The concerned South L.A. residents and business owners of Leimert Park expressed relief at the passage of a motion by the Los Angeles City Council that increases access to public parking in the area.
“I think it was a direct result of the pressure that was felt because of our advocacy,” said Jordana Soares, the co-owner of Lion Arts and Entertainment, an art gallery located in Leimert Park.
Soares created a petition in February in response to city leader’s plans to use a nearby parking lot for weekend events. The move would restrict parking options for local businesses.
After gaining over 1,000 signatures, the community submitted another petition to the City Council District 10 in March, asking for increased access to two Leimert Park lots for customers and employees throughout the week. Business owners also called residents, urging them to vote down a motion to close one of the lots, which has nearly 200 spaces, and requested another be reopened after a closure in late 2021 due to public safety concerns.
If the parking lot were closed to host festivals, farmers markets and other gatherings on the weekends, business owners said it would make it more difficult for potential customers to find parking and visit local stores.
“The parking lot is not only full, but it is overflowing,” Soares said. “My point is that if they closed the parking lot on weekends, then our customers wouldn’t have any space to park.”
Soares said ongoing construction in the neighborhood also greatly restricts street parking options. For now, she said customers attempt to find parking in the residential areas surrounding Leimert Park, but that poses a disturbance to residents.
James Fuget, the co-owner of Eso Won Books — a local bookstore in the area — is against vendors using the parking lot to hold the farmers market. Fuget said he is not aware of who the vendors are or where they live or work, but he feels they don’t support the other businesses in the park.
“I don’t want them here at all, but we definitely don’t want them in the parking lot in the back, which is the only one that hasn’t been shut down,” he said.
The owners said the influx of vendors at the new farmers market was gathered by Sole Folks, a social enterprise that provides budding entrepreneurs with professional support and other resources. The vendors would take up over half of the parking lot, leaving street parking spaces to crowd busy weekend traffic.
Sole Folks announced in an Instagram post that they are working on a community-based solution to support all communities, putting a pause on the new farmers market.
“We care very much about the members of this community. We would never move forward in a way that would negatively impact the people or the culture of the Village…,” wrote Sole Folks on Instagram. “That is why we have decided to reassess the planning of the farmers market until we have reached a conclusion that is mutually beneficial to all impacted parties.”
Dwight Trible, the executive director of The World Stage, an educational and performance art space in Leimert Park Village, addressed the parking lot closures at a Los Angeles City Council meeting in early March.
During the meeting, Trible voiced his frustrations with city leaders’ plans to close a parking lot without consulting local business owners and vendors.
“Are they trying to run us out of Leimert Park?” Trible asked.
The Leimert Park Businesses Alliance suggested Crenshaw Farmers’ Market as an alternative location for weekend events originally planned to take place at the lot.
Soares said that she thinks it took the City Council District 10 a little too long to respond to the Leimert Park business owners’ petition.
“I was hopeful that they do have enough consideration for the businesses they would put on hold,” said Soares. “The motion passed, but there is no signed contract, so we’re waiting, and if there’s an indication that they decide to move forward, then we’ll go to our next step.”