California Avenue to remain car-free | March 4, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 4, 2022

California Avenue to remain car-free

Palo Alto City Council moves to keep street limited to bicyclists and pedestrians until December 2023, as it explores a new vision for the street

by Gennady Sheyner

California Avenue will remain closed to cars at least for the foreseeable future as the eclectic strip is likely headed toward another major transformation.

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Comments

Posted by Joe
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 1, 2022 at 8:48 am

Joe is a registered user.

I'm so glad they made this decision and I hope it continues to revitalize the Cal Ave commercial district, where storefronts had been going vacant even before the pandemic. Now it's long past time to organize the street as if this situation is actually intentional. There's more than enough room for restaurants, pedestrians, and cyclists to share, but right now there's a weird mishmash of wide-open spaces and precarious choke points. The end of Ash St is a frustrating car trap because every driver imagines they're the first person to think of parking there, instead of the big shiny new garage they passed on the way, then with all the double-parked vehicles there isn't even room to turn around when they realize their mistake - maybe cut it off earlier and move Joanie's outdoor seating to that side? And the El Camino traffic signal needs to be urgently reprogrammed even before the intersection is eventually redesigned (and repaved!). But what we have now is already better than before so I'm optimistic.


Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2022 at 10:27 am

ALB is a registered user.

Thank you Mayor Burt for leading on this important issue. I agree with the above comments by Joe. The design that is successful on State Street presented last night is a good reference to enhance the avenue with a unified look going forward. These changes including greenery and better pedestrian access to sidewalks that will attract shoppers and diners. Thank you council members who understand how important California Avenue is to residents
as a much desired refuge from the crazy pace of SV. Chapeaux!


Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 1, 2022 at 11:15 am

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

Time to open up California Ave. The retailers who set up shop did it expecting car traffic. The pandemic is ending. Open up California Ave!


Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 1, 2022 at 11:17 am

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

Random closures of streets is really irresponsible. California avenue was closed for the pandemic but now that the pandemic is no longer a worry, it's ridiculous to keep it closed. People have businesses and homes expecting the traffic to go through California Ave. Now traffic is being diverted to side streets while California Ave is closed and it's not only an inconvenience but unfairly impacts retailers as cars can no longer drive close by. Open up California Ave.


Posted by Eva_PA
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 1, 2022 at 11:33 am

Eva_PA is a registered user.

Yay. Now that the decision has been made Cal Av can be transformed to accommodate all of the businesses on the strip. Thank you for listening to the citizens of Palo Alto.


Posted by Steve O
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2022 at 11:46 am

Steve O is a registered user.

Wow. Thank you Palo Alto city council and mayor for screwing over the businesses on Cal Ave. Bravo to all of the residents that think that they know how businesses work.
Congrats to the very small number of restaurants that will benefit from this egregious decision. Again the city council lacks the ability to look long term for a solution, bending to the whims of a few. Thank you for killing a once vibrant business district.


Posted by Sunny Living
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2022 at 11:46 am

Sunny Living is a registered user.

Yay!!! So excited to see what they're able to come up with. Lots of opportunities to build an awesome shopping and dining destination for the whole mid-peninsula area.


Posted by Resident near the site
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 1, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Resident near the site is a registered user.

We need to make sure that we don't create another University ave. Cal ave needs different character from University ave. Let the University ave. be the big name business street, and keep Cal ave. for small businesses with sustainability in mind. I am not sure how State st is local/small business friendly.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2022 at 12:13 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Providing wayfinding for all people, including people who walk, bike and drive to Cal Ave and to behind-the-shop entrances of these businesses --as well as the very ample parking behind these businesses is critically important. Create prominent street and parking facings for businesses that are attractive and VISIBLE to help people find what they are looking for. Bringing people in to ALL of the businesses must be prioritized in the design process.


Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2022 at 12:33 pm

Ferdinand is a registered user.

Thank you city council for making this difficult decision. Let us know how we can support you! There is truth that most successful businesses do rely on their physical presence being seen by pedestrians and motorists, but I hope we can make this a win-win for both restaurants and businesses. Shopping patterns have been changing for years, and the pandemic accelerated the shift to online. If we want a varied Cal Ave we all need to do our part to support the businesses, and to advocate for more of what we want/need. Many patterns are cyclic, and there are opportunities here:
- General Store concept, capturing a resurgence in hobbies (knitting, sewing, crafts) and DIY (hardware), stationery (no more Fry's/), etc.
- Bakery (PA Baking Co was good for treats but didn't have good, healthy breads)
- Small brew pub (get Devils Canyon to move in!)
- A teen space that isn't babysitting, maybe with music opportunities, fun classes targeted to them
etc, etc. etc!



Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 1, 2022 at 12:50 pm

Rose is a registered user.

Before COVID it was difficult to navigate this tight Cal Ave area that is closed off by the railroad and the bollards that protect Evergreen Park from cut through traffic. Now it is awful — time consuming and awkward. Cal Ave should be reopened to protect the struggling merchants and to improve the movement of pedestrians, bicyclists and cars. Eating and drinking isn’t everything! We want balance on Cal Ave.


Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2022 at 12:58 pm

Midtowner is a registered user.

I've lived here for 30+ years, used to love walking/shopping on California Ave. Now I avoid it. It's ugly and barren. Restaurants have taken over, and the retail is hard to get to. I am sorry for the various little shops I used to frequent - the cobbler's, the boutique, the paint