Following last week's tragedy during downtown's Art Walk, one gallery owner is leading a campaign to have the city close down area streets to accommodate thousands of people who crowd the area for the monthly event.
Victor Wilde, owner of The Brutique at The Last Bookstore (453 S. Spring St.) had gathered nearly 250 signatures late Tuesday in support of the call to have City Hall shut down the streets for the event.
Wilde calls Art Walk a street fair:
It has very little to do with art. It's a street fair now. And when people start dying there's an issue.
Two-month-old Marcelo Vasquez died Thursday night at Art Walk after a driver trying to parallel park accelerated over a curb and struck the baby in its stroller. It happened near Fourth and Spring streets.
Police did not arrest the 22-year-old driver, but they are preparing evidence that could be used by the District Attorney's office to weigh whether a vehicular manslaughter charge would be apropos, police told us.
Some who commented on our original report about the tragedy said the street was too crowded that night. But police and even Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa say the crowds had nothing to do with the accident: The car went up onto a sidewalk.
Wilde's proposal would close Spring and Main streets between Second and Eighth steets. The north-sound thoroughfares would be accessible to pedestrians only.
The idea could cost an extra $40,000 (for Department of Transportation personnel to close down the streets and keep them closed), a cost that Wilde says could be absorbed by the businesses — bars, restaurants — that do well during Art Walk.
The gallery owner hopes to bring the proposal and 500 to 1,000 signatures to the L.A. City Council as soon as next week. The body doesn't have to act — the signatures wouldn't constitute an initiative — but so much support for the idea might be politically hard to ignore.
Art Walk, Wilde argues, has become “like a river of people. It's raging rapids. And you have people in vehicles traveling through this.”
He said some fellow gallery owners have even elected to close their doors during the walk because it's too much of a party.
“It's just a matter of time before a bunch of people get hurt.”