Students push for downtown promenade | May 22, 2009 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 22, 2009

Students push for downtown promenade

Plan would close University Avenue to traffic, shift parking to designated garages

by Gennady Sheyner

A graduate student-led proposal to drive all cars off the busiest section of University Avenue is slowly but steadily garnering Palo Alto's attention.

Under the plan, developed by a group from Stanford University, the merchant-heavy stretch of University between High and Cowper streets would be converted into a vehicle-free promenade. Student David Hughes said he and three of his classmates hope to convert other residents and city officials to the cause.

The students pitched the idea as an assignment for their Creating Infectious Action class, which requires them to come up with ways to reduce gas consumption. Since then, they have created a blog and a Facebook group to promote the idea, which they believe would both reduce Palo Altans' gas dependence and alleviate the parking woes on the city's busiest thoroughfare.

Instead of clogging up the two-hour-parking spots along University, employees of the businesses along the thoroughfare could get parking permits from the city and fill the garage spots formerly occupied by Facebook employees, Hughes said. The company moved out of downtown earlier this month and into its new office on California Avenue.

The idea, Hughes said, is to promote less driving and more walking. But if it helps alleviate some of University Avenue's parking woes, so much the better.

"Parking is such a huge issues for employees, many of whom are getting ticketed a bunch of times every month," Hughes said. "If there is a customer in the store, they have to either take a gamble and stay with the customer or say, 'I have to move my car.'"

The idea of turning University into an auto-free promenade isn't entirely new. In July 2007, city officials decided to close the busiest section of University on a Friday afternoon only to see adjoining streets fill with traffic and merchants fill with anger and frustration.

But Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto, who was mayor at the time, said the biggest flaw with the event was inadequate planning and publicity. Kishimoto is a longtime proponent of creating a more walkable Palo Alto. She said the idea of turning University into a pedestrian-only zone is not without merit, provided it's implemented in gradual phases.

"I think people are very hungry for a place to just meet and mingle," Kishimoto said. "It creates an environment where you, by serendipity, run into neighbors and meet up and have dinner with them."

The first phase, Kishimoto said, could be to eliminate parking spots along University Avenue to allow for wider sidewalks and more bicycle parking spots. Later phases could include closing the busy stretch to cars on a monthly or a bi-weekly basis. The street, for example, could be closed to traffic late Friday afternoon and remain closed on Saturday morning, during which time it could host a farmers market, she said.

Kishimoto isn't alone in wishing for a car-free stretch of University Avenue. On May 13, Planning and Transportation Commissioner Arthur Keller mentioned the idea as an example of the "out-of-the-box" policies he'd like to see city consultants consider as they present recommendations for amending the city's Comprehensive Plan, which guides land-use policies.

Hughes and his group, meanwhile, are keeping busy trying to convert more residents to their cause. The group's Facebook group, Palo Alto Pedestrian Mall, aims to attract 1,000 supporters by May 27. Between May 16 and May 20, its membership swelled from 66 to 452 members.

Hughes also said most of the conversations with downtown shoppers were promising. While some merchants said they were concerned about the proposal's impact on their business, the shoppers were generally enthusiastic, he said.

"We didn't find one consumer who didn't like the idea," he said.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Midtown
on May 21, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Sounds to me like the first task is a PR job to convince the downtown merchants that this will work. If you can't convince the business owners, then this will never happen.


Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 21, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Not only would I support this idea, but I'd have dinner downtown a lot more. I think the Walgreens/Longs type stores might be against it, but everyone else should love the idea. There are tons of parking structures and plenty of parking...


Posted by Dave Hughes, a resident of Stanford
on May 21, 2009 at 8:38 pm

If you are interested in showing your support for the Palo Alto Pedestrian Mall Initiative, please join our facebook group (which now has over 670 members).

Web Link

You can also sign the petition at:

Web Link


Posted by Joe Mellin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Interesting article, I can see now having live blue grass bands on thursday evening. It could really do a lot for businesses. What about the california ave farmers market moving there for sunday?


Posted by Katy, a resident of Stanford
on May 21, 2009 at 10:55 pm

What a great idea. The art festivals are a blast when they close the streets and there is terrible traffic all the time anyway. We always take alternate routes around University. Just need to build more parking or bike lots now.


