News

'Every seat outside would help.' Cities consider closing streets to traffic to make space for struggling restaurants

Restaurants, residents push elected officials to think creatively to spur recovery

Cities up and down the Midpeninsula are considering temporarily closing their downtown streets to traffic to give restaurants and other businesses more outdoor space to safely serve customers when they're allowed to reopen.

The cities, including Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Redwood City, San Carlos and San Mateo, are at various stages of decision-making: In a few scenarios, leaders are entertaining concrete proposals, while in others, grassroots community discussions haven't yet been formally taken up by elected officials.

For restaurants, additional seating and space to reassure diners that eating out is safe could mean the difference between surviving or folding during this next phase of the shutdown.

"Every seat outside would help," said Michael Ekwall, co-owner of La Bodeguita del Medio on California Avenue in Palo Alto. "Even at 50% capacity, it will be an incredible challenge to be profitable."

In new guidance that Gov. Gavin Newsom released on Tuesday, the state recommended that restaurants "prioritize" outdoor seating when their local jurisdictions meet the criteria for reopening. Newsom noted in a press conference that outdoor seating naturally allows for "greater distribution of airflow," while inside, ventilation could pose a potential risk.

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"Restaurants can expand their outdoor seating, and alcohol offerings in those areas, if they comply with local laws and regulations," the guidance states.

The state isn't mandating specific capacity levels, but for many restaurants, reconfiguring their dining rooms to ensure tables are 6 feet apart will significantly reduce the number of people they can serve.

In Menlo Park, the idea of closing streets was sparked by a request from the owner of Cafe Zoe to use street parking to serve customers once the cafe is allowed to reopen. Councilman Ray Mueller further proposed closing Santa Cruz Avenue and potentially other city streets to traffic. He worked with Councilwoman Betsy Nash to bring forward a request on Tuesday night to temporarily close Santa Cruz and several side streets. They also proposed the city create a "streamlined permit process" to temporarily allow restaurants and retail stores to serve customers and sell goods in the closed streets and for restaurants to also use their designated off-street parking spaces to serve food and drinks.

In an interview before the meeting, Mueller said he hoped closing the streets would help people feel more comfortable patronizing local businesses.

"You want to allow that recovery to take place," he said.

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The Menlo Park council members didn't take any action on the plan on Tuesday; City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson agreed to look at the traffic impacts and evaluate concerns raised by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District before bringing a more detailed plan back to the council at a later date, tentatively set for May 26. In a letter sent earlier that day, Harold Schapelhouman, chief of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, said the district saw "no significant challenges" to the proposed Santa Cruz Avenue closure pilot program so long as the city worked with the fire district to coordinate fire response and prevention plans, create a plan for potential safety problems, create emergency fire access points with removable bollards and other steps.

Mountain View Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga said city staff is "actively exploring" temporarily closing Castro Street to traffic, an idea that's drawn interest in the community over the years.

"The social distancing requirements of COVID-19 makes this an opportune time for us to try this concept," she wrote in an email. "Overall, we are looking at this COVID-19 situation as an opportunity to revisit many of the ways we operate.

In Los Altos, an informal working group of city staff, the Los Altos Village Association, Los Altos Property Owners Downtown, the Chamber of Commerce and interested citizens are discussing closing streets to traffic, according to City Manager Chris Jordan. The City Council is expected to discuss "options" at its May 26 meeting, Jordan said. A Change.org petition calling on Los Altos to close Main and State streets to cars has gathered nearly 700 signatures.

Redwood City is in the early stages of considering allowing restaurants and retail stores to use sidewalks, private parking lots and streets for outdoor dining and retail sales, including in downtown, Communications Manager Jennifer Yamaguma said.

"Staff are evaluating what a program might entail, balancing the need for economic vitality while ensuring the health and safety of our community," she wrote.

