrian safety and access have become necessary.
Another factor is the rental of concrete k-rails by the city since May 2020, used for extending sidewalk space and on-street parking. These k-rails have made access to pavement, traffic signal loops, and storm drains challenging. Lastly, the condition of the OUTZones is a concern. Many have been operational since 2020, and the materials used have deteriorated over time, raising safety concerns.
During public comment, resident Mark Lehman expressed support for the deadlines with one exception.
“I’ve been through this process. I’ve represented several restaurants already in trying to get existing OUTZones permanently approved, and it’s a process that’s taking a long time and it’s expensive. You have to hire an architect, and especially for small businesses—and I’ll consider Beaches one of them—it’s expensive. You’ve got to spend thousands of dollars on an architect because you can’t just draw plans on a piece of paper; you’ve got to have everything to scale, and then we’ve got to deal with fire department and ADA compliance and all those other issues.
“So, all I had suggested is for OUTZones that are in the public right-of-way, instead of having the January 12th deadline, keep that deadline the same as the rest. Give them till April because they need the time. And right now, we’re going into Thanksgiving and then the holidays. It’s tough for business as it is right now; things are really tough. But, you know, it’s the holidays, so getting an architect, getting people to do things, is tough.
“So my thought was, I support everything, just for the OUTZones in the public right-of-way, use the same deadlines you’ve proposed for those that are in the private sector, and give everybody another three months to get their applications in, to get the plans done, and to get in the system. The system is taking a while, and we all mean well, but you file your application, and then you start with building permits. And even if you think it’s simple, it’s not. I’ve had some of them where building permits are taking six months to get through a process. So, that’s my request.”