Posted by Against!, a resident of Downtown North
on May 21, 2009 at 10:55 pm

We have businesses to run and I don't want more traffic on the side streets. Don't do this!


Posted by Sekhar Paladugu, a resident of Stanford
on May 21, 2009 at 11:25 pm

I think this is a fantastic idea that would garner a lot of student support. I know my friends and I would enjoy going to University Ave a lot more- probably from once or twice a month to once or twice a week.


Posted by willy, a resident of University South
on May 21, 2009 at 11:26 pm

The traffic has to go somewhere. Ask a traffic engineer what this will do to nearby streets. Traffic won't magically disappear.


Posted by Tripp, a resident of Stanford
on May 21, 2009 at 11:30 pm

i think those in fear of hampering business may not be aware of the benefits to business resulting from increased pedestrian traffic. it would not be the first time that the dreams have lead to progress with regard to community... if not on a larger scale. small european businesses have thrived on promenades, who says the same can't work here.


Posted by A resident of Stanford, a resident of Stanford
on May 22, 2009 at 1:47 am

sounds like a fantastic idea. making university avenue a pedestrian friendly place especially over the weekend would definitely attract a larger crowd and make the street a much more enjoyable place.

biking through the streets right now is a bit intimidating.


Posted by Cool I/0, a resident of another community
on May 22, 2009 at 8:47 am

Merchants on Church St in places like Burlington, Vt and Fulton St, Brooklyn love it . . . people like Longs have rear access parking lots. It might result in a bit of a mix shift (so there will be some losers), but this would be a remarkable change that would have a great net benefit . . .


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 9:34 am

Kudos to the students for their energy and enthusiasm on this one. Also a great way of showing the positive ways facebook can be used to help community involvement.

Of course this is a good idea, the ones who don't like it are the ones who never like change or innovation. Most of the whiners are probably over 50 and have lived here for over 20 years and can't be bothered to see any kind of progress in Palo Alto. We have to look ahead for the next generation and they are the ones who will have to live here so let's make it all fresh and new.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on May 22, 2009 at 9:39 am

Cars definitely clog University Avenue...but this proposal will exacerbate the traffic on the surrounding residential streets, on arteries such as Embarcadero with artificially low speed limits, and on El Camino.

Hard to believe the traffic in those areas could be worse...but it could.

Not to mention...this is a "repackaged" story from earlier this week. That story didn't have the panache of the SU student angle (!!!!!) but the proposal was the same.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 9:45 am

According to one post I read on one of the threads, University is used for cruising to see which restaurants are full and which ones to eat in and then again cruising to look for a handy parking lot.

If all these cruisers parked in one of the garages and then walked to the restaurants, looking in to see which ones were empty, rather than clogging the streets with their cars, they would probably get a better idea about the restaurant and a better appetite from the exercise.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 22, 2009 at 10:07 am

I have one question for David Hughes - Where is all the current traffic on University Avenue going to go? In recent years the Planning and Transportation Department has even widened the area of University Avenue closest to the shopping district due to traffic conjestion. The only outcome from this move was to cause even more traffic to conjest University Avenue, except now there are more lanes to allow even more cars to sit and pollute the area. It has been a disaster. If David Hughes wants to close off University Avenue between Cowper and High, the only outcome will be for neighborhoods that border University Avenue to bear the additional traffic in their own neighborhoods. . . neighborhoods with kids and families that don't want to bear the negative consequences of David Hughes plans for a downtown utopia. Bad idea unless Mr. Hughes and his group would also advocate closing the University Avenue exit off of 101. Can't stop the same amount of traffic from using University Avenue unless you do so.


Posted by Dave Hughes, a resident of Stanford
on May 22, 2009 at 10:19 am

Hi Kate, If you join the facebook group (Web Link), and take a look at picture #6, you will see the traffic and transportation plans. You can post additional comments there if you'd like. Thanks for the note.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 22, 2009 at 11:01 am

Can the city really afford to even consider this matter now-- we have a huge deficit and other more pressing issues to deal with.
Naturally Yoriko signed on---anytime there is something to do with "decreasing" traffic, she hops on board--witness her support for HSR and then her swift turnaround when she actually bothered to find out the facts.
"Kishimoto is a longtime proponent of creating a more walkable Palo Alto."--she is a proponent, but when it comes to action, she is just all talk---we have lost at least two neighborhood shopping center during her "walkable neighborhoods" tenure on the council.