In Palo Alto, the City Council has not yet formally taken up a proposal to close University Avenue and California Avenue, but staff has been discussing the idea in recent weeks in virtual roundtables with local restaurant and business owners. Palo Alto is already temporarily limiting vehicle access on certain streets to give residents more space to walk, bike and run while complying with social distancing requirements. (Redwood City has done the same on 10 streets as part of a pilot "Slow Streets" program. In Oakland, 74 miles of city streets have been closed to through traffic.)

Palo Alto Mayor Adrian Fine said he supports the idea of closing main thoroughfares to traffic, saying, "There's never been a better time to try it." The usual argument against doing so, particularly on University — that it would intensify traffic on side streets and neighborhoods — doesn't carry as much weight when traffic has dropped significantly during the shelter-in-place order, he said. Fine has been discussing related ideas with City Manager Ed Shikada — including turning parking space on University Avenue into parklets and allowing more than one business — such as a pop-up or food truck — to share existing restaurant space. Fine said he is "totally supportive of experimenting with this stuff."

But with the City Council devoting much of its time to mitigating a nearly $40 million budget shortfall and continuing to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, Fine said the proposal to close downtown streets is not high on the city's priority list.

"Is it a great opportunity? Yes, but it's also not the absolute top priority right now. That's really our budgeting and health crises," he said.

Councilwoman Alison Cormack also supports the idea and pointed to the fact that the city already closes part of California Avenue to traffic on Sundays for the farmers market.

"I think we've already proven that it can work," she said.

She also floated the idea of making California a one-way street, with additional outdoor seating on one side.

"My one concern is that the overriding objective of the health order is that we remain sheltering in place," she said. "I don't want us to open this up until it's safe to do so and doesn't constitute a gathering, but I think it's a great idea, COVID-19 or not, in terms of activating some of these spaces."

Restaurant owners are supportive of the proposal and hope their elected officials take action sooner than later.

"The crisis — we're in it now," said Ekwall, who's facing major losses as a staff of just five people, including him, runs takeout service at La Bodeguita. "We will still be in it later, but now is when people really need help."

"You need to get parklets going and fast," Greg St. Claire, who owns Nola in downtown Palo Alto as well as restaurants in Redwood City, Portola Valley and San Carlos, wrote to the Palo Alto City Council in late April. He described a prohibitively difficult business environment in Palo Alto that predated the coronavirus, hoping the council would grasp and respond to the "economic reality we are facing."

For Oren's Hummus on University Avenue, which seats 49 people inside a small, narrow dining room during normal circumstances, additional outdoor seating would help sustain the business, co-owner Mistie Cohen said.

"This wouldn't be something we would want as a long-term solution, but I do believe for at least the next few months, it would be a great idea that would greatly support many restaurants," she said.

She also suggested the city create outdoor "picnic" events that would allow restaurants to serve or deliver food to local parks. Cormack also envisioned allowing food trucks to operate in local parks.

Guillaume Bienaime, who owns Zola on Bryant Street in downtown Palo Alto, said building parklets in front of restaurants would be great — as long as the city created a template with preselected plans, colors and fees to avoid a protracted permitting process. Zola has been closed since March, and Bienaime has been pressing the city to embrace creative ideas to help his and other restaurants recover.

"I believe we are going to see a radical change in consumer habits for the next couple of years," he wrote to the council in late April. "And we should have radical responses in order to maintain small business and a vibrant community."

Fine said he wants the city to use this time to reimagine the difficult path small businesses must take to open and succeed in Palo Alto. Retail requirements, signage and parking regulations, planning code and other requirements should all be on the table, he said.

"Our Palo Alto process has gotten out of control and our businesses are suffering because of it," Fine said. "I hope we can find some silver lining in this catastrophe for our business community, that in Palo Alto we re-evaluate and really swing the pendulum back to a more business-friendly community."

In several local cities, NextDoor pages and city council inboxes have been flooded with emails from residents who want to see their downtowns closed to traffic. Others remained concerned about the potential traffic impact.

