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Downtown L.A. Art Walk safety changes planned

After the death of a 2-month-old boy last month, a new City Council-approved task force is looking at safety issues surrounding the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, and changes to the popular monthly event could be made as early as next week.

The possibilities include limiting live music and food trucks, or closing streets to traffic during the event, which draws up to 30,000 people on the second Thursday of each month.

The task force, approved Wednesday by the City Council, will consist of officials from transportation, public works and law enforcement, and will look for both short- and long-term solutions to growing safety concerns over the event.

"I think that it was just time to get together with the relevant departments … to make sure that crowd control is adequate and sidewalks are safe and parking is properly handled," said Councilwoman Jan Perry, who proposed the task force along with Councilman Jose Huizar.

Although many participants had complained of crowds spilling into the streets as Art Walk's popularity grew, fears reached a fever pitch after July 14. That night, a driver trying to park a car near Spring and 4th streets hopped the curb, plowing into pedestrians.

Two-month-old Marcello Vasquez was struck while his mother, Natasha Vasquez of Montebello, pushed him in a stroller.

Horrified bystanders heard Marcello's mother and father, Jimmy Vasquez, scream as police tried to save their baby, who died the next day.

Police said it appeared to be an accident. No criminal charges have been filed.

"We certainly don't want anything like that to happen again," Huizar said. "It is a highly successful event … and in order for it to continue having that success, we need to manage it better."

The task force is expected to make short-term recommendations in time for the Art Walk next Thursday and also will develop ideas for future events, primarily looking at traffic, crowd control and other safety issues.

Joe Moller, Art Walk's executive director, said organizers would implement recommendations "to the best of our ability."

katherine.mather@latimes

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