The city should deal with more important issues and then when the economy gets better think about this proposal. Not now.


Posted by Love to walk, but..., a resident of South of Midtown
on May 22, 2009 at 11:48 am

I think ths idea needs development and these talented students have a deadline that is governed by their school schedule rather than a realistic schedule for vetting the idea.

Though I think it's interesting, I won't sign on until they've taken time to do the homework.


Posted by Manjiri, a resident of Community Center
on May 22, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Giving some sidewalk space to display their goods might help get a buy-in from downtown merchants.


Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 22, 2009 at 1:15 pm

A fantastic idea! If done well, it will be a lovely place to spend time, shop and dine. Driving down University is a pain, and biking is unsafe. Having a pedestrian/bike-friendly area like this would be great for Palo Alto.


Posted by Paul Sheehan, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 22, 2009 at 1:52 pm

I think this is a fantastic idea, and believe the negative comments about the traffic re-routing are completely unfounded. First, the only two alternate routes that would be considered by anyone who already wants to bypass the traffic mess that is University Avenue in its present form are Lytton and Hamilton, which are primarily (if not exclusively) commercial between Cowper and High. You may also notice that the route for buses down University from Middlefield past past the cal-train involves cutting over at Tasso Street (one up from Cowper), down Lytton to High streets, then back over to University (directly around the proposed closed off area). The other day I rode my bike up University (about 3 pm on a Tuesday) from El Camino past a stream of cars lined up from High Street to Webster, all sitting there idling or moving 5 mph up University; I think the first car couldn't have gone more than 2 blocks by the time I was at Middlefield. I suspect that most people driving down University either don't know the alternative routes that are much faster, or don't want to park too far away from where they are trying to go to on University (and therefore wouldn't likely stray away from either Lytton or Hamilton). Granted, some additional parking arrangements will have to be made, as well as some measures to ensure people don't get backed up on Lytton or Hamilton for parallel parkers waiting for those good spots (especially on Hamilton). They might consider a one-way street down Lytton (Middlefield towards Alma direction) and Up Hamilton (Alma towards Middlefield direction) as is currently the case for Homer and Chaucer (both of which are major arteries through VERY residential areas, unlike the much more commercial streets of Lytton and Hamilton). Yes, there will be changes in traffic patterns, but I think these changes will be vast improvements over the current traffic nightmare that is University Avenue.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on May 22, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Another article on your website today notes that the budget disaster we are facing is "Grim, dire, unprecedented, catastrophic, devastating."

So Palo Alto residents think it would be a nice time to make it harder to get to the main commercial street, where the remaining merchants are desparately hanging on?

You have community fairs on both University and California -- for now, satisfy the strolling urge with those and concentrate on how to keep your schools and police functioning. This is a crisis.




Posted by Claude Ezran, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 22, 2009 at 4:28 pm

I love the idea. That would make the organization of Palo Alto World Music Day (and similar events) a lot easier! On Sunday June 21st, from 5:00-8:00 pm we will have 30+ musical groups perform on street corners along University Avenue, on King Plaza (City Hall), and surrounding Streets. It will be a fun event, but just imagine it with University Ave being closed to traffic! For more info: www.pamusicday.org


Posted by Hank, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 22, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Why is it always the people with no money always trying to negatively impact people who are trying to make it?


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 22, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Questions for David:

1. What’s your major? Presumably it isn’t economics.

2. How much would this plan cost in terms of reconfiguring the streets, signage, traffic lights, etc. etc.? Or is that not relevant to Creating Infectious Action?

I don’t see how this would cut traffic. It would only divert it. People who drive to get downtown now would still drive. They would just park in a different place.

Kishimoto will sign up for anything that has a whiff of “green” or “walkable.” She has never cared about practicalities or cost.

