Judge rejects challenge to California Avenue plan Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on May 7, 2012 at 6:17 pm
The City of Palo Alto's effort to remove two lanes from California Avenue took a leap forward Monday afternoon when a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge rejected a lawsuit from a local merchant who opposes the lane reduction.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, May 7, 2012, 5:26 PM
Posted by Two lanes are better than Four, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 6:17 pm
The judge dismissing the challenge is great news. The opposing businesses haven't made a clear and cogent case about how their opposition will help the neighborhood. Arguments like "how are my customers going to get their paint?" make no sense when there won't be reduced parking, those business already have rear entries and parking and traffic won't be significantly diminished when the traffic is already super low.
Posted by waste of money, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm
These frivolous lawsuits are a huge waste of money. How much did the city spend trying to defend against them. Wouldn't that money be better spent on schools or law enforcement? Are they going to pay the city's costs back, or do they expect tax payers to foot the bill? How much is the cost per resident?
Posted by great news, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 6:39 pm
This project should have gone forward a long time ago. Hopefully the opponents will finally realize that this project will help the neighborhood in many ways. With a more pedestrian friendly atmosphere, people will want to visit for longer and more frequently.
We cal also help that the attorney who has now filed 2 failed lawsuits will accept the project and let it move forward.
Posted by Excellent project, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 10:52 pm
Apparently my neighbor thinks the lawsuit is a waste of money. Perhaps my neighbor should inquire with the attorney that repeatedly filed the same suit, presumably pro bono, twice and lost both times. Oh yeah, it's because of a horribly misguided and unsubstantiated notion that there might be a 2 second delay at a stop sign.
California Avenue needs renovation. This is a fine use of funds. Especially since funds haven't been used in this neighborhood for over 50 years. Making a business district more appealing on all levels, without impeding automobile traffic in any reasonable way, is the right thing to do.
Posted by good for Business, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 7:15 am
As a business owner I am quite pleased to hear this suit being dropped. A newly refurbished street where many aspects of the street are updated will help drive my business. Watching the traffic day in and day out I know there's no possible way these 2 opponents can substantiate their claims of hardship to their businesses. If anything, increased traffic from making the neighborhood better would be a good thing for my business.
Posted by Another-Bad-Idea, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 9:55 am
> A newly refurbished street where many aspects of the street
> are updated will help drive my business
Really? What kind of business are you in, and how much increase do you expect to see from people strolling around, looking at the refurbished "streetcape"? Do you know who your customers are now? You probably have some records, at least at the City/zipcode level. Have you examined your customer base enough to know where your current customers come from? You claim that having fewer lanes will "drive" your business. Do you think that this new business will "drive" to your store, or do you think that they will bike/ride?
It would be one thing if you actually had done some analysis to back up your claims. But it's very clear that they City did not, and it's very likely you did not either.
Reducing lanes is a bad idea. Bringing in anchor stores "drives" business. But if you really believe this, maybe it's time to take all four lanes out--and let's see how you like that!
Posted by Another-Bad-Idea, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 10:02 am
> Especially since funds haven't been used in this neighborhood
> for over 50 years
"funds" .. what are "funds"? Do you mean taxpayer dollars? Or do you mean money raised by the merchants (and paid by the customers of these merchants through higher prices for goods and services)? The parking structure was built less than 50 years ago via an Assessment District. The "funds" for upgrading the street could easily have come from another Assessment District action. Unfortunately, there isn't much critical mass for a viable retail district on this short segment of street. There are any significant stores left, and it is basically little more than a three-block long food court for surrounding businesses.
Short of the lane reduction, this whole mess could have been avoided if the businesses had not been so greedy, and simply paid for these upgrades themselves.
Posted by Jim H., a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 10:48 am
I highly doubt there are a large number of painting contractors using Cal Ave. to get to Cal Paints. Much easier to use Cambridge. All of the stores on Cal Ave are easily accessible by car on either Cambridge or Sherman.
