Let’s Discuss: Who Should Be Responsible for Keeping Commercial Sidewalks Clean?

It looks like we, the residents of West Hollywood (or at least the residents who park at parking meters) are responsible for keeping the city’s commercial sidewalks clean. Sort of. We, and visitors to our city, are the ones paying the recent 33% increase in parking meter rates (now $2 an hour) to fund a commercial sidewalk deep cleaning program that City Hall launched in August.

That program has been the focus of a recent debate about whether the city is doing enough to keep business sidewalks clean. Owners of businesses on the 8800 block of Santa Monica Boulevard, unhappy with the implementation and execution of the city’s sidewalk cleaning program, have engaged a contractor to clean the sidewalks in front of their businesses.

But while the city will be paying for power washing on a weekly basis (monthly in some areas), it is commercial business owners who are responsible for keeping sidewalks clean daily in front of their businesses.  That’s the practice in many other cities. In New York City, for example, the law states that “as a business owner, you are required to: Clean the sidewalk and gutters next to your business, extending from the building line to 18 inches into the street. Fine avoided: $100 – $300.”

Clearly that isn’t happening on some blocks in WeHo. The video above, shot recently in the Boystown nightlife area, was shared with WEHOville by the owner of a business in the Midtown area.

“Not sure how this is legal,” said the business owner who made the video, noting that he can get a $400 fine for leaving something he is selling sitting in front of his store. “However these bars are allowed to close at night and leave the front of their shops a disgusting mess. It should be required that they sweep and hose off the front each night.”

Would such daily (or nightly) by business owners as required by law cleaning reduce the need for the weekly and monthly power cleaning the city  is paying for?

So let’s discuss: Should local business owners be more aggressively fined  for not keeping the sidewalks in front of their businesses clean? And should they be required to pay the cost of power cleaning the sidewalks as well?

Please remember to keep the discussion focused on the issue and not on other commenters.


26 Comments
  1. The bar staff should be responsible for sweeping and cleaning up trash at the end of each night in front of their bar but on top of that the city should be cleaning as well. I don’t have a problem with raising prices on parking meters.

  2. I would possible consider maybe business clean. But the bar area, there is god knows what after most nights. From broken glass, bar paraphernalia (napkins, straws, cups, fat off those nasty bacon hot dog carts.

    And of course VOMIT.

    That area need real City Sanitary Cleaning. For everyone’s safety. The professional cleaners wear adequate protection, who knows what sharp, points or feces is down there after a night out in the bars.

    An there is the grass median. That must require gardeners – and they should then do the sidewalks there. And the Holloway IHOP park/fountain should clean that whole area CVS, 7-11 and all the way down to barneys … since it needs regular garden maintenance.

  3. Doesn’t anyone at city hall get out and walk. Walking the sidewalks in West Hollywood is like dodging land mines of trash, urine, vomit, gum and God knows what else. It’s a health hazard. I’m ashamed when friends come to visit.

    1. Seriously, No. Nobody working in City Hall walks the Streets. Most have a 24/7 universal parking permit to park anywhere anytime. Why walk if you know you can find park, stay as long as you like, and never get a ticket.

  4. Be responsible, be aware, and be accountable.
    Not too difficult a formula, is it?

    Ye olde shopkeeper with broom is a vision – perpetuate it.

    1. YES excellent point! But remember the business owning class ONLY supports “personal responsibility” and non-intervention of Government when it comes to the needs of working and poor people. For the wealthy business owners they support being showered with lavish Government Grants as opposed to surviving in the ruthless “free market,” Government protection of their interests up to and including military intervention abroad (with working and poor military enlistment, their bone spurs just get in the way), and freedom from taxes that ONLY apply to them so that the rest of US pay for THEIR services!

  5. We need a full on press commitment by local business owners, residents, the city and everyone else to clean up our sidewalks and walkways. The public spaces in WEHO are deteriorating rapidly. Clearly, the new street cleaning implemented by the City is sub-par at best. We approve all these new developments and see all these fee increases but little improvement and shows there is zero focus on improving the walkability, cleanliness and streetscape in our community. City Council is asleep at the wheel on this issue. Great example of how far behind we really are on this issue: why in the world do we still have those 1980s like blue lights lining SMB? We just sign off on all kinds of private high end development and expensive parks and libraries but the day to day upkeep of the city is not a focus at all. Sidewalks dirty. Homeless sleeping all over. Non-functioning lights. Neglected medians on Sunset and many other streets. Trash everywhere. Recently I walked around the new library and there are so many non-functioning lights outside, the sign at the entrance is supposed to show how many spots are available and it doesn’t work. Zero focus on maintaining. So sad. Clearly the current set up of city government isn’t accountable to the people. I do hope things change!

