Will Cal. Ave. become a permanent promenade? | February 11, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 11, 2022

Will Cal. Ave. become a permanent promenade?

While most residents support keeping cars off the street, some retailers say road closure hurts business

by Gennady Sheyner

When Palo Alto closed a portion of California Avenue to cars in the early stage of the pandemic, visitors, restaurant owners and retailers in the city's "second downtown" instantly felt a profound, if uneven, shift.

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Comments

Posted by cheese guy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 8, 2022 at 2:44 am

cheese guy is a registered user.

I strongly encourage the permanent closure of California Ave to cars. The article is correct to note that Cal Ave dead-ends at the train tracks, making it a better choice than Univ. Ave to keep closed. In addition, all of the businesses along Cal Ave have rear door access from which supplies/stock can be loaded from cars/trucks, thus in another way making it a far better choice for closure. The current scene on Cal Ave completely reminds me of the numerous downtown pedestrian districts in Europe that produce a calm and welcoming atmosphere to have a glass of wine, sit at a cafe for coffee or a meal, or shop. Lets keep in that way into the future.


Posted by Cal Ave resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2022 at 10:30 am

Cal Ave resident is a registered user.

How is this even still a debate? Please close it to cars permanently and turn to building a comprehensive network of safe protected bike lanes so we don’t even need cars to get there. Palo Alto is flat, it barely rains and people say they care about climate change. If we can’t do anything here, then the situation is hopeless.

And I hate to break it to the shoe lady. I don’t think it’s the street closure that’s impacting your business. The internet already killed all the other retail on the street. Please don’t force the majority of us back to the bad old days because your business isn’t doing well. The overwhelming majority of businesses and locals favor keeping the street car free.


Posted by hastern
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Feb 8, 2022 at 10:34 am

hastern is a registered user.

The closure has been a great benefit to restaurants, who wouldn't want to more than double seating area and not have to pay high rents for it, but it has unfairly impacted retail. Unless there is a way to compensate retail business, the street needs to re-open.
It has also negatively impacted the farmers' market. I was a craft vendor at the market and with all of the outdoor dining, there is no longer an area for the artists who made a living selling there.


Posted by Devon
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 8, 2022 at 10:46 am

Devon is a registered user.

What would make permanent closure more attractive and sustainable for retail? If the problem is that customers are not able to look for an open parking spot near the store, perhaps a real-time online parking map highlighting open spaces would ease the problem? If the problem is that people don't see a store's marquee or hours because they aren't driving by the front of the store, perhaps some directories scattered near El Camino and in parking lots would help. Surely there are ways to help all the business on California Ave thrive without turning this into a win/lose conflict.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2022 at 10:46 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

If we are going to make this permanent, let's invest in a design that supports ALL of the Cal Ave businesses. The current street temporary design, focusing almost exclusively on restaurants, obstructs sight lines to signs of other businesses. There needs to be a thoughtful design to insure that all of these beloved businesses are visible, accessible, healthy and strong. That means making sure the city has a functional web page for wayfinding with a MAP (like you see in kiosks at a mall) with a CURRENT list of shops. The map and wayfinding street signage should work together. Up-to-date informational kiosks at key intersections might be nice. The current web page is embarrassing. Also, it might be nice to post a bike map, because Cal Ave is an easy bike ride from almost anywhere in town.

Please take care of European Cobblery--one of my favorite places to buy high quality leather shoes and pretty, comfy boiled wool slippers.

I love California Paint. They can custom match ANYTHING perfectly--unlike the hardware store paint counter people. Their guy who mixes the paints has a great eye for color.

Mollie Stone's is my go-to shop for Kosher anything. Great meat counter and deli.

And, may I just say, perusing the lovely women's clothing at Leaf & Petal is so much fun. Beautiful things.

Save these stores!


Posted by dlundell
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 8, 2022 at 10:57 am

dlundell is a registered user.

cheese guy wrote:

“ In addition, all of the businesses along Cal Ave have rear door access from which supplies/stock can be loaded from cars/trucks, thus in another way making it a far better choice for closure.”

Not quite all. The former Subway location does not.

And in the next block (now open to traffic) has a number of businesses with no back entrance. Though I assume that block will remain open to traffic.

One non-retail / non-restaurant business that closed (is closing) during the pandemic is the Bank of the West. Access to that building’s parking lot is very difficult without California Ave access. And the lot has become a free-for-all for restaurant customers.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 8, 2022 at 11:11 am

Online Name is a registered user.