Downtown Los Altos, Menlo Park and Palo Alto are all two lanes, as are most downtown areas along the Peninsula. They seem to be doing quite well.
Santa Monica has the 3rd Street Promenade, no cars, very popular for that reason.
Posted by Disgusted, a resident of the Monroe Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 10:49 am
I for one will never shop at Cal Paint or Keeble again. I am furious in regard to their wasting the tax money I put into this city and their short-sighted and selfish disregard for it's use. On top of the cost of the lawsuit, the $1.2 million grant city officials were expecting to get from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is lost as well, so footing the cost of the project is now even more of a burden on our city.
I typically shop local but will buy all of my camera gear from Amazon and will source paint locally elsewhere. I hope you will all choose to do the same.
Posted by Good decision. Let's move forward., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 11:01 am
Good decision. I look forward to seeing this project move forward and I hope MTC will move the funding for it up on their list of priorities nbow that this is settled. That would be the right thing to do.
Posted by Misha, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 11:02 am
I for one will continue to support the local merchants who are the ones that have invested in their businesses and have the greatest interest here. Why all the vitriol against them? I really don't understand why anyone else would have a greater interest than them here. Why would they oppose something that is supposedly to help unless they don't sincerely agree? The homeowners on Middlefield rightly protested the unasked for lane changes near the library and they were listened to. Same thing here. Let the merchants decide and not Mr Jamie Rodriguez.
Posted by Disgusted, a resident of the Monroe Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 11:18 am
Misha - totally different...
The issues with the roadway near the library was not vetted with the public before it was implemented. Mr. Rodriguez quickly corrected the mistake. Unfortunate but really not a big deal.
The issue with the 2 Cal Ave merchants is that they did not get their way during the process which was correctly conducted in a highly public fashion. As a result they decided to tie up the project in a costly and inefficient manner. Their actions have cost all of the Palo Alto taxpayers, and likely the merchants who support the project, significant dollars.
It's simply not ok for individuals to whine and cry when they don't get their way after a properly conducted process has created a result.
Posted by Marvin Lee, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 11:37 am
We use have used California Ave as our main shopping area for the past 50 years or so. We seldom go to down town Palo Alto for shopping because we find it too crowded and not really oriented to the daily life of the community as we know it. We also use midtown for similar reasons. Changing California Ave. we feel will reduce our access to places we usually shop at. It is doubtful that the City Staff has any real understanding of who in the community uses the California Ave shopping center or why and makes its recommendations based solely upon numbers. Just visit California Ave and notice the numbers of people who walk the street. / Marvin and Alison Lee
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 12:43 pm Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
California Ave has one fourth the traffic as University Ave or Castro, so fears of traffic impacts by the lane reduction are not fact-based and unsupported by the traffic analysis, which you can see for yourself at Web Link.
During construction, there's still parking behind businesses, and many alleys to get to the shops on Cal Ave. Plus, many landlords have offered to reduce rents to their businesses during construction. So Cal Ave businesses are in a prime position to weather the short-term construction impacts, for a long-term improvement.
The changes will add parking, which is good for businesses. More parking on Cal Ave is ONLY possible with a reduction in lanes, and it is a lot more affordable than building parking structures.
The changes will make the pedestrian experience safer, and all shoppers are pedestrians as soon as they park their car and get out. A safer, more pleasant pedestrian experience will bring in more shoppers.
Experience in other cities have shown that similar changes initially prompt fear and opposition by some business owners, but that after the changes their business actually increases, and they end up happy with the changes.
Posted by jm, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm
The California Avenue area has been identified for dense development by the:
-Valley Transit Authority, who have designated the area a "Pedestrian Transit Oriented District" since they plan a new bus "hub" at the corner of El Camino and California Avenue.
- Palo Alto's own Comprehensive Plan was changed to allow taller buildings on California Avenue and encourage denser development.