  6. I’m not sure as to whether I am truly qualified to comment on the increased parking costs as my disability precludes me from paying at the meters. Still, I once owned a business on SMB and roll several miles around town on a daily basis. After looking at the map of locations where the program paid for by the increased meter rates is being applied, I am a bit dumbfounded.

    It appears as the program is not being implemented for most of the boystown district, or at least not to it’s full extent. Map indicates that no sealant will be applied to the streets in this area. This area is that for which the city is most famous and is the major reason why tourists choose to stay and spend their money specifically within the city instead of just choosing convenient hotels that happen to be in WeHo. These tourists are also more likely to actually walk along our sidewalks, visiting various venues in the area instead of simply getting dropped of right in front of a venue.

    The entire plan makes no sense. We should be prioritizing the sidewalks most frequented by these individuals for sealant and weekly cleaning. The sidewalks in front of the main bar district including SMB between Robertson (or La Peer) & Palm in addition to Robertson between Melrose and SMB should be priority 1. Afterwhich we should focus on the roads between the major parking lots (Library & PDC) Melrose from Robertson to the PDC parking lot, along with San Vicente between Melrose and SMB. Our third priority should be expanding the SMB cleaning to at least La Cienega. After all of this, we should begin to work further East along SMB and adjacent side streets in the area mentioned above. I’m not advocating that we completely ignore other areas along the way, but I believe the plan should direct a considerable portion of these resources to improving the aforementioned streets.

    As far as funding the program is concerned, I have several thoughts. First, the cleaning was a promise made by the city as part of the parking rate increase. Businesses in the area have a reason to believe that the city would foot the bill. Still, I believe local businesses should be given the opportunity to provide additional funding to insure their sidewalks receive priority, both directly and indirectly. The members of the BID could use that organization in order to lobby the city to focus on the aforementioned district and even a vehicle for funding for the project within its boundaries. There are also many more methods by which the funds to clean this area could be funded.

    As a brief aside, I should also note that I see the regular street cleaning in action in the early morning hours. My route between work and home takes me through the area and I have an unusual work schedule. As a result, I can definitely confirm that they are out there cleaning the sidewalks on a regular basis, or at least attempting to do so.

    Getting back on topic, my point is that the city needs to get it’s priorities straight. Businesses should also be able to provide supplemental funds in order for their sidewalks in order to receive priority but the majority of funding should come from the city.

  7. This is one more example of a student council and feckless city bureaucracy more interested and committed to night life than to quality of life.

  8. Let’s discuss, yes. We were promised action by way of a hefty increase in parking fees–that action, assuming claims that it has started are true, has not resulted in cleaner sidewalks–epic fail. Additionally, business owners need to take responsibility for some daily maintenance. Among the most shameful, the City Hall sidewalks, and the planter ledges–seriously? Right across the street, Hamburger Mary’s (one of the city’s public nuisances) is often soaked with vomit. Next door to HM is the hair salon–who wants to get their hair done surrounded by such filth? But the most shameful has to be the sorry state of the sidewalks and building ledges at Gelsons–makes me shudder to shop there. Any other additions to the hall of shame? Let’s get what we’re paying for, and let’s make sure business do their part on a daily basis. Finally, before we commission a study, or a city hall working group, let’s just get the damned hoses out and have some common sense solutions to simple problems.

  9. Regardless of what city you reside, barf on the sidewalks and trash are both unfortunate casualties of nightlife. I always find it interesting that the trash aren’t changed out enough for the amount of traffic on SMB / Robertson / Melrose. The city should most certainly be responsible for power washing the sidewalks. And the business owners (retail, nightlife) should be responsible for maintaining their store/bar fronts. When is the powerwashing done? I don’t know how practical it is to powerwash in the dark (after bar hours) at (3-4am), but I think 6am is manageable for all fronts.

    (1) more trash cans (2) powerwash twice a week (3) maintain your storefronts!

