Sick of Street Closures? DTLA Flea Market Battles LAPD Over Road Rights

Tired of seeing street closures, from film shoots to neighborhood fairs to farmers markets, around every other corner?

A lot of businesses and residents in downtown Los Angeles are too, at least according to what police say. So there's been some push back against closing down streets, and one of the victims of this tug of war is the new Downtown Flea Market, its organizer says.

Phillip Dane says he plans to make the Flea Market a monthly fixture, with the second one happening Sunday on both sides of Spring Street between Second and Third Streets.

Because all the buying and selling happens in parking lots on either side of Spring, people ended up crossing the street a lot and often during the July Flea Market, Dane says. And they jaywalked -- so much so that LAPD officers issued tickets, he said.

He proposed closing Spring Street and says he got the backing of L.A. Fire Department officials, the L.A. Department of Transportation and other bureaucratic authorities, Dane said.

But one entity blocked him: The LAPD. And without that department's blessing, the Board of Public Works said no to the closure.


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"The LAPD said it would be a traffic problem," Dane says. "But what happens when somebody gets killed? It's their fault."

The organizer, who founded the flea market at Fairfax High School in 1991, says that after summer's Venice boardwalk tragedy, the collision death of a toddler at downtown's Art Walk in 2011, and the 2003 Santa Monica Farmers Market tragedy, closing Spring Street should be a no-brainer.

And he says he went through every possible hoop to make it happen in a city that says it wants to be friendlier to enterprise.

"For a city that says it's trying to be pro-business, it's terrible what I'm going through," Dane says.

Dane even started an online petition to rally support for a closure.

The businessman says renting out space to additional vendors on a closed Spring Street would only offset the extra costs of the shutdown, which would require payment to the Bureau of Street Services and, likely, police.

At the same time, some residents and business owners are sick of the closures, which can tie up traffic and shut down much-needed parking.

This battle might be a sign of the times in an era of increasing residential life downtown. LAPD Capt. Horace Frank said it's time to start limiting street closures where possible:

The amount of complaints we get from residents and businesses downtown about street closures is mind boggling. It's not necessary. There's no public good. We have to start listening to these folks.

He noted that even after the Art Walk tragedy, with some calling for a street closure for that event, it still happens monthly next to open roads. (The downtown Farmers Market happens on Fifth Street, which is shut down, although it's not the main thoroughfare that Spring is).

Frank argues that concrete k-rails set up along the Flea Market's parking lots could force pedestrians to go to Second or Third streets to cross. And some of those very, tragic examples cited by Dane, he says, are reasons not to close Spring:

The boardwalk rampage happened on a technically closed street; so did the Santa Monica tragedy. The 2-year-old killed at Art Walk was on a sidewalk.

Frank also argued that Spring, which runs next to LAPD headquarters, is a core artery for emergency vehicles, especially during pop-up protests along the parallel Broadway, which do happen from time to time.

"It's a flea market," the captain says. "We don't shut down the street for flea markets."

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.


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