-Regional Housing Authority has an overlay identifying this area for dense housing development.
-and the Rail Corridor authority has also placed an overlay identifying the Cal Avenue area for dense development.
Although the last few years have not been kind to developers looking to finance new development, now this is changing developers will surely not overlook this golden opportunity to build to the max possible along the railroad tracks and the Fry's area.
Over the next five to ten years it will be interesting to see how much extra traffic will be generated around California Avenue. Since people change jobs much more frequently now, even those moving to live near trains and buses will sooner or later need to drive to work.
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 1:45 pm Douglas Moran is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Unfortunately, the advocates and the City seem to have learned nothing from this episode.
1. Rather than focus on doing a good project, the City focused on one that would get a grant. And unfortunately, the granting agency -- MTC -- is infamous for promoting delusional ideology.
2. There is a contempt for the details.
2a. The big lie of the grant proposal was that no traffic increase was expected when in fact the City has designed CalAve as a Priority Development Area (in response to MTC and ABAG).
2b. Many of the advocates (City and private) have refused to acknowledge, much less address, the "inconvenient truths", taking the attitude that an attractive _concept_ must unquestionably work ("don't bother me with details").
2c. Both sides created "facts" out of pure speculation to support their position. Although this is a national phenomenon, the City as moderator bears considerable responsibly for not only allowing this, but exacerbating it.
3. The people who are most concerned about the facts are typically the people most involved in the situation, and the most likely to be impacted by the decision. Thus they are likely to fight long and hard against a bad proposal. By being dismissive, even derogatory, of the concerns of the people most impacted, the advocates of the project ensured that there would be a long, bitter fight.
Posted by jm, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm
Nicer pedestrian experience. Well, sidewalks will not be any wider, except for a few extra bulb outs, so I'm not so sure there will be much difference. Also the city has 500K earmarked for repaving Cal Ave for years now, and it can't be used for anything else. The city will still be paying for the repaving. Some people seem to misunderstand that repaving can only be accomplished with the VTA grant.
Posted by anon, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm
I'm glad to see that the Weekly has stopped calling the opponents "a small group of merchants." I don't know of a single business on California Ave that supports the two-lane plan. [Portion removed due to possible copyright infringement.]
Posted by member, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm
I am very pleased that hysterical and misleading objections of few nearsighted people who want to protect our "freeway to nowhere" "stopped by the court. Having attended few neighborhood meetings I saw and heard the objectors on several occasions. These people really see lane reduction as the end of the world. They are quite angry and don't listen to reason. I have seen quite number of vibrant shopping streets (closed to traffic) in Europe that seems to be doing very fine. Street like Cal Ave is not a shopping destination as those people want you believe. Local merchants should be concerned with comfort of the local customers. It is good for the bottom line.
Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 7:25 am
There is an interesting letter in today's Daily News ("Disastrous Downtown Plan) that points out that the anti-car mindset is in full gear in the downtown Menlo Park plan. It seems that the planners want to shut down Chestnut Street, turning it into a pedestrian "paseo", which the planners claim will somehow magically increase business.
Maybe we should follow Menlo Park's lead and push the City to take out all of the lanes on California Avenue, so that we are can hold our heads high! And since Palo Alto needs to be "better" than other cities--we should also close Birch, Ash and Sheridan also--so that the whole shopping area will be totally safe for pedestrians.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm
I frequent Cal Ave perhaps 2-3x per month. Sometimes during the day, occasionally at night for dining purposes. If on weekend morning, I'm able to park on the street itself. Mid-day/weekday, maybe on the street or behind in one of the lots. At night, I find parking either on the street or behind.
The most traffic I have ever come across is perhaps 4-5 cars going opposite & perhaps 3-5 in my direction. Given my personal experience, I fail to see how going to 2 lanes will make Cal Ave a traffic nightmare.
I can imagine that there might be an issue around the CalTrain commuter rush periods --- but that would seem to be a problem no matter now many lanes you have.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm
> “Not all of the merchants were behind this suit. In fact, not even a majority were.”