Her ideas sound disastrous: “… closing the busy stretch to cars on a monthly or a bi-weekly basis. The street, for example, could be closed to traffic late Friday afternoon and remain closed on Saturday morning …..”

Who would know which days or nights University would be closed? It would be just like the fiasco of July 2007 when “inadequate planning and publicity” caused a major traffic nightmare.


Posted by Seymore, a resident of College Terrace
on May 22, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Pat, what's with the nasty attitude. Why are you attacking the credibility of the students? Is that your best argument?

Pat, what exactly are YOUR economic credentials? Business credentials? City planning credentials?

Glass houses.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Another stupid idea from Stanford.

Why not try it out on Palm Drive first, and see how it plays out over there first. There must be thousands of students who would love to use their skateboards on this nice peace of real estate that otherwise is doing nothing.

Physician .. heal theyself.


Posted by Eugene, a resident of Mountain View
on May 23, 2009 at 11:01 am

I think this is a great idea. My thoughts are similar to those of Paul above. I'm a Stanford grad student, but I've lived in the area for some time now, and have always found the slow traffic on University Ave perplexing. Traffic on University is always backed up, while Lytton and Hamilton never seem to be. So when I'm driving, I always choose to use Lytton or Hamilton. Why don't more people do that? When I'm on my bicycle, I use University just for the fun of being able to zoom past the backed up cars.

From what I've read so far, this plan will be done slowly in phases to test out how well it works. University Ave is a traffic nightmare (for cars) now already. What would be the harm in performing a few low-cost experiments to see whether any alternatives work better?

If New York City can do an experiment making Broadway a pedestrian mall near Times Square, then we can definitely afford to try this out at home.


Posted by Nils Davis, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 23, 2009 at 10:09 pm

80% or more of my trips to downtown PA are on Lytton or Hamilton. If I want to shop or eat, I park off University in one of the many parking options. Then as I walk up and down University, often faster than the cars idling at the lights waiting for the inevitable left-turners, I wonder why it's not a pedestrian mall, like the delightful - and lively - streets of the Trastevere district of Rome, Florence, and the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

Of course, this is my intuition - that it would be a good solution for a number of reasons. But really, both supporters and opponents are talking out of their hats at this point and jerking their knees. There is a lot of supposition and intuition, but not a lot of analysis or data. Someone needs to do some traffic modeling, review the data on merchant and restaurant success after pedestrian mall conversions, and so on (well, David Hughes may have actually done some of this, although there's no link to such on the Pedestrian Mall website yet).

Finally - +1 vote for bluegrass bands on Thursdays or any other day of the week.


Posted by rhody, a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2009 at 12:18 pm

What about the elderly and handicapped who can't walk 1 or 2 blocks from parking off University to get to a business. An alternate suggestion: close University to all vehicles except those with Handicapped Permits and allow those cars to park right on University. Then you are not punishing an aging population.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on May 25, 2009 at 8:39 am

There was another thread going about this, so I am going to repeat myself a bit.

There a numerous examples of cities and towns around the country that have created pedestrian malls from what had been active city streets which have been successful. Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, CO is to my way of thinking the most comparable to what a University Mall could be. But there are others I have seen in my regular travels around the United States.

University Avenue in its current configuration is a failure, and it is getting worse. Too many empty store fronts, too many businesses, long established and more recent, which choose to close their doors when their leases are about to expire.

I acknolwedge that such a "re-structuring" of the Lytton/University/Hamilton traffic flows, along with some other issues, make this a complicated matter to implemnt. But the challenges are not insurmountable. There are plenty of cities with such experiences that can help Palo Alto approach this in a thoughtful, cost effective way.

I, for one, see University becoming a ghost town, except on certain evenings when the dining businesses do well, in its current state. Time for some big thinking, but that is not the same as original thinking. This is a proven concept.

BTW, I think it is terrific that some Stanford students are engaging with the Palo Alto community around this. I generally find that working with Stanford as an honest partner is a superior approach to dealing with Stanford in an adversarial manner. In this particular case, it appears to this writer that these are the sorts of students who will become part of our community after they leave the Farm. A good thing. They should feel welcomed. Not all ideas fly, but that is a different discussion.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2009 at 8:51 am

Rhody

I doubt very much that all elderly and handicapped people are able to find parking right outside the store they want to visit at present anyway. With this system, the handicapped parking spots could be on all side streets with the spots closest to University to give those with mobility problems the best chance of getting a spot nearest their destination.