"The loss of parking would impact the neighborhoods close to downtown where the displaced cars would fill the streets (which are often narrower, and full parking presents safety hazards by limiting emergency vehicle access)," Menlo Park resident Lynn Smolik wrote in an email to Mueller. "Hopefully the situation necessitating social distancing will be resolved before any hardscape changes could be made."

Many residents, however, have thrown their support behind the idea.

"We are in unprecedented times," Liz Laffont wrote to the Menlo Park City Council last week, urging them to adopt the street closures. "Changes have hit us, and we must adapt more swiftly and with more creativity than ever before."

Embarcadero Media staff writer Kate Bradshaw contributed to this article.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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'Every seat outside would help.' Cities consider closing streets to traffic to make space for struggling restaurants

Restaurants, residents push elected officials to think creatively to spur recovery

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, May 13, 2020, 9:46 am

Cities up and down the Midpeninsula are considering temporarily closing their downtown streets to traffic to give restaurants and other businesses more outdoor space to safely serve customers when they're allowed to reopen.

The cities, including Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Redwood City, San Carlos and San Mateo, are at various stages of decision-making: In a few scenarios, leaders are entertaining concrete proposals, while in others, grassroots community discussions haven't yet been formally taken up by elected officials.

For restaurants, additional seating and space to reassure diners that eating out is safe could mean the difference between surviving or folding during this next phase of the shutdown.

"Every seat outside would help," said Michael Ekwall, co-owner of La Bodeguita del Medio on California Avenue in Palo Alto. "Even at 50% capacity, it will be an incredible challenge to be profitable."

In new guidance that Gov. Gavin Newsom released on Tuesday, the state recommended that restaurants "prioritize" outdoor seating when their local jurisdictions meet the criteria for reopening. Newsom noted in a press conference that outdoor seating naturally allows for "greater distribution of airflow," while inside, ventilation could pose a potential risk.

"Restaurants can expand their outdoor seating, and alcohol offerings in those areas, if they comply with local laws and regulations," the guidance states.

The state isn't mandating specific capacity levels, but for many restaurants, reconfiguring their dining rooms to ensure tables are 6 feet apart will significantly reduce the number of people they can serve.

In Menlo Park, the idea of closing streets was sparked by a request from the owner of Cafe Zoe to use street parking to serve customers once the cafe is allowed to reopen. Councilman Ray Mueller further proposed closing Santa Cruz Avenue and potentially other city streets to traffic. He worked with Councilwoman Betsy Nash to bring forward a request on Tuesday night to temporarily close Santa Cruz and several side streets. They also proposed the city create a "streamlined permit process" to temporarily allow restaurants and retail stores to serve customers and sell goods in the closed streets and for restaurants to also use their designated off-street parking spaces to serve food and drinks.

In an interview before the meeting, Mueller said he hoped closing the streets would help people feel more comfortable patronizing local businesses.

"You want to allow that recovery to take place," he said.

The Menlo Park council members didn't take any action on the plan on Tuesday; City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson agreed to look at the traffic impacts and evaluate concerns raised by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District before bringing a more detailed plan back to the council at a later date, tentatively set for May 26. In a letter sent earlier that day, Harold Schapelhouman, chief of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, said the district saw "no significant challenges" to the proposed Santa Cruz Avenue closure pilot program so long as the city worked with the fire district to coordinate fire response and prevention plans, create a plan for potential safety problems, create emergency fire access points with removable bollards and other steps.

Mountain View Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga said city staff is "actively exploring" temporarily closing Castro Street to traffic, an idea that's drawn interest in the community over the years.

"The social distancing requirements of COVID-19 makes this an opportune time for us to try this concept," she wrote in an email. "Overall, we are looking at this COVID-19 situation as an opportunity to revisit many of the ways we operate.

In Los Altos, an informal working group of city staff, the Los Altos Village Association, Los Altos Property Owners Downtown, the Chamber of Commerce and interested citizens are discussing closing streets to traffic, according to City Manager Chris Jordan. The City Council is expected to discuss "options" at its May 26 meeting, Jordan said. A Change.org petition calling on Los Altos to close Main and State streets to cars has gathered nearly 700 signatures.