It’s true that a majority of merchants weren’t named in the suits, but 55 merchants publicly oppose the lane changes. How many are in favor? Does anyone know the total number of business in the CA Ave district?
> “There is a wonderful Letter to the Editor in today's (Tuesday 5/8) Palo Alto DAILY NEWS from Todd Burke, giving a perspective of this whole project, mentioning all of us that support it.”
I must have missed the part of the letter listing “all of us that support it.” Burke says there’s “ … only one small contingent of streetscape improvement opponents” vs “the significantly larger contingent of streetscape improvement supporters. … Most stakeholders favor the benefits this project and the lane reduction will bring.”
Burke fails to define “most.” Is “most” more than the “small contingent” of 55 merchants who oppose lane reduction – but are in favor of streetscape improvements?
Burke says the project cost estimate is $2 million, but that does not include wider sidewalks, which could add up to $1.5 million.
> “… fears of traffic impacts by the lane reduction are not fact-based and unsupported by the traffic analysis, which you can see for yourself at www.cityofpaloalto.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=25743 ”
By all means, do look at the traffic analysis. Pay particular attention to page iii, which says, “According to the City of Palo Alto, there are no pending projects or planned projects in the foreseeable future. Therefore, traffic volumes on California Avenue between El Camino Real and Park Boulevard will remain unchanged with the current land uses.”
Completely untrue! There are several projects already approved around CA Ave. In the entire city, only California Avenue has been designated a Priority Development Area (PDA), i.e., an area where “most of the growth from 2010-2040 [is] to be located.” Between 798 to 2362 households could be added to the neighborhood.
> “@Cedric - your post gives good detail + data.”
I found no details, no data in Cedric’s post, only assertions.
> “Some people seem to misunderstand that repaving can only be accomplished with the VTA grant.”
Excellent point. The grant would NOT cover repaving.
> “Doug Moran comments are normally very good and well thought out.”
True. And his comments in this thread are no exception.
Like Misha, I will continue to patronize the stores on CA Ave. We’re lucky to have unique places like Country Sun, European Cobblery, CA Ave Paints, Village Stationers, Printers Inc, Gallery House in a convenient little shopping area. I applaud all those merchants who are doing their best to protect their businesses from the dictates of the city’s “new urbanists.”
Posted by JM, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm
To Crescent Park Dad et al.
At present there is a second lane to drive so you may not have noticed the number of delivery and UPS trucks who have to temporarily block the road because some of the businesses only have California Ave access.
When you find yourself sitting for 5 minutes behind one of these trucks unable to pass, you may decided to avoid driving down California Avenue. Just what the merchants are concerned about.
If you are a parent with a mini van or SUV and can't park because the parking spaces have been narrowed to accommodate the extra parking spaces, you may decided to go elsewhere.
The merchants get by, but I doubt they can get by with just "pedestrians" walking or biking from the surrounding neighborhoods. Unfortunately, we live in an area where most people are usually short of time and need to be as efficient as possible.
However, cutting the lanes down to one in each direction may be the best option, especially given that THIS IS A CONDITION FOR GETTING THE GRANT (no lane reduction, no grant). But the merchants need convincing.
Wouldn't this be a good time to show the merchants and customers how well one lane in each direction will work?
Temporarily re-striping the street to one lane in each direction. Painting in the new pedestrial crosswalks, adding cones where the new bump outs are going to be. Even re-striping the new parking slots at the new angle that will be easier to use. Given the overall budget this would be a small expense and go a long way toward demonstrating that the fears about reducing the lanes are unfounded.
What are we waiting for?
I understand our city traffic planning department has said that a temporary demonstration won't work because people would be unable to see the full benefits of the proposed plan.
Because we couldn't see the nice new landscaping, the few extra bulb-outs, the new benches, trash cans, and whatever else will be put in? I think we are smarter than that.