Posted by narnia, a resident of another community
on May 25, 2009 at 10:21 am

Why don't we look at the very successful pedestrian malls elsewhere?

The ones I know personally are in Burlington VT, also a college town and Cape May NJ. The Baltimore Harbor which I know well is a great also a pedestrian mall. And what about the delightful Third st Promenade in Santa Monica?
The only difference between these malls and downtown Palo alto is that their business differ a bit from what University avenue has become- many pop and mom stores mixed up with high end chains. I can actually buy a pair of shoes at Church st (burlington) and look at how they make saltwater taffy in the Cape May mall ....I've seen many elderly and handicapped about in these malls. They seem to love being car free and have space to move about....
Please don't be a nay sayer - let's look a little closer at the idea. Maybe it will not work but
let's look at it.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2009 at 11:23 am

Narnia,
Who is the "we" who will "look at" this?

I think a pedestrian mall like those in Europe or other US cities would be a lovely thing. But can we be pragmatic?

If the city "looks at it," which I think it may have done in the past, it will cost staff time and -- inevitably -- consultants. Where will that money come from? I'm sure you've been reading about deficits in the city budget and the state budget.

Odds are it would cost a lot of money to implement such a plan. Where will that money come from? Which existing city services would you like to give up in order to pay for a pedestrian mall?

You might want to read more about the Creating Infectious Action class at the Stanford design school.
Web Link

The blogger, one of the teachers, writes, “….well, it is one thing to have an idea, and another thing to spread it ...” Yes, and yet another thing to know if the idea is economically feasible.

The students are getting all kinds of praise for their "success" at stirring up controversy and “designing a cool logo,” while completely ignoring the practicalities.




Posted by narnia, a resident of another community
on May 25, 2009 at 5:41 pm

We is the collective minds of the residents. Dismissing the idea before learning about the benefits that other communities accrue from their pedestrian malls? Are we so poor that even the thought costs money? I'm not with you on that Pat, because I have seen what can be accomplished by having a US STYLE (in the US) pedestrian mall. May we try again a traffic
free weekend this time well planned, just to see what response it gets....Or shall we just give up any idea of downtown pedestrian improvement?
To the students:
this won't be the first time in your lives that negativity will be the first response to your work. Keep at it. It's a good idea and deserves further exploration by itself (in Palo Alto or somewhere else).


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Students: When you’re out working and your boss asks you to justify your ideas/proposals with a business plan or spreadsheet, I suggest you not tell him/her he’s just being negative.


Posted by EcoMama, a resident of Community Center
on May 25, 2009 at 9:46 pm

I count myself among those who would willingly patronize more businesses more often in Palo Alto if University Avenue were a pedestrian mall. Has anyone tried to eat "outside" on the sidewalk -- listening to traffic and parking rage all the while? It's quite unpleasant. Our family bikes a lot -- but good luck getting around anywhere downtown with kids in tow, as the gnarly traffic makes it near-impossible to navigate. We take our business to the much less crowded, much more parking-friendly California Avenue neighborhood (Oaxacan Kitchen on Birch Street is our favorite) or to Town & Country with its bevy of new eateries. My point is that I know of lots of families like ours who steer clear of University Avenue (it's a common topic of frustration); I think downtown businesses would do better with a pedestrian mall and the tension of the traffic eased. There are a lot of empty garages now; use them, and Free University Avenue!


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 26, 2009 at 7:41 am

I know that fostering an environment where you, by serendipity, run into neighbors and meet up and have dinner with them should be a major priority for our city council. However this issue needs to be studied carefully.
Are we talking about shutting down cross street access across University as well? How will this impact emergency services? what about traffic, in general, where will that go?

The real issue to consider, at this time, is the cost. How much will it cost the city to do the studies? How much will it cost to city to turn University into a pedestrian mall? Should we even be considering this matter, given our budgetary problems, at this time?
It would be nice if Kishimoto and other council members would take off their green glasses and face reality occasionally.