Redwood City is in the early stages of considering allowing restaurants and retail stores to use sidewalks, private parking lots and streets for outdoor dining and retail sales, including in downtown, Communications Manager Jennifer Yamaguma said.

"Staff are evaluating what a program might entail, balancing the need for economic vitality while ensuring the health and safety of our community," she wrote.

In Palo Alto, the City Council has not yet formally taken up a proposal to close University Avenue and California Avenue, but staff has been discussing the idea in recent weeks in virtual roundtables with local restaurant and business owners. Palo Alto is already temporarily limiting vehicle access on certain streets to give residents more space to walk, bike and run while complying with social distancing requirements. (Redwood City has done the same on 10 streets as part of a pilot "Slow Streets" program. In Oakland, 74 miles of city streets have been closed to through traffic.)

Palo Alto Mayor Adrian Fine said he supports the idea of closing main thoroughfares to traffic, saying, "There's never been a better time to try it." The usual argument against doing so, particularly on University — that it would intensify traffic on side streets and neighborhoods — doesn't carry as much weight when traffic has dropped significantly during the shelter-in-place order, he said. Fine has been discussing related ideas with City Manager Ed Shikada — including turning parking space on University Avenue into parklets and allowing more than one business — such as a pop-up or food truck — to share existing restaurant space. Fine said he is "totally supportive of experimenting with this stuff."

But with the City Council devoting much of its time to mitigating a nearly $40 million budget shortfall and continuing to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, Fine said the proposal to close downtown streets is not high on the city's priority list.

"Is it a great opportunity? Yes, but it's also not the absolute top priority right now. That's really our budgeting and health crises," he said.

Councilwoman Alison Cormack also supports the idea and pointed to the fact that the city already closes part of California Avenue to traffic on Sundays for the farmers market.

"I think we've already proven that it can work," she said.

She also floated the idea of making California a one-way street, with additional outdoor seating on one side.

"My one concern is that the overriding objective of the health order is that we remain sheltering in place," she said. "I don't want us to open this up until it's safe to do so and doesn't constitute a gathering, but I think it's a great idea, COVID-19 or not, in terms of activating some of these spaces."

Restaurant owners are supportive of the proposal and hope their elected officials take action sooner than later.

"The crisis — we're in it now," said Ekwall, who's facing major losses as a staff of just five people, including him, runs takeout service at La Bodeguita. "We will still be in it later, but now is when people really need help."

"You need to get parklets going and fast," Greg St. Claire, who owns Nola in downtown Palo Alto as well as restaurants in Redwood City, Portola Valley and San Carlos, wrote to the Palo Alto City Council in late April. He described a prohibitively difficult business environment in Palo Alto that predated the coronavirus, hoping the council would grasp and respond to the "economic reality we are facing."

For Oren's Hummus on University Avenue, which seats 49 people inside a small, narrow dining room during normal circumstances, additional outdoor seating would help sustain the business, co-owner Mistie Cohen said.

"This wouldn't be something we would want as a long-term solution, but I do believe for at least the next few months, it would be a great idea that would greatly support many restaurants," she said.

She also suggested the city create outdoor "picnic" events that would allow restaurants to serve or deliver food to local parks. Cormack also envisioned allowing food trucks to operate in local parks.

Guillaume Bienaime, who owns Zola on Bryant Street in downtown Palo Alto, said building parklets in front of restaurants would be great — as long as the city created a template with preselected plans, colors and fees to avoid a protracted permitting process. Zola has been closed since March, and Bienaime has been pressing the city to embrace creative ideas to help his and other restaurants recover.

"I believe we are going to see a radical change in consumer habits for the next couple of years," he wrote to the council in late April. "And we should have radical responses in order to maintain small business and a vibrant community."