If the traffic flows as relatively smoothly as predicted, we can easily judge for ourselves that the benefits will vastly outweigh the predicted few extra seconds it will take to drive down California Avenue.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
About a year ago, at Council and community meetings I kept hearing opponents say "the businesses are opposed to this". I wondered if this were true so I went door to door to speak with the merchants, ask them if they knew about the project or had questions, and whether they supported it or not. About 1/3 of the owners/managers were not there. of the remaining 2/3, just over half supported the project. I haven't surveyed again but I go there every week, and I have yet to encounter a past supporter who has changed their mind.
The additional parking is not through narrower lanes, but primarily through increasing the angle of the angled parking. At a 0 degree angle, you're at parallel parking, and the spot needs to be as wide as a car is long, only as deep as a car is wide, and you can't fit many cars. If the angle is 90, it's the reverse, stall wide as a car, deep as a car is long, and you fit many cars. The current angled parking is mostly at 30 degrees, which is unusually shallow for angled parking. By increasing the angle to a more standard 60 degrees, you can maintain the parking stall width, while decreasing the distance between stall lines along the sidewalk, fitting in more cars side by side. However, each car sticks out into the street further and there is no longer room for 4 lanes of traffic.
Decreasing the number of lanes improves pedestrian safety, especially on a street like Cal Ave with many mid-block cross walks. If there are two lanes in one direction, and a pedestrian is crossing the street, one car can stop for the pedestrian, while a car in the adjacent lane can not see the pedestrian because s/he is hidden from view by the stopped car. This is not just common sense but supported by studies. I believe pedestrians crossing multiple (in each direction) lanes is the top cause of pedestrian collisions, though I can't recall where I got that statistic, so I did a brief foray into the internet and found, for instance, one study (Web Link) which showed that, for uncontrolled (meaning no stop signs/lights) mid-block marked crosswalks, the rate of pedestrians struck by cars increased by 40% when the number of lanes goes from just 2 (one in each direction) to more than 2. (That 40% increase is for streets about as busy as Cal Ave. For much busier streets, the collision rates increase by 5, 6, or 11 times.)
Finally, on the issue of future growth in the Cal Ave area, the Planning Commissioners and the Council both asked whether the Level of Service of Cal Ave would be significantly impacted by all that potential growth, and they were informed that it would not. One reason is that even at two lanes, the mid-block roadway capacity is still very high for the level of traffic now or conceivable in the future. Another reason is that at the intersections, the single lane usually fans out to a straight through lane and one or more turn lanes, so the intersection maintains a high-capacity (note that these intersections are controlled by stop-signs, so the pedestrians are safe crossing there even with more lanes).
The plans call for more loading zones than exist now, and for more sidewalk widening than just bulb outs.
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 8:54 pm Douglas Moran is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
RE: Barron Park Shopper: ... [Moran's] first point, about lane reduction sought only to get a grant, is not true.
This is a misinterpretation of what I said. The CalAve project changed dramatically over the years, with important and desirable features being eliminated because they would not be covered by the grant or were seen has hurting the application's chances. And questionable features were added because they were important to how the application would be scored. This is not speculation on my part, but the explanations offered by City Staff in response to questions about these changes.
In these meetings where likely grant funding excessively shaped what would and would not be considered, some staff members indicated that they were aware that this was a case of the tail wagging the dog. There seemed to be few alternates because the granting agencies were all dominated by the same ideology (and California's tax system routes funding through agencies that are oblivious to "facts on the ground").
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm Douglas Moran is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
How posters choose to apportion their ire is an individual judgement -- my point was to tell/remind people that the situation is a complicated one. From my perspective, the City's planner's decisions were partly genuine pragmatism -- "let's do what we can get (grant) money for" -- and partly using such "pragmatism" as cover to pursue the dogma of their profession and the (unreasonable) mandates of VTA/MTC/ABAG.