Posted by Bob Sutton, a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2009 at 10:06 am

In response to residents who say that there are impractical elements of the students' proposal, my response is that, of course there is, but since most important changes and human accomplishments were sparked by strident and impractical people, and implemented over the objections of people who feared change and could only see the problems, their proposal is pretty much starting where most major human achievements do, and yes, most human failures, but you don't get the achievements without the risk.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2009 at 10:15 am


The Stanford students will only have to live with the mess of their experiment for four years, Palo Altans will be stuck with it for ever.

Stanford campus has lots of non traffic areas, lets enjoy those rather than blighting University Avenue with a feel good, impractical academic social experiment.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2009 at 10:31 am

For those who think that this is untimely in these economic times, I say that perhaps this is what makes it most timely.

At present our downtown area is dying apart from perhaps weekend evenings. Most people I know just don't go there except perhaps to eat occasionally. The merchants there are suffering from this and as a result so is the Palo Alto economy. Most of us go elsewhere for entertainment, shopping and dining. It seems wise to think ahead to get some reasons for Palo Altans to stay in Palo Alto and spend our money here.

I for one think that spending some money on revitalizing our downtown is much better than supporting senior games, public art, and all the other things our money is being wasted on. I would look on spending some money as an investment in Palo Alto for the future. I do not look on it as a green issue, but as a survival issue.

I would love to see weekly outdoor fairs, concerts, activities, to attract me to visit downtown. These do not need to be huge like the art festival, but a weekly small fair on a theme such as handcrafts or ethnic foods with demonstrations how to do them and being able to buy the materials rather than overpriced art done by artisans would be delightful and something that locals could visit each week before or after weekend lunch or dinner would attract many of us in a way that we do not think of downtown at present.


Posted by narnia, a resident of another community
on May 26, 2009 at 11:56 am

Why don't we just ask those people whose hometowns have pedestrian malls and are similar to Palo Alto in many respects? That doesn't cost money. We don't need even to ask I'd say. Their malls are successful.

Why are those claiming that a "footmall" is impractical when they provide NOTHING to justify their claims. You know, justifying claims goes both ways...

Bob Sutton is right when he says that "ideas" do not need justification to exist.( I hope I'm reading you not too incorrectly Bob). Ideas are not blue prints. They are thoughts and thought-solutions about a particular issue or problem. Those willing to throw the present idea to the dustbin must be afraid of idea. I mean, up till now nobody has seen any action about this idea so what are you afraid of? Is the mention of a thought disturbing? And why?




Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2009 at 12:33 pm

When someone mentions a promenade, the first thing I think of is a hangout area. Then I think of Lytton Plaza and how unappealing that spot is. Just multiply the Lytton Plaza scenario all the way down University Avenue and I can't imagine this would be very appealing to business owners.


Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on May 26, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Will the downtown homeless population explode?


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2009 at 2:48 pm



The pedestrian mall in Sacramento is an economic and social disaster.

They may work in some medieval European hamlets and towns.

I liked the one in Oxford UK when I was studying there, for example.

Here it will a magnet for the beggars and vagrants and drunks, a sort of Hogarth scene like this Web Link leading to this Web Link


Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on May 26, 2009 at 3:53 pm

About the Sacramento K Street mall:

"City officials now want to look at re-introducing vehicles to the mall, a move dozens of cities across the country have made to bring greater visibility to retailers and create more vibrant urban streets."

Web Link


Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on May 26, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Seems like the students can hang out at the Stanford Mall if they don't want cars getting in their way as they travel between stores.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2009 at 4:03 pm

What has not been mentioned is that Palo Alto is very different from other areas in the country.

The first obvious thing to mention is the weather. We do not have snowy, cold winters that would prevent people from getting out and about without cars. We have ideal weather 300 days of the year for walking or cycling and for walking around outdoor Malls (e.g. Stanford is an outside Mall and we don't see problems with that). As a result, comparing University with an area in the country that doesn't have our weather is not a good idea.

Secondly, we are very cosmopolitan. We have residents in Palo Alto who have lived in and/or visited areas all over the World. We are not tied to the American norm of believing that a car is essential. We are able to try new things and entertain new ideas because we are not the average American town.

