Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the partial closure of some residential streets Friday in an effort to provide more space for people confined to their neighborhoods amid coronavirus closures.
The Slow Streets L.A. program is launching with 7 miles of “soft closures” in the Del Rey and Sawtelle neighborhoods, Garcetti said in an address Friday evening.
The road blocks will typically cover 2 mile stretches, and those who want to organize one in their area can submit an application at coronavirus.lacity.org/slowstreets.
“This is an exciting moment for us to have a little bit more space in our neighborhoods to do what we’re already doing: walking, taking a young baby out in the stroller, skating, biking,” he said.
The mayor did not say which streets specifically were affected. But he said all local and emergency access would be maintained, although the streets will be closed to other traffic.
A map provided by the neighborhoods’ City Council representative, Mike Bonin, shows closures on parts of Redwood Avenue, Beethoven Street, Chase Avenue, Kenyon Avenue, Lindblade Drive, Kensington Road, Slauson Avenue, Allin Street, Culver Drive and Mesmer Avenue. The closures are temporary, but indefinite.
Bonin and other neighborhood officials had tried to open the streets to recreation earlier, but were met resistance from the city, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“This is a great way to make our streets more family-friendly,” Bonin said in a statement. “… Without this program, people were finding it difficult to maintain the proper distance from others on narrow, congested sidewalks and were feeling unsafe walking on the street amid speeding cars and construction trucks.”
Officials stressed that any form of gathering — such as barbecuing or playing games with physical contact — is still off-limits.
The program is expected to next be prioritized in low-income communities and those without access to parks and open space. Garcetti said a dozen applications have been received for parts of the San Fernando Valley, Northeast L.A. and South L.A.
“Not everybody lives right next to a park with hills; not everybody’s close to the beach,” he said. “We should make sure that hard-hit communities, and those that are more inland or in flatter areas, have the same exercise capacity as other places.”
The mayor said the closures are also meant to protect pedestrians amid what police call an “alarming” trend in traffic fatalities: Just as many people are dying as when roads were packed with cars.
And, with more cars left parked on the curb, Garcetti said the city is extending its modified parking enforcement through June 1. That means no tickets during street sweeping, in school and rush-hour zones, or for abandoned vehicles. A full list of rules can be found here.
The mayor’s address comes at the end of many retail businesses’ first full week of reopening, albeit only for delivery or curbside pickup of orders. All beaches across the county have been open since Wednesday to active recreation — lounging on the sand is still off-limits.
Officials have stressed that Angelenos must maintain social distancing in public and wear masks any time they’re within 6 feet of people outside their household.
If reopening leads to a spike in cases, some things may shut down again. Garcetti has warned that the process will be slow in an effort to prevent that.
Also on Friday, the USNS Mercy that had arrived at the Port of L.A. in April to prevent hospital overflow departed after treating just 77 patients. Local hospitals have, so far, been able to operate below capacity.
As of Friday, there were 1,077 hospital beds available countywide, including 186 in intensive care units, and more than 1,200 available ventilators.
But Los Angeles remains the epicenter of California’s outbreak, with nearly half the reported cases and more than half the deaths reported statewide.
Los Angeles County reported 962 new cases and another 47 deaths Friday. The county now has a total of more than 36,200 confirmed cases and 1,755 deaths.
In the city of L.A., nearly 600 new cases were reported Friday, bringing its total to about 17,400. The number of new cases this Friday is nearly double the 310 reported last Friday, but Garcetti said the area’s outbreak is plateauing.
The county has been trending between 800 and 1,000 new cases a week, and deaths have stabilized at about 300 week, the mayor said.
“The stabilizing of a curve also means the pandemic is not growing out of control, and that’s a good thing for all of us to hear,” he said. “We’re not seeing the data skyrocket as we did in previous weeks.”
But Garcetti added a warning: That progress is largely due to successful social distancing, and everyone will have to keep up those efforts to prevent a spike.