Fine said he wants the city to use this time to reimagine the difficult path small businesses must take to open and succeed in Palo Alto. Retail requirements, signage and parking regulations, planning code and other requirements should all be on the table, he said.

"Our Palo Alto process has gotten out of control and our businesses are suffering because of it," Fine said. "I hope we can find some silver lining in this catastrophe for our business community, that in Palo Alto we re-evaluate and really swing the pendulum back to a more business-friendly community."

In several local cities, NextDoor pages and city council inboxes have been flooded with emails from residents who want to see their downtowns closed to traffic. Others remained concerned about the potential traffic impact.

"The loss of parking would impact the neighborhoods close to downtown where the displaced cars would fill the streets (which are often narrower, and full parking presents safety hazards by limiting emergency vehicle access)," Menlo Park resident Lynn Smolik wrote in an email to Mueller. "Hopefully the situation necessitating social distancing will be resolved before any hardscape changes could be made."

Many residents, however, have thrown their support behind the idea.

"We are in unprecedented times," Liz Laffont wrote to the Menlo Park City Council last week, urging them to adopt the street closures. "Changes have hit us, and we must adapt more swiftly and with more creativity than ever before."

Embarcadero Media staff writer Kate Bradshaw contributed to this article.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

resident
Midtown
on May 13, 2020 at 9:54 am
resident, Midtown
on May 13, 2020 at 9:54 am
52 people like this

Noisy indoor restaurants are a breeding ground for all airborne viruses. There are a lot less cars on the street these days. We may as well let restaurants and pedestrians use that space and enjoy the smog-free air.


A Bad Idea
Downtown North
on May 13, 2020 at 10:11 am
A Bad Idea, Downtown North
on May 13, 2020 at 10:11 am
15 people like this

This measure will only create more parking & traffic gridlock in areas not designated for 'pedestrian only' usage.

Have you ever been to one of those pedestrian (no pun intended) 'street fairs' that are held on just about every local main street during the summer?

That will give you an idea of what happens when streets are closed off to traffic. For those with other errands to run (as well as attendees), having to park blocks away is the end result & residents in the adjacent neighborhoods tend to get PO'd.

One blessing of the COVID-19 mandates...most likely, no street fairs will be held this summer which is terrific news because 'if you've been to one, you've been to them all' & most of the stuff being peddled is not that great at all.


Anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2020 at 10:30 am
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2020 at 10:30 am
22 people like this

This deserves careful consideration, maybe a way to set it up temporarily as a test for two years.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 10:38 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 10:38 am
22 people like this

This should be done, I am in great favor of the idea.

I also think that hand in glove ways to help people park near the downtown areas should be implemented. The color zones, and ambiguous parking restrictions don't help. We should simplify parking so that parking in all lots and garages can be used rather than city streets.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 10:44 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 10:44 am
18 people like this

It is worth thinking about. Assuming that we actually care about preserving the restaurants that we have. They are already all too expensive for me now, anyway, and I don't see any way to bring back affordable restaurants.

Mainly, I don't see how to make it work, though, because there are (or were) too many homeless, mentally ill, substance abusers wandering the sidewalks. There needs to be a plan to keep the mentally confused physically-distanced from diners, or, it won't work. Space would have to be assigned to/rented to restaurants, making the space temporarily private.

The public owns the sidewalks and streets -- we also have to make sure that legally, the restaurants don't become -entitled- to it. 100% I don't want to privatize the sidewalks and streets.

It is an interesting concept, but, please don't think it will be legally or logistically simple.



Paly alums
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 13, 2020 at 10:53 am
Paly alums, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 13, 2020 at 10:53 am
16 people like this

Great idea! Weather dependent, obviously. Lets give it a quick trial through the fall.


commonsense
St. Claire Gardens
on May 13, 2020 at 11:06 am
commonsense, St. Claire Gardens
on May 13, 2020 at 11:06 am
26 people like this

The timing couldn't be better to test this out and either implement long term or shut the door on this idea once and for all. It's also a great opportunity for the council to step up and prove they can get something done quickly. If this has to go through the normal process it will be 2022 before anything happens. So, CC, can you rise to the occasion?