I do not know Sacramento, but I would imagine that the demographics of that City do not match our own. I don't know much about the average Sacramentan, but I suspect that they are very different from the average Palo Altan.

Whereas comparisons and looking at other cities is a reasonable idea, we must also look at what makes each city mall work or not. I feel sure that if investigated, these two points - weather and our multi-cultured population - are to be taken into account.


Posted by narnia, a resident of another community
on May 26, 2009 at 6:18 pm

For a foot mall to succeed you need a not too wide area , relatively low buildings, a comparatively small town population, population concentration nearby, supervisory presence and welcoming stores. Sacramento doesn't possess these characteristics. In Burlington ( the berkely of the east) you see a lot of teenagers on skateboards, a fair number of transients but by and large you see regular folks going by, buying, staying around and enjoying themselves. The same happens in Santa Monica or Cape May (just to speak of the places I know). In fact Church street in Burlington is successfully open year round through blizzards and summer storms and survives nicely the end of the higher education year.

Why pointing up the Sacramento mall just to be unfavorable when many better examples exist in towns comparable to Palo Alto? Sacramento is not comparable to Palo Alto.
You want to be dismissive of the idea , fine, but please don't make absurd comparisons.
Do you actually have any relevant "facts"?


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2009 at 11:20 pm



Sacramento has even better weather than we have.

Face reality, the idea is dead in the water, aint going to happen.

The Stanford students can do a postmortem, they should have done a premortem in fact, it would have improved their decision making quality.

ACORN tactics do not work everywhere, fortunately!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2009 at 9:38 am

Respectfully, I beg to differ on Sacramento weather being better than ours. When temps are in the 90s, I think that outdoor malls are less appealing for daytime activities. Most people do not want to stroll in the sun in 90+ weather for fun. They want shady parks or areas near water or air conditioned malls. When the sun goes down, they may like being outside but so do the skeeters. I think our weather is much better for an outside mall because we don't get that many 90+ days.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2009 at 10:26 am


Even if it is a bit cooler here we would still end with a mall plagued by beggars, vagrants and drugs Web Link

Just more than there are currently on University Ave.

Anyway, we already have Stanford Mall, the area will never support 2 of them.
If you want a street experience go to California Ave on Sundays, that fulfills the need for almost everyone.


Posted by itsme, a resident of Green Acres
on May 27, 2009 at 5:07 pm

"Secondly, we are very cosmopolitan. We have residents in Palo Alto who have lived in and/or visited areas all over the World. We are not tied to the American norm of believing that a car is essential. We are able to try new things and entertain new ideas because we are not the average American town."

Thanks for reinforcing the conversative narrative that northern californian liberals are dooshes who think theyre better than everyone else in America.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Since I am the one quoted above, I am highly amused. If you knew me, you would discover that I have only lived here in Northern California for a small percentage of my life and I am far from being what you call liberal. I do however happen to have a broad outlook on life, having lived in several countries, visited plenty more, read non-US newspapers, and managed for a great part of my life without a car or sharing one. I don't happen to believe that people around here are better than everyone else in America, but I do believe that we are not the typical Americans because I know that there are a lot like me. I have also lived in small town America too, and I know the difference. We are not better, just different.


Posted by itsme, a resident of Green Acres
on May 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm

"I do however happen to have a broad outlook on life, having lived in several countries, visited plenty more, read non-US newspapers, and managed for a great part of my life without a car or sharing one."

Sweet, you managed to cram 5 pompous, self-important statements into one sentence!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Yes, glad you like it.

You see, you are the one who thought you knew me and I just had to show you how wrong you are.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2009 at 7:21 pm


The students are leaving for the summer, hope they all got class credit.
Suttons post suggests they did, very nice.Happy for all.
Now ---lets back to the real world not the academic ivory tower and Stanfords version of ACORN.
Isn't Sutton a social psychologist aka a community activist.
I do not see an MBA or a history of building, running a business and more important meeting a payroll in his background. Correct me if I am wrong, please.
Current software enables you to run these experiments in cyberspace without disturbing real tax payers and merchants, ie wealth creators.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2009 at 10:14 pm


I guess as they say in SU Biz school. "This dog don't hunt".
Or as they said at Harvard "it lacks momentum"
I am sure there is a more common man expression

Any ideas?