Posted by cmr, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm
I avoid University Ave due to endless backups caused by folks waiting for parking. I think I end up there about once a year when someone else picks the restaraunt. Given a choice, I head to California Avenue instead. Eventually Cal Ave will be on my "do not go" list. There has to be a better way.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
@cmr, I'm not sure what your point is here. Since the plan includes more parking, it pushes back the day that the street has so many customers that you can't park anywhere. If we just repave the road but don't add more parking and don't improve the pedestrian experience, you might hope that the street does not become more inviting to customers and so you retain your low parking numbers. I think business owners would rather have more customers.
In the spirit of yesterday's Bike to Work Day, I'll point out that able-bodied customers could try biking instead of driving. The plan for Cal Ave includes more bike parking too.
Some cities, like Redwood City and San Francisco, have turned to strategically priced parking, seeking an optimal price of parking to maintain an 85% parking-occupancy rate. If all the spots are full, parking is too cheap, and one can never find a spot. If all the spots are empty, parking is too expensive and is chasing away drivers. At just the right rate, the strategy seeks to maintain one or two empty parking spots in each block, on average. Driving customers can quickly find a place to park instead of endlessly driving around looking for a spot, and creating traffic and hazards in their search. San Francisco's program includes smart phone apps to find out the price and availability of parking in different areas of the city, so one can choose whether to park closer to a popular destination and pay more for it, or park farther and save some money.
Many in Palo Alto decry charging for parking, fearing that it will drive away customers. As a result, most spots are full, it can be hard to find parking downtown, and this drives away customers such as yourself.
Posted by Mike , a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 11, 2012 at 3:08 pm
Cedric, your survey of businesses are inaccurate. I know this because you came to my business and I told you I had no opinion,. The reason because I did not trust your survey and you. I felt you, among with other bicyclists that you were out to target business and try to ruin them online. I have seen this before. So, you are incorrect in your survey. I know other businesses did the same. You are clueless when it comes to the needs of the businesses you say you frequent.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 12, 2012 at 12:50 pm Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Mike, your mistrust is misplaced. I just reviewed my notes from my informal survey, and slightly misspoke when I wrote that 1/3 of the owners were not there: that third actually included those who neither stated for nor against the project, or for whom I just left an information sheet. I went to 27 businesses: 8 of them I left literature or they didn't give an opinion, 9 were opposed, and 10 were supportive.
I did the survey because an opponent spoke before council implying that all the businesses were opposed, and I wondered if this were true. One owner said he'd stopped going to the city's business-outreach meetings because they had become dominated by aggressive opponents and he didn't feel comfortable speaking in support. Perhaps that speaker at Council had sat too long around those who only shared his views, to actually believe all businesses were opposed, else he's exaggerating/lying. I accurately report my findings. So, who will you trust?
You have no basis to assert I am trying to "ruin" businesses online (or anywhere). I am a staunch local-business supporter, and go out of my way to shop at locally-owned businesses, going to Cal Ave typically 6 days a week. Some years ago, a study was done which showed that $1 spent at a locally-owned business was recycled through the community 7 times more than one spent at a chain store. And so I shop local and support my community, and those through which I pass.
Posted by Stan Hutchings, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm
Personally, I'd like to see California Avenue be pedestrian-only between Park to just before El Camino Real. It's really nice on Sunday when the street is blocked for Farmers Market. The street gets quite crowded with people, not cars. The sidewalks would not be so cramped from restaurant seating, newspaper kiosks, bike racks, trees, etc. and people could spread out. Crossing from one side to the other would be much safer. Many European cities have adopted this concept, sometimes allowing vehicle traffic only very early or very late.
If the public transport systems (Marguerite shuttle, Palo Alto shuttle (drop off at N. California and Alma for the pedestrian underpass), and VTA could be coordinated to make it easy to get to and from the area, people would have much less need to drive.
There is plenty of parking on adjacent streets, with entrances to parking lots, for those who still need/want to drive.