Derek
Midtown
on May 13, 2020 at 11:26 am
Derek, Midtown
on May 13, 2020 at 11:26 am
12 people like this

This is a fantastic idea. For sure it will help minimize customers' exposure to Covid, which is currently of paramount importance in all decisions like this, but converting these main streets to pedestrian only will also be a critical factor in helping some of these small businesses survive. University may be somewhat tricky, since rerouting through side streets is more challenging, but Cal Ave should have been pedestrian only years ago. Regarding issues with homeless and substance abusers, which are completely unfounded by the way, there are plenty of ways to create semi-enclosed spaces that are outside. Europe has been doing this successfully for years. It's time to adapt.


Seth
Charleston Meadows
on May 13, 2020 at 12:24 pm
Seth, Charleston Meadows
on May 13, 2020 at 12:24 pm
8 people like this

Good idea to close some retail / restaurant streets for expanded spaced out outdoor eating.

Also consider converting next parallel street (or two sandwiching streets) to be a parking street with some spacing for commercial deliveries and with a single one way lane for vehicle ingress and egress.


A Bad Idea
Downtown North
on May 13, 2020 at 12:34 pm
A Bad Idea, Downtown North
on May 13, 2020 at 12:34 pm
7 people like this


>> Mainly, I don't see how to make it work, though, because there are (or were) too many homeless, mentally ill, substance abusers wandering the sidewalks. There needs to be a plan to keep the mentally confused physically-distanced from diners, or, it won't work.

^^^ A most valid point and consideration as loitering, panhandling, public intoxication, random verbal abuses + assault/robberies are trademarks of the homeless with mental incapacities and substance abuse issues.

This in turn will be bad for the restaurant business and the customer dining experience as a whole.

Until measures/law enforcement policies are enacted to round up disruptive homeless derelicts and jailing or institutionalizing them as needed, few diners would be willing to patronize restaurant reopenings.




Abbellezza
Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2020 at 2:26 pm
Abbellezza , Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2020 at 2:26 pm
11 people like this

This should be done, I am in great favor of the idea!!!

Let’s help and support all the amazing restaurant we love by closing California Avenue in Palo Alto!!!

How amazing would be to have no cars in the street!!!


Allen Akin
Professorville
on May 13, 2020 at 2:29 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
on May 13, 2020 at 2:29 pm
12 people like this

Most residents and workers would enjoy having a larger pedestrian-friendly area. Restaurants have been operating too close to the financial edge for a long time, and this definitely would help them.

But traffic is already on the rise, and with reduced ridership predicted for transit, I'd guess it'll be months, not years, before traffic and parking demands approach pre-COVID-19 levels.

It's always going to be a blow to the restaurants to take away seating space that they're accustomed to use. Our experience with "privatized public benefit" situations like those at Caffe Riace and St. Michael's Alley suggest that once University is converted to private restaurant space it's never going to be politically easy to turn it back into a road.

So if we go down this path, how do we prevent the adjacent neighborhoods from becoming permanent commuter roads and commercial parking lots? Are there other ways of supporting the restaurants that don't have the same risk?


rain?
Barron Park
on May 13, 2020 at 4:12 pm
rain?, Barron Park
on May 13, 2020 at 4:12 pm
1 person likes this

CSU cancelled fall classes and schools are preparing for alternate teaching schedules in the fall. What happens when it starts to rain intermittently in the autumn? This make work temporarily for the summer, but it will cut into profits when it starts getting cold and rainy.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 4:21 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 4:21 pm
17 people like this

Paris in particular, but many other European cities are famous for their outside sidewalk cafes. Their weather is not necessarily as good as ours, but they manage with innovations such as awnings and heaters.