Posted by David Hughes, a resident of Stanford
on May 28, 2009 at 9:50 am

Great news for the Palo Alto Pedestrian Mall Supporters...our team was invited to the Palo Alto Downtown Business & Professional Association meeting yesterday. We also were invited to speak at City Hall at the Planning and Transportation Commission meeting last night. Some of you may have seen us on Channel 26. The initiative is gaining support by the hour!

Also, San Francisco Streetsblog.org just posted an article about us today. Web Link

Additionally, the Palo Alto Daily Post and the Stanford Daily are running newspaper articles within the next day or so. The Palo Alto Weekly is running a follow-up story as well.

Lastly, ABC7 news and Fox News Bay Area are going to run a TV story in the next week or two.

To say that this initiative is dead can not be farther from the truth...it's gaining momentum! And 2 of the Stanford students are sticking around for at least 2 more years to see this idea turn into reality.

Thanks to all who have supported! If you want to join the movement, please click the web link. Web Link

If you don't have facebook, you can sign the petition: Web Link


Posted by David Hughes, a resident of Stanford
on May 28, 2009 at 10:14 am

The Stanford Daily just posted their article on-line. Here's the web link: Web Link


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 28, 2009 at 10:52 am

David

While the Kishimoto's of Palo Alto are excited about this idea and I am sure you are thrilled also, I seriously doubt this is "gaining support by the hour".
Given our economic situation, this should not be a priority at all for our city leaders. This should not even be considered until things get better. It would be utter folly to spend the money on the studies needed to be conducted prior to beginning this project and the cost of the actual project would be pretty high also, I imagine.

While you and your fellow students have no concept of money, many of us in the community, who will be here long after the 2 students leave in a couple of years, do.


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on May 28, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Sharon,

"A sort of Hogarth scene....." Your comments are always amusing and on the money!


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Nora Charles
Thanks

The question is do we really want downtown Palo Alto to look like thisWeb Link
Well it is close already

Hogarth was an interesting social commenter, he got in trouble for it in his time, but he was accurate


Posted by Judy, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 31, 2009 at 5:08 pm

I fully endorse the idea of turning University Avenue into a pedestrian mall. It has been done in other places and been a huge success because when people walk they are much more likely to go into the shops.




Posted by smart, a resident of Professorville
on Jun 1, 2009 at 10:01 am

True, the city is in difficult economic times. However, also true is the fact that in the not too distant future we will be at the center of the next economic boom and finances will not be as big an issue.

This is a multi-year project that needs mult-year foresight, not shortsighted pessimism based on the last nine months of economic turmoil.

I am no traffic expert but if that can be figured out CORRECTLY, this idea should certainly be pursued. The phased study will cost very little money and may prove all the naysayers correct. End of story. But, naysayers, be prepared to be proven wrong and then support this fantastic idea.


Posted by Former Palo Altan, a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Didn't Palo Alto do this back in the 70s or 80s? I seem to recall University was closed, and there was one-way traffic on Lytton and Hamilton. It was a failure. Can't they look into recent history of their own town before considering what will be an expense at a time when they're trying to cut back?


Posted by Stan, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 22, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Let me guess. A couple of Stanford students visited Europe for the first time and now want to sit on University Avenue drinking coffee and smoking strong cigarettes without the anoyance of those damn automobiles that provincial Americans insist on driving everywhere. Hopefully they've all gone home for the summer and their parents, siblings and friends will laugh at their fake accents long enough to get them over it before the end of September.

If not I concur with Joe from Barron Park: turn Palm Drive into a pedestrian mall. Based on the Facebook group on this subject it's mostly Stanford students backing a mall. So build them one at Stanford. White Plaza and the Stanford Mall may not be sexy enough but what could be trendier than drinking and smoking on Palm Drive. Turning Palm into a pedestrian mall would also eliminate most of the commuter traffic on University and at a much lower cost than turning University into a pedestrian mall.


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