  10. They admit they where getting charged at the parking meters to clean up the sidewalks,but yet they’re debating how should clean up the sidewalks.sounds once again their taking money from tax payers & doing nothing.kill the libbys

  11. They admit they where getting charged at the parking meters to clean up the sidewalks,but yet they’re debating how should clean up the sidewalks.sounds once again their taking money from tax payers & doing nothing.damlibbys

  12. I sent the video to Henry. Riding thru that with journalist that were covering weho was F**king disgusting and embarrassing. I own a business in weho as well, on SMB. If anyone on my team ever left the front/back of our shop like that they would be immediately fired. Poor mgmt is the reason why the sidewalk (in front of z pizza, fiesta cantina and the poke place) looked like that. The city should absolutely provide power washing 1-2 times a week, maybe more in our heavily trafficked areas and each business should be responsible for cleaning the front and back of their shop before and after closing, ESPECIALLY if it’s because of the mess their patrons made!!!!!

    The first thing on our employee morning and closing check list is to check the perimeter and clean it so that our guests feel welcome into our shop… This is not that complicated. Larry, stop turning this into trying to score some free additional sq footage to sell your bootleg t shirts and cheap underwear…

  13. While I believe a store owner should keep the front of their store broom swept, tidy and clean (and hosed down as needed), it’s the city that is responsible to maintain the sidewalks. With the abuse our sidewalks get EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, especially on the weekends, the only true way to clean them is by commercial street cleaner. Also for consistency’s sake, we need to make sure they are all cleaned to the same level. The prior vendor that was “cleaning” our sidewalks was a joke. We all rejoiced at the idea that we were going to have “new and enhanced” sidewalk cleaning and most were more than willing to accept the increase in parking meter fees to have it done. And then we all waited and wondered…when the heck was it going to start? The sidewalks remained filthy long after the “start date.” Turns out, according to the city, the new and enhanced sidewalk cleaning had already begun!! Was this a joke?? It took Larry Block and the other business owners that chipped in and got a good commercial cleaner to really show what a unacceptable job this new vendor was doing and taking the city’s money and laughing all the way. I hope what Larry and the others have done lights a fire underneath the council’s collective booties and engages a new vendor (perhaps Larry’s) that will keep the sidewalk as clean as in front of Block Party. Right now that stretch of sidewalk is an island in the middle of a filthy ocean of crap.

  14. What ever the solution, we should consider the source of the problem. It’s NOT like customers are coming out of Block Party after purchasing a new wardrobe and setting out to make a mess all over the sidewalks down Santa Monica Boulevard. It has to do with the bars and the use of the single most intoxicating drug available, alcohol. The bars and liquor stores should be made to pay an additional fee for the clean up, given that they are the single biggest contributor to the problem! Our friendly Security Ambassadors 💂🏾 on their nightly patrols should be able to report a mess and, deploy a nice cleanup crew once sighted. I’m all for the Great City of West Hollywood hiring the nice cleanup crew with power washers to clean the sidewalks, then send the bars and liquor stores the bill (that they happily pay to avoid a lien being put on their property). 😀

  15. The context of holding business owners responsible for their sidewalks in New York is different then the law in Weho. At my shop in New York we also can have a sidewalk sale without a street permit. West Hollywood city is responsible for cleaning the sidewalks – and thus the program we all expected and were told was going to be implemented – so no we are not yet responsible – and have no jurisdiction over the sidewalks unless we obtain an encroachment permit.

    1. Dear City:

      Please clean up the many instances of conflicting codes by employing an efficient, logical and expeditious thinker that also knows how to author a clear and concise document that can be understood and followed.

      Thank you,

      We, the public are not required to decipher mind bending documents nor are we mind readers.

    2. The city can’t clean every sidewalk every day. Businesses have to supplement what the city is doing. Saying you “have no jurisdiction over the sidewalks” is a pathetic & lazy way out of not keeping your area clean.

      And whoever has the contract for power washing needs to do a better job or be replaced. (Perhaps SMB between Palm and Robertson needs cleaning at 4:00am Saturday, Sunday & Monday. Once a week is probably not enough for these high traffic blocks.)

  16. It’s both!
    DAILY MAINTENANCE: Businesses should maintain their sidewalks & storefronts. The opening or closing employees should pick up any trash, sweep and/or hose.

    WEEKLY: The city power washers should do the BIG CLEAN. We have enough traffic and trash that everyone is obligated to pitch in.

  17. How do we include residential building owners in this loop? Apartment building owners, condo owners and private residential owners need comprehensive & consistent rules (ordinance) with appropriate fines for infractions determined by building types/size or other characteristics and occurrence.

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