The problem of homeless and panhandlers is more difficult. I can remember a time in Paris when hawkers were attempting to sell their wares to tourists and those sitting at a cafe. I remember vividly how quickly they dispersed when a couple of gendarme appeared suddenly. It seems they were very afraid to continue hawking as they understood the consequences of illegal behavior so disappeared without trace in a moment.


pakin
Barron Park
on May 13, 2020 at 4:39 pm
pakin, Barron Park
on May 13, 2020 at 4:39 pm
5 people like this

Makes sense to help keep restaurants afloat!


Chip
Professorville
on May 13, 2020 at 4:47 pm
Chip, Professorville
on May 13, 2020 at 4:47 pm
1 person likes this

Cafes in Paris are lovely. The tables & chairs are also up against the buildings, under canopies or extended eaves, usually facing toward the street. Diners can be entertained by the passing street parade while having a quick bite.
I for one am mever going to eat a fine meal in the middle of California or University Aves. I prefer to share those with other people not part of my household. 6 feet apart? Fat chance the server manages to put plates on tables from 6 ft away.
I don't believe that all restaurant workers live alone or with immediate family members sheltering in place. Every person with whom one shares digs contributes viral particles from his own outside-the-res contacts. I also think that kitchen workers aren't as scrupulous as we'd like them to be about reporting possible exposures or contamination from their household members & as directed, recusing themselves from work.


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on May 14, 2020 at 1:56 am
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on May 14, 2020 at 1:56 am
10 people like this

My idea for downtown has been to make Lytton and Hamilton into a kind of ring road around downtown.

Make them both one-way so traffic from Alma to 101 and 101 to Alma moves easier, and then lock off University.

Put parking structures around the ring, and eventually perhaps covers for rain and sun over University so people can make use of the outside, as this article states. Like how Stanford Mall used to have no covers over the spaces between buildings.

This could give us a long term development plan, specific places for parking and a traffic plan as well ... at least as far as Middlefield.

It could also provide business spaces for food preparers who are good, but cannot support of efford to have a place on University ... them them have small kiosks to sell stuff, like the booths we used to see in Liddicoats Market way back.

Perhaps zone that public walking space along University in a way that would encourage people businesses and not office spaces.


Resident
Midtown
on May 14, 2020 at 6:54 am
Resident, Midtown
on May 14, 2020 at 6:54 am
9 people like this

How will people get to the restaurants if they can't drive there??? All this does is disincentivize people from going to restaurants at all. It will hurt the restaurant's business! Are customers gonna park 10 blocks away and then walk??

Moreover, there seems to be an explosion in food delivery services. No one dines out anymore. People are even more reliant on DoorDash, etc. since COVID and that's a trend that I think will remain in place long after the pandemic.

They've fantasized about transforming University ave. into the Santa Monica Promenade for a long time. I think its just trendy to "get rid of cars" and people use this opportunity to jump on the bandwagon.
This idea is sort of DOA to me and I'm confused to see everyone in this thread unanimously supporting it. Be careful what you wish for...

And then other people are blaming homeless, like, can't we just make them disappear! All we need to do is purge our streets of these foul transients, right?


Cook
Adobe-Meadow
on May 14, 2020 at 8:04 am
Cook, Adobe-Meadow
on May 14, 2020 at 8:04 am
3 people like this

I for one am longing for the time I can go to a restaurant, look at a menu, everyone in the family choose a different entree, have someone bring me the food, and then to walk away to leave someone else to clean up.

I have become an almost full time cook over the past 8 weeks. We have had some food delivered or picked up takeout. But the vast majority of the meals my family have eaten have been planned, prepared, cooked and cleaned up either by me or under my supervision. My menu is planned a week in advance and if a certain ingredient was not available when grocery shopping or has been purloined by a hungry family member when looking for a late night snack, then that item has to be missing from the dish.

In other words, I am tired of eating at home. I want to have a break. I am sure I am not alone!