The Cobblery has no back access unless you could the tiny back room near the dumpster where my cleaner is/was working after she was no longer able to pay the HUGE rents her Cambridge Ave landlord was charging her when no one needed dry cleaning/tailoring because we were all under lockdown.

Nor does Cal Ave Optometry whose employees the city kept obsessively ticketing while refusing to assign enough employee permits so that many quit in disgust.

Nor did the big art supply place that first tried to make it in Jacadranda Alley behind Leaf & Petal before finally, sadly closing leaving us without a local franer.

Nor does Leaf & Petal or most of the restaurants on that side of the street.


Posted by dlundell
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 8, 2022 at 11:21 am

dlundell is a registered user.

If the city is going to make the California Ave street closure permanent, it would do well to study the look at feel of, for example, Main St. Los Altos. They’ve managed a consistent look and feel to all of the outdoor dining areas. They’ve even made it work with parklets, while maintaining the 2 lanes of traffic. It helps of course that Los Altos has a consistent sidewalk width. Palo Alto missed an opportunity when it did the California streetscape project a few years back. The result was a bunch of random sidewalk widths and styles, which will make a consistent set of rules challenging.

The hodgepodge circus tent look of the current outdoor seating is pretty awful. The city should allocate permitted fixed spaces to each restaurant. Right now it’s a free-for-all, with some restaurants taking way too much space. And, there are some restaurants have little-to-no option for on-street tables, because of the placement of crosswalks and setbacks.


Posted by dlundell
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 8, 2022 at 11:35 am

dlundell is a registered user.

Online name wrote:

“ Nor did the big art supply place that first tried to make it in Jacadranda Alley behind Leaf & Petal before finally, sadly closing leaving us without a local franer.

Nor does Leaf & Petal or most of the restaurants on that side of the street.”

The locadtion on Jacaranda Lane, that the art store used for years for storage, is not a viable retail location. That short-lived storefront was a last-ditch attempt to save the business. The writing was on the wall.

As for rear delivery access. All of the businesses on the 300 block, on both sides, have rear access. And almost on the 400 block, with a couple of exceptions, also have rear delivery access (including Leaf and Petal and the adjacent restaurants).


Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2022 at 12:02 pm

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

Time to reopen the street


Posted by JB
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 8, 2022 at 12:04 pm

JB is a registered user.

Hello. I just wanted to say that Bank of the West is not closing, just moving to a nearby location around the corner from the current location.

As a former resident of Boulder, Colorado, I've always wondered why Palo Alto didn't have street closures like this before. A portion of Pearl Street has been turned into an extremely successful and pretty pedestrian mall. It includes sculptures, many different shops and restaurants, and street music. It's even a tourist attraction. While I feel sorry for the cobblery, I like the suggestion above of placing signs on the California Avenue pedestrian street, highlighting all businesses along the street. With the new parking garage, there should now be plenty of parking available.

Is Mollie Stone's still seeing fewer customers? You can easily access the store via the Oregon Expressway and the open section of California Avenue or via Cambridge Street.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

I support perm closure of Cal Ave. Yet unlike Castro in MV and PA’s University,Cal Ave closure is right at super traffic busy ECR. The intersection has proven deadly to children. There is multitudes of probs at this intersection. VTA buses, newspaper racks, non-stripped crosswalks or no keep clear striping. The crosswalk light is very short. U-turn ok N bound ECR & Cal Ave causing probs. South bound turn lane onto Cal Ave at ECR blocked off w old cones and no blinking lights. Little to no room to cross into protected area w dogs, bikes, strollers, wheelchairs or unhorsed w wheeled carts of belongings. ECR is a highway and the city has no intention of working w Cal Trans to improve this intersection for all “walks” and “rides” of life. I know because I live on the corner and w my small children. I was not only heartbroken when a child dies while riding his bike across this Wild unruly HWY but nearly suffered a nervous breakdown from worry for my own children. Comparing University and Castro to PA,s Cal Ave is Apples to Oranges. Get it together . PS Castro street is putting their water barriers on the out side of the crosswalks at California to protect everyone not in a car.unlike ECR where water barriers are places are the far interior of the the crosswalk exposing all not in a vehicle to auto traffic. Work for strong, amenable, inviting, welcoming and SAFE solutions. Not jerry rigged, hodgepodge quick fix that make it unsafe, unsavory and unsightly .


