University, Cal Ave will stay car-free through September | June 25, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 25, 2021

University, Cal Ave will stay car-free through September

City Council to consider design changes for commercial strips to support dining scene

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto's popular experiment with car-free downtown streets will stretch at least until the end of September after the City Council rejected Wednesday a proposal to reopen California and University avenues to cars sooner.

This story contains 1157 words.

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Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by some other information
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2021 at 10:48 am

some other information is a registered user.

I sat through most of the meeting last night and spoke for keeping Cal Ave closed, and available for outdoor dining, permanently. Others will weigh in on why, but I wanted to compliment PAW's reporter, Gennady Sheyner, who has done a superb job here at summarizing the most important elements from over 2 hours of staff presentation, about 15 comments from the public, and different councilmembers' perspectives and analysis. Those who didn't have time to sit through all that can simply read this story and get 80% of the benefit. This is top-notch local journalism that makes me (yet again) glad to be a PAW subscriber. Thank you!

Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 23, 2021 at 11:00 am

commonsense is a registered user.

If the council works for the public and 95% of the public wants streets closed to cars and it doesn't create a traffic nightmare the discussion should be short and implementation soon. Please do not debate this for years. It's what we want!

Posted by Andy
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 23, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Andy is a registered user.

Closing streets sounds great for people who hate cars and like the idea of dining outside but it’s not wise public policy.

In addition to adversely affecting certain businesses by reduced access, it also means more difficultly for elderly and disabled who might typically get dropped off or park next to the business.

Ideally, streets would have been designed for bigger sidewalks AND cars but the solution for dining is NOT on the street.

Parklets sound great…until you get hit by a car.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2021 at 12:41 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

This has to be a good move although there are some good points being raised about why it is not.

Diners will vote with their feet. If they cannot find what they want in Palo Alto, they will go elsewhere to get their patio dining fix. Online shopping has taken over from physical stores apart from perhaps impulse purchases. Patio dining may well be taking over from sitting inside crowded restaurants on Summer evenings. Only time will tell.

Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 23, 2021 at 1:39 pm

commonsense is a registered user.

Please explain "not wise public policy." Thanks

Posted by Evergreen Park
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 23, 2021 at 1:48 pm

Evergreen Park is a registered user.

I am one person who lives in Evergreen Park who is not in favor of keeping Cal Ave closed UNLESS the City develops a better plan. It very tonic that a lot of people who like to be car-free Sri w thru my neighborhood to get there - racing past Leers Park, usually failing to stop at stop signs - almost running me over twice - and causing a great loss if business to treasures stores. Molly’s Stone’s says that it cannot keep its store open with the street closure. I would hate to lose Mollie Stone’s so that people can drive across town to eat in the street. Several restaurants aren’t even open for lunch, so the City is depriving other retailers of business all day for only a few resaturants. I treasure the Cobblery and Leaf and Petal. Closing the street at night is one thing. Closing it all day with no traffic plan to protect the neighbors or to help those going to other stores find parking and actually get there is another. It would help if the City planned more carefully and was considerate. Please Mr Burt, but live performances next to your house.

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 23, 2021 at 1:50 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

It's easy for those of us who don't have to deal with any of the downsides from closure to demand that it be made permanent. But a long-time acquaintance who owns a non-restaurant business on University tells me that the closure has made things worse.

When traffic rises back to pre-pandemic levels, we would have to re-route the 12000 cars per day that normally use University. Experience shows that when University is slow (not even completely closed) those cars spill over onto the streets of the adjacent neighborhoods. I sometimes read suggestions that Hamilton and Lytton could be made one-way, but they already carry 8000 cars/day (Hamilton) and 11000 cars/day (Lytton); they don't have the capacity to deal with University's traffic too. Redesigning/rebuilding the intersections at Middlefield and Alma would be a multi-year project by itself.

I keep reading that State law prohibits permanent local closure of arterial streets, though I have yet to see a reference to confirm that. I understand that public property can't be turned over to private use without a fee, something that many restaurants might not be able to afford. And many restaurants won't survive anyway unless daytime workers return in full numbers.

I get the sense from their reports that Staff is aware of all this. I guess the problems are fixable, but probably not quickly or cheaply. On the whole, it's a very tricky decision, and I'm glad I'm not one of the people who has to make it.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2021 at 2:20 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Thanks for the traffic counts above. Maybe you can send them to our highly paid city transportation and planning staff since they claimed their latest counts were from 2016.

These are the same types of outdated numbers they use to claim 1) We've got no traffic problems in Palo Alto; take alternate routes (Liz Kniss), 2) We've got no traffic problem around Casti on Embarcadero based on our numbers and the always memorable, 3) Not to worry; no one wants cars or parking and the classic 4) Oh, we didn't factor in increased POPULATION numbers either when we decided to marrow the roads, invest in road furniture etc. and 5) Express lane tolls will decease congestion.

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 23, 2021 at 2:45 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Online Name: Probably Staff and I are using the same numbers. The ones I quoted are from the "2017 Engineering and Traffic Survey" published by the City (Web Link The University Ave measurement was done in August 2016. You're right; the post-recovery numbers are likely to be higher because of growth after 2016. More people means more cars.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2021 at 3:41 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

[Post removed due to inaccurate factual citations.]

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