Carol
College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 8:47 am
Carol, College Terrace
on May 14, 2020 at 8:47 am
12 people like this

I think they should close California Avenue. It dead ends at the train station. Seems like the best place to start. Most tend to forget about California Avenue but it was becoming a vibrant place. This would be a good test pilot.


Close them!
Adobe-Meadow
on May 14, 2020 at 9:31 am
Close them!, Adobe-Meadow
on May 14, 2020 at 9:31 am
2 people like this

Make it a 2 x per week deal so it's somewhat special and draws people out.
It may take a few weeks to catch on, but I bet "Tuesday Night Dine Out" would become wildly popular.

People would park in the perimeter area. Very few spaces would be lost. Most everyone already parks on the outskirts.
People would likely ride their bikes as well...with their kids.
Sounds awful, right? LOL


Carl Jones
Palo Verde
on May 14, 2020 at 12:30 pm
Carl Jones, Palo Verde
on May 14, 2020 at 12:30 pm
4 people like this

@CrescentParkAnon "ring road" - YES, YES, YES.
As I have said before, we can experiment first w/o actually making those roads one-way. Set the timing for the lights so that a car crossing Middlefield on University can turn right on Webster, then left onto Litton and get all the way to High or Alma w/o stopping. (then left on High and right on University).
For traffic coming from Stanford on University, time the lights for a right turn onto High, left onto Hamilton, then all the way to Webster or University w/o a stop.
Perhaps a setting of 23mph would work. One could tinker with the timing to see what is best. Might vary depending on time of day. Later on we could consider actually making those stretches one-way. (Note - there is historical opposition to one-way streets).
Someone (@Colorado) posted a similar idea 1-2 weeks ago on another article. There were examples of various cities in CA and the country (Boulder) that have dome similar things.


TimR
Downtown North
on May 14, 2020 at 8:42 pm
TimR, Downtown North
on May 14, 2020 at 8:42 pm
2 people like this

This is basically what Pizza My Heart has been doing for years, and has continued to do during the SIP, using Lytton Plaza instead of the street for outdoor seating (people don't pay attention to those signs on the tables). Nothing wrong with providing others the ability to do the same. And CA Ave is closed every Sunday for the farmer's market, and things have been very orderly and safe there during the lockdown, including people eating at tables along the sidewalk (again, even though they're not supposed to). So it's something that works and that people like to do, plus it might chase away some of the homeless invading University Ave. It's worth trying, especially since traffic isn't an issue right now.


PA Resident
Downtown North
on May 14, 2020 at 9:39 pm
PA Resident, Downtown North
on May 14, 2020 at 9:39 pm
11 people like this

Yes! Closing downtowns for traffic should be done permanently! It’s not fun to sit outside with all the noisy traffic anyway! Would be a real improvement on quality of life. And it does not kill anyone to walk a few blocks!


Allen Akin
Professorville
on May 14, 2020 at 10:28 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
on May 14, 2020 at 10:28 pm
13 people like this

@PA Resident: "Yes! Closing downtowns for traffic should be done permanently!"

So is this about leveraging the COVID-19 crisis to permanently change downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods, or is this about temporarily adding outdoor seating space to help out the restaurants during the time of social distancing?


YP
Crescent Park
on May 16, 2020 at 5:17 pm
YP, Crescent Park
on May 16, 2020 at 5:17 pm
2 people like this

Love the idea, do it a few nights a week. Great solution to help our struggling restaurants and what a joy to walk down University and see all the cafes and restaurants with people enjoying dinner. We have perhaps the greatest weather in the world for outdoor dining the next few months.

I've seen a few posts above whining about this or that, well then don't go downtown!! Stay at home in your bubble!!!


Palo Alto Native
Palo Alto High School
on May 18, 2020 at 6:10 pm
Palo Alto Native, Palo Alto High School
on May 18, 2020 at 6:10 pm
2 people like this

University Avenue should at least be permanently closed to traffic, it's so dangerous for pedestrians. Drivers can use Lytton Ave. instead.


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