Posted by Eva_PA
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 8, 2022 at 12:58 pm

Eva_PA is a registered user.

Why do we need to pay for a consultant to tell us what residents already overwhelmingly support. If we make the closure permanent we can address retail's concerns about unattractive parklets that block views, and make it a beautiful space for many purposes: dining, music, public art, leisure, etc.


Posted by cheese guy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 8, 2022 at 1:45 pm

cheese guy is a registered user.

Thanks dlundell for correcting the information posted by "online name." A quick Google maps tour of the back side of the buildings on these blocks confirms that nearly everything has rear access (perhaps even the optometry shop, though it's hard to tell, and it's not exactly a business of large scale deliveries if it lack rear access). There is clearly a back door to Leaf and Petal with a big sign over the door. All (or nearly all, not the Bagel place) the restaurants (Med Wraps, Pastis, Cafe Brioche, Kali, B del Medio) appear to have rear access. The Cobblery at 410 has a rear door labeled "the Cobblery, Employees Only". This business is also next to the alley way that goes directly to the front door, so it's about a 75 foot walk directly up the alley to the front door of the business. Not exactly terribly inconvenient.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 8, 2022 at 3:24 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Yes, thanks for clarifying what's so hard to tell in person and certainly not likely to attract shoppers/consumers.

"The locadtion on Jacaranda Lane, that the art store used for years for storage, is not a viable retail location. That short-lived storefront was a last-ditch attempt to save the business. The writing was on the wall."

Maybe the writing was on the wall but since that location was still publicized on the web, I trotted some artwork there in a vain effort to help save the business.

Instead, the artwork and my sales tax revenue ended up at a Menlo Park framer who was PACKED since PA had managed to oust replace most of its framers and art stores.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2022 at 3:58 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@online name the point — ECR is massive safety issue to closure. City does not need to pay a consultant to see witness this. Just go there and spend time outside the safety net of the now temporary cal Ave closure . Not every resident can afford to dine out or shop at these retail spots. Molly stones and Country Sun are used by area residents for healthy at home meals. As College Terrace residents , We have to traverse across deadly ECR w poorly marked out unsafe barriers . Make it user friendly all the way around, not just “safe” looking within the orange . 75% of ECR car traffic are pass through vehicles. These drivers care not for Cal Ave closure. A round about at Cal Ave ECR and at Page Mill at ECR would be fabulous additions to a permanent street closure and traffic calming / slowing ! TY . Work w Cal Trans , work together!


Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Feb 8, 2022 at 4:12 pm

Old Steve is a registered user.

Pedestrians are generally safer at signalized cross walks than at roundabouts. Roundabouts for El Camino would likely have to be big enough to require right of way purchases. It can be made better looking, once it becomes permanent. Castro at Central in Mtn Vw looks better all the time, even though traffic can still exit Castro onto Central, straight or right turn.


Posted by Rajiv
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Feb 8, 2022 at 4:16 pm

Rajiv is a registered user.

I'm all for closing part of Cal Ave to restaurants. It's great to see all the vibrant energy. At the same time, it should not necessarily be for free as a grant from Palo Alto taxpayers. The restaurants get to increase their capacity. The city should be compensated through a fair rental fee.

I agree with the comments about finding a way to help affected retailers. They took on their locations expecting vehicle traffic. The city can't just take away their exposure without some sort of compensation.

There's a win/win deal to be made here.


Posted by hastern
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Feb 8, 2022 at 5:13 pm

hastern is a registered user.

since some folks feel that using back door access is an option, the parklets can be BEHIND restaurants.


Posted by dlundell
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2022 at 6:03 pm

dlundell is a registered user.

hasten wrote:

“since some folks feel that using back door access is an option, the parklets can be BEHIND restaurants.”

Yes, out back by the dumpsters.


Posted by Carol Scott
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 8, 2022 at 6:23 pm

Carol Scott is a registered user.

The photo at the beginning of this article is very deceptive. Cal Ave right now looks nothing like that. Instead, it looks like a trashy jumble of tents that vary is size and shape. Some restaurants have taken over the street all the way to the median with a translucent tent. How can you even see what else is on the street?

