DTLA - Everywhere in Downtown Los Angeles, there’s more: more apartments, more construction cranes, more restaurants, more people and something that comes with those people: more dogs.

This week, the dogs take center stage, and in the process, will commemorate something of a grand experiment in community building.

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On Wednesday, July 13, a couple thousand living creatures of both the two- and four-legged variety will attend the 10th iteration of Dog Day Afternoon. From 6-9 p.m., the plaza at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels will be filled for the event hosted and organized by Downtown Center Business Improvement District and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Admission is free (parking for the event is $8), but people are asked to RSVP on the BID’s website.

Altogether, more than 1,500 humans and 1,000 dogs are expected. Rather than arrive all at once, they traditionally come and go over the course of hours.

Dog Day Afternoon event was launched in 2007. The cathedral’s Monsignor Kevin Kostelnik was trying to find ways to activate and bring the public into the 2.5-acre plaza off Temple Street. He began brainstorming with Hal Bastian, who at the time was working for the DCBID. Both had dogs — Bastian a Golden Retriever named Buddy, Kostelnik a black Labrador Retriever named Joaquin — and had seen how people in the nascent residential community bonded over pets. Why not bring them together, they thought?

“Dogs enable us to build relationships,” Bastian said. “If you’re walking down the street with a dog, I can stop and say, ‘Hey, your dog’s cute,’ and that starts a conversation.”

That first year, about 250 dogs and 500 people attended. Much has changed since: Both Kostelnik’s Joaquin and Bastian’s Buddy passed away. Bastian’s animal companion is now Scooter, a Shiba Inu mix.

As the Downtown residential population has exploded, so has the number of dogs in the area. Today, the event is bigger than ever.

DCBID President and CEO Carol Schatz said she is pleasantly surprised at just how big Dog Day Afternoon has become. She also notes that it has united Downtowners — organizers ask that only Downtown residents bring their pets (though no one is checking IDs to toss out people from, say, Reseda), and dogs must be well-behaved and on a leash at all times.

“It’s very clearly a community event,” Schatz said. “You’re not going to schlep from West L.A. or San Pedro with a pet to do this.”

Along with the animals, the DCBID is bringing a DJ. Levy Restaurants will sell food and drinks, and more than 25 vendors with an array of services will be on hand. That includes Downtown Los Angeles stalwarts such as Pussy & Pooch and DTLA Vets, and the new Little Tokyo Pet Clinic.

Having a dog is not required, though people who come solo may leave with one of the puppies that is up for adoption. In the past there have also been cats looking for a new home.

Bastian said the event has no agenda or reason beyond engaging the community through furry friends — the night is short on speeches and long on people conversing, and there are always shovel-carrying staffers ready to clean up after accidents.

Bastian expects that Dog Day Afternoon will still be around in 50 years, if only because people in Downtown Los Angeles love dogs so much.

Dog Day Afternoon is Wednesday, July 13, 6-9 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angeles, 555 W. Temple St., (213) 624-2146 or downtownla.com. RSVPs are requested.


© Los Angeles Downtown News 2016