If “thousands” of residents love the idea of a ‘car-free’ street (to which many of them drive their cars), then why are businesses still claiming they are suffering? Many have more space outside than they ever had inside — all for free. When I have gone to Cal Ave — near where I live so I can easily walk — it is essentially dead except at dinner time. At dinner time when some people come to dine, the retailer shops are closed and thus do not benefit from any pedestrian traffic. Increasingly, there is very little space for pedestrians to actually walk.

Compare the current Cal Ave environment — and even the restaurants — with downtown PA, downtown Menlo Park, downtown Los Altos, Town and Country Village, or even Stanford Shopping Center. Menlo Park looks quite charming — and it is always full of people.

I am a regular customer of the Farmers’ Market on Sundays, and I have seen several venders depart. There is less and less room for people to shop at the market. The Farmers’ Market draws perhaps the largest crowd of people for the street, and yet it is being choked to death.

The City has failed at promoting and implementing an attractive environment.
Either fix it, or open it up. I personally prefer to have the street open to cars and let the restaurants operate out of parklets. This doesn’t make it look so dead. I disagree with anyone who says this is just like the charming street malls of Europe.


Posted by Carol Scott
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 8, 2022 at 6:28 pm

Carol Scott is a registered user.

Finally, Cal Ave is not a “no outlet” dead end street. Residents use it to circulate through the neighborhoods and to get around. Commuters (used to ) use it to get to the train station without going through the residential streets. Many cars use Park Blvd. and Birch St. From Oregon/Page Mill to avoid the intersection of El Camino and Oregon/Page Mill and the light at Cal Ave.

At present, the street in front of the new public safety building is partially closed, so Sherman cannot be used to get to all areas of Cal Ave. Along Cambridge on the north side of Cal Ave, there is a series of 3-4 buildings that are vacant and just waiting to be torn down for new office building construction. That will most likely close at least one lane of traffic along Cambridge for a year or two. So, no way to circulate on it. That leaves what street for people to use to access the parking lots behind the stores and restaurants?

I think Cal Ave is dying, and the City is making it worse. I look around, and I don’t see any other adjacent City with a retail/restaurant street that looks this ugly.


Posted by hastern
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Feb 8, 2022 at 7:17 pm

hastern is a registered user.

dlundell:

yes, the dumpsters someone was suggesting that the retail customers should have to navigate.


Posted by PAurban
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 8, 2022 at 7:43 pm

PAurban is a registered user.

There's a gargantuan new parking garage one block away from Cal Ave which is never close to being full. The idea that parking availability somehow stymies people from shopping at retailers on the Avenue just doesn't check out. Also, the suggestion that the "clutter" of the streetscape now makes it harder for people to see the retailers -- as if it was easier to see them through walls of parked cars from a moving vehicle?


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2022 at 9:26 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

The mindset that to do well in retail parking is required outside the door is outdated. Additionally, the mindset that retail was affected by not having customers parking outside the door is not facing the reality that people are shopping online rather than in person and have been even more so during the pandemic.

Shopping malls on the fringes of towns needed anchor stores to bring in the customers and while they were there the customers browsed other stores, these shopping malls had adequate parking and customers walked happily around the malls, perhaps returning to their cars several times with purchases. Hanging out at shopping malls was an activity in itself. Anchors such as JC Penney, Macys, Sears, etc. brought in the customers. Smaller stores benefited from them being there. Now shopping malls are no longer the draw. Anchors are more likely to be movie theaters or popular restaurants.

Cal Ave has a big problem in that many of the restaurants are not open at lunch time. Lunchtime crowds are possibly more likely to shop in other retail rather than dinner crowds. The draw to Cal Ave has to be restaurants and the fact that Caltrain riders can eat as soon as they get off the train has to be another draw.

Retail on Cal Ave has to face up to the fact that retail is suffering because of the pandemic not because of street parking outside their doors.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2022 at 9:28 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

The mindset that to do well in retail parking is required outside the door is outdated. Additionally, the mindset that retail was affected by not having customers parking outside the door is not facing the reality that people are shopping online rather than in person and have been even more so during the pandemic.

Shopping malls on the fringes of towns needed anchor stores to bring in the customers and while they were there the customers browsed other stores, these shopping malls had adequate parking and customers walked happily around the malls, perhaps returning to their cars several times with purchases. Hanging out at shopping malls was an activity in itself. Anchors such as JC Penney, Macys, Sears, etc. brought in the customers. Smaller stores benefited from them being there. Now shopping malls are no longer the draw. Anchors are more likely to be movie theaters or popular restaurants.

Cal Ave has a big problem in that many of the restaurants are not open at lunch time. Lunchtime crowds are possibly more likely to shop in other retail rather than dinner crowds. The draw to Cal Ave has to be restaurants and the fact that Caltrain riders can eat as soon as they get off the train has to be another draw.

Retail on Cal Ave has to face up to the fact that retail is suffering because of the pandemic and online shopping, not because of lack of street parking outside their doors.


Posted by III
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2022 at 7:21 pm

III is a registered user.

I did not read the article which makes me unworthy to respond.
That said LOL......
WHAT DO THE SHOP OWNERS SAY. WAS THERE A POLL TAKEN OF
EACH SHOP OWNER AND RECORDED AND POSTED?????
It is their opinion I value. All I know is have not been there in 2 years.
Mostly due to store closures I went to and lack of access.
III


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2022 at 3:14 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

1. It's ugly
2. Acess to these spaces whether shopping or eating are inaccessible to disabled people. I'm surprised there has not already been a huge lawsuit regarding ADA access.
3. It's reminiscent of breadlines during the depression. People sitting in chairs consuming their food in parking lots is just barely a notch above the old breadlines.
4. Global warming will kill the business in the summer, and if we ever have winters like we used to, the fall-through-winter rains should kill whatever the summer heat doesn't.
5. Soon, municipalities that keep forcing people to wear masks indoors will face lawsuits even bigger than the ADA lawsuits that are just waiting to happen.

COVID is the reason for all this hideous outdoor dining fiasco. If people really want to eat outdoors, that's why god invented the picnic table and the barbecue. Nothing tastes worse than something that a waiter had to skid across the bubble-gum littered street to bring to you. Then it's cold when you thought you ordered hot food, or melted food when you thought you ordered cold food. All the charm evaporates as soon as you realize you are paying 4x what you'd have paid at home, and you miss the bonus of getting to sit on more comfortable chairs at home -- and you don't have to leave a tip.

The article saved the best for last: "Everyone who does come to the cafe loves being outdoors," Coupal said. "Being out on the streets with no cars, no smoke, no noise, no contaminants." I am pretty sure she thinks disabled people are "contaminants". Because that's one street that's so inaccessible, no disabled people can get there to enjoy what the elite gets to enjoy. Ah, isn't it bliss, being rich and not having to think about those who aren't affluent and able-bodied?


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2022 at 3:31 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Cal Ave Resident: You don't know any disabled people, obviously. Your perspective seems skewed; perhaps you can only see the situation as an able-bodied moneyed-elitist would.


Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2022 at 2:52 pm

eileen is a registered user.

MyFeelz, I agree with everything you said about the ugliness of California Avenue right now.
Fine dining at its worst! It is equivalent to a mall food court.

However, I am in favor of closing the street ONLY if the city, building owners, and business owners truly invest in a beautiful walking street.

Check out walking streets in any city in Europe. People walk in the MIDDLE of the street! The sidewalks are for tables and chairs outside the restaurants. There are ZERO plastic tents! Instead, restaurants have awnings that roll out or umbrellas when needed. Also, the front of stores CAN BE SEEN from the middle of the street as you are walking by. It is a total, dirty hot mess right now.

So, let's come up with some super beautiful designs that can help this street turn into a gathering place for everyone even if you are not dinning! Trees in the middle of the street would help with shade too.


Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2022 at 3:14 pm

mjh is a registered user.

To allow access for emergency vehicles ( and for the disabled) perhaps trees could be placed slightly off center with the center pedestrian walk way replacing the sidewalk which could then be used by the restaurants strictly outside their own establishments so as not to encroach on access to adjacent businesses. With a proper awning as in Europe. No makeshift covered spaces that look so tacky!


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 10, 2022 at 9:49 pm

scott is a registered user.

People have had a taste of how nice it is to dine in a car-free space. We're not going back. Cal Ave can stay open to people, and become our Castro. If we let cars push us out then Castro will be our Castro.

If you want to help businesses, then legalize more homes nearby. It's insane that the area on the other side of Alma is all single-family. People should be allowed to build six stories of customer-housing over there, if they want to.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2022 at 11:22 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Last night my husband and I enjoyed a lovely bike ride from our south Palo Alto home (near the Mountain View border). It took 17 pleasurable, leisurely minutes riding down Park Blvd. to get to Cal Ave. where we met friends (who'd also biked there from their north PA homes) for dinner at Terun.

We enjoyed a delicious meal with a fun and musical outdoor Mediterranean-style party atmosphere. A fabulous date night. We biked home at 11:00 feeling relaxed and happy.

This weekend I plan to bike to European Cobblery to pick up some shoes. These bike rides take about the same amount of time as driving and parking, and they feel good. I'm am old geezer. Walking and biking keeps me young.


Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 12, 2022 at 3:37 pm

Rose is a registered user.

WE NEED TO REOPEN Cal Ave closed. I live two blocks away. The closure is not only hurting businesses on Cal Ave, it's hurting the neighbors. It's pushing traffic, including buses, onto the residential streets. It is causing drivers to have to turn around on Ash when they can't proceed through the intersection and they have to back up, go forward, back up again, to finally get out of the tiny dead end. This not only snarls traffic, it is causing NEEDLESS emissions. People are driving around trying to navigate an area that was difficult to navigate before the street was blocked off. Ingress and egress were challenging before covid. Please reopen CAL AVE as soon as possible.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2022 at 5:38 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

eileen, the european model which you would like to use as a template for PA is not do-able. One of the things we used to pride ourselves in as Americans was equal access for everyone. Closing streets which were once accessible to everyone have become exclusive spaces only accessible by able-bodied people and those who can afford the overpriced food -- and yes, it's almost mall food court level now, except it's lower. At least in a food court, you aren't fooling yourself (and nobody else is trying) to convince you that you're going to get a four star experience in the middle of a street on a plastic chair.

to mjh: I forgot about emergency vehicles! So far I don't think anyone has required medical attention while eating there, but it will happen at some point. I don't think paramedics will cotton to having to haul all of their equipment over from a couple of blocks away. We shall see, eh?

Scott: this is your first experience with eating in a car-free street? Have you never been to a picnic? Cal Ave is not a designated picnic site and it will never be, if the other businesses on the street have anything to say about it. You can't expect the city to live off of revenues from food served on the street -- especially if there's inclement weather.

Consider Your Options: I haven't read such an entitled, ableist screed in a long time. Yours is over the top!

Rose: I sympathize with your plight. You didn't move to your place to have to dodge cars. What needs to happen is a child needs to get hit by a car that's trying to back up or get out of the "food court zone" ... and it's really sad that's what it will take to change anybody's mind. And the lawsuit that will go with it.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2022 at 5:54 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

By the way, Scott -- I think around 1/3 of PA's total inventory of housing for mid-to-lower income is situated along Alma Street. So what is your proposal -- knock down all of the housing on Alma street and build strip malls there instead? Just so you can eat on a car-free street?

Now that the mandates are going away, there will be no reason to cater to the "I want to eat on the street" crowd. If all it took to operate a restaurant was a grill and wait staff, we wouldn't even have restaurants. We would solely be served at food trucks. What started the parklets was a global pandemic that mandated restaurants seat customers "x" distance apart. The restaurants found a way to get around it -- by consuming parking spaces outside instead. The real losers in that gambit are disabled people who don't have the luxury of biking to dine al fresco. I pound that drum because it's my daily reality. There are businesses in PA that I can no longer access because the parking has been subsumed by hungry rich people who say "eff you" to people like me. So yeah, I get a little bent about it.

Once the indoor mask mandates are all gone, so will the outdoor dining. Because trust me, the restaurants have been carrying a load called "LIABILITY" by making their wait staff galavant all over the streets to stick plates under rich hungry faces and the fact that none of them have broken their neck in the process is a miracle. Having to man the front lines of a pandemic AND turning them into olympic high jumpers and long jumpers is not part of the job description of a waiter, I'm sure.

It will be better for everyone if the streets reverted back to what they were intended for -- to carry cars, and for accessible parking for those who need it.


Posted by cheese guy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 13, 2022 at 8:07 pm

cheese guy is a registered user.

to MyFeelz-
Actually, parklets did not start with the pandemic, they predate the pandemic by approximately 10 years (feel free to look this up, see the wikipedia page). They were created with the goal of allowing individuals in climates such as our to relax outside, watch the urban scene, and enjoy being outdoors. There remains a significant amount of disabled parking in all the parking lots behind California Ave (these spaces predate the pandemic), providing essentially the same access as was found before the pandemic (it's not like California Ave. itself was full of disabled parking spots). I would actually think that much of the current outdoor dining set-up provides better access and comfort than having to deal with crowded indoor seating, front doors, etc. The street can be redesigned/modified to provide a win/win situation in which there is optimal access for everyone, the ability to have emergency vehicle access as you noted above, and improve the overall esthetics of the area.


Posted by staying home
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 14, 2022 at 11:34 am

staying home is a registered user.

its a matter of which businesses you want to support: retail shopping or restaurants. Closing the street to cars allows for restaurants to easily expand their seating capacity and therefor increase revenue. Rather than make a a decision on whether you like to eat outside, has anyone looked to see what the impact is on employment and tax revenue? If 100 people are employed b/c of the closed street vs closing it, I am for keeping it closed. If opening the street has a larger economic impact, then I am for that.


Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 14, 2022 at 12:46 pm

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

Hmmm. 38 opinions have been posted in less than 7 days since article was published. Palo Alto process may reach a new height and collapse on its own weight.

How will City Council and City Staff sort through these opinions and hundreds of silent opinions within and outside Palo Alto. One thing is certain. For over a hundred years Palo Alto commerce has been very dependent upon non-residents, especially at noon, evenings and weekends. New patterns of work-from-home bend traditional consumer demand up, down and sideways.

How about a professional estimate of macro business potential for Palo Alto's two downtowns, ECR, Town and Country and Stanford Shopping. This would require scenarios on how consumers will be asserting their purchasing power. One scenario is more on-line demand for consumer goods. More destination dining and entertainment? Another option is return to 1950s Main Street "retail" or Beverley Hill Rodeo Drive. Architecture and streetscapes will be challenging with small lots in the two downtowns and ECR. A focus on demand would allow sensible zoning discussion during the next 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, etc.

How can Council and Staff address sub-region competition from Mt. View, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Amazon, et al. Keep it simple. Customers have to drive thru and past those competitors to reach Palo Alto. Caltrain seems inconsequential at this time but this might change with electrification and robust frequency nights and weekends. This is not likely within 5 years?

A real economist needs to guide the Council and Staff through the scenarios for consumer demand and competitors. It wont be easy anticipate the variables of supply and demand, but somebody should be prepared to jump through those moving hoops.

Bottom line: Palo Alto is centered between thousands of higher net worth citizens in two Counties. The opportunity to seize sub-regional advantage is now without losing sight of the spectrum of Palo Altans.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 14, 2022 at 1:33 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Cheese guy, I know about the advent of parklets; I have never been “pro-parklet” because they reduce on-street parking. A parklet by definition is only supposed to be a place where people can rest or relax – not meant to block traffic. The parking lot a couple of blocks away might as well be on the moon. It doesn’t make CalAve any more accessible to me than before it was built. Not every disabled person uses a wheelchair, not every disabled person has a dog or a pack mule to carry their things, and not every disabled person has any kind of assistive device that is practical or portable enough to take it two blocks and back. Not every street has rows of blue painted spaces – in fact MOST streets don’t have them. But, without having ANY parking in the vicinity closer than two blocks away makes it a slam dunk that I shouldn’t even waste the gas trying to shop anywhere near where COVID eateries have proliferated. If you want to enjoy the outdoors, you can walk or bike to innumerable places without any discomfort. Why do you need to deny me the right to shop where I need to shop? You're giving us the classic definition of EXCLUSION. As to your assumptions that I ever go to any restaurant and that the outdoor scene should be so much more accessible and to my liking – that comment is steeped in ignorance. You know absolutely nothing about the logistics involved in: A) going out in the first place and B)the amenities a place needs to have, for it to actually be “accessible” to me. For me, PARKING IS NUMBER ONE. That only gets me near the place. Someday you could find yourself disabled and wonder why you can’t go anywhere. You can spend hours circling your destination, without finding any way to park your car and god forbid if you should, because then you face the reality of trying to get out of your car without getting maimed. Oh, the places you’ll go! A nod to Dr. Seuss, who invented “the waiting place” where you can sit while you contemplate your non-options.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 14, 2022 at 1:42 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Neilson Buchanan, the one thing I know without conducting a paid survey is this: CalAve and Palo Alto & County of Santa Clara cannot survive on revenues of restaurants only. Continued closure of the avenue puts non-restaurants at risk of imminent closure, and permanent loss of their revenue for the city and county. No businesses will replace them, because taking over a failed business location is business suicide. One business that might survive: Marijuana dispensaries. How would everyone who is enjoying their "urban scene" without cars, feel about having their air fouled by skunks instead? City will say: "But we need the revenue, and pot smokers are willing to walk, crawl and kneel over the diners to get to their suppliers."


Posted by Bill Bucy
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 15, 2022 at 7:58 am

Bill Bucy is a registered user.

How about two lanes of traffic, no on-street parking and artfully designed parklets financed by those restaurants who want them? The traffic lanes help get people around and through the area, there's parking behind the buildings and nice-looking parklets would help restaurants and provide a more pleasant outdoor experience.


Posted by JB
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 15, 2022 at 5:49 pm

JB is a registered user.

MyFeelz, you've made your opinions perfectly clear. Why do you need to attack everyone else who may not share your outlook? You call them moneyed, elitist, anti-disabled. You attacked a 70-year-old person who bikes to California Avenue as an elitist! Is that person elitist just because they don't use a wheelchair? I am sorry that you need to use a wheelchair. As a permanently disabled person myself due to constant back pain, I'm well aware of the need to park close to shopping places. Contrary to what you said, you don't need to wheel your chair 2 blocks away to access businesses on California Avenue. Have you even tried parking on California between Birch and Park Avenue? Except on Sundays when the farmer's market is open, there are usually lots of places. Have you tried parking in the large lots behind Palo Alto Sol and Printers Inc? There are disabled spots in these lots. Of course, the current look of California Avenue is not ideal now due to pandemic tents used by restaurants. Who said that can't be changed in the future when the pandemic isn't so threatening? Do you even live in Palo Alto? You list yourself as being from another community. Please stop attacking the comments of others on this forum.


Posted by cheese guy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 16, 2022 at 2:36 pm

cheese guy is a registered user.

Grazie JB for the post above.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2022 at 3:46 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

JB -- Why would I even be interested in doing business on California Ave unless I live nearby? Word is out, CalAve is no longer a business street, it’s an impassable restaurant zone that is not zoned as such. It’s not a street where people come from near and far to dine. It violates Federal ADA codes, and that’s just a fact. I’m not attacking anyone. Just expressing my opinion – which is worth the same as yours. The mandates are going away. I know many see the pandemic as an opportunity to seize control of a street that was built for commerce. Not solely for dining. So we’ll see how it pans out after the mandates are over, and after temperatures soar to 90 degrees. Every food peddler will be crying about how they can’t operate generators to pump AC onto the streets without a permit. And wait staff, already burdened with all of the heavy lifting, likely won’t be happy to be sweating all over your food to bring it to you. See? I got through all of that without mentioning the unmentionable, which is that it’s merely privilege that created this situation. Oops, I just did it. Ask the merchants up and down the street how they feel about telling their customers to schlep over hill and dale to shop in their stores. That’s what’s missing in this conversation. Your “counter attack” on a non attack post is your perspective, not mine. I can take a bit of punching, been putting up with it all my life. I am not personally affected by this forum. I am only personally affected by being hindered from freely traveling on California Avenue, in the way it was built to serve the public. Not just the dining public. The whole public.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 16, 2022 at 8:03 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

You -- like most of us -- might be interested in patronizing some of the restaurants and stores on Cal Ave just like we did last year and last summer.

Few of us live in the immediate neighborhood.


Posted by Zeekay
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2022 at 8:09 pm

Zeekay is a registered user.

We should keep Cal Ave. closed. Ever since the closure happened, residents have started hanging out in the street. Now that offices are opening up, more people are coming during lunch hours. People are not ready to sit inside so we will hurt restaurants by opening the streets. It’s true that the city should have guidelines for nicer tents and on beautification but no need to close the street because of the ugly tents. Also I am all for employing as many folks as possible. If the street is opened many restaurants will have to lay off their front staff. Cal Ave much more livelier now than before Covid.


Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 23, 2022 at 11:55 am

eileen is a registered user.

Zeekay, I agree more people are hanging out on Cal. Ave. and that is nice.
I have to say that most people are just down there to meet friends for a meal. The street is not really a walking street right now. It looks like a giant food court with ugly tents. All tents must go! Umbrellas, awnings, heat lamps yes, but tents are completely unacceptable. The city needs to ban them. Check out other closed streets and you do not see them. There is no way to make a tent attractive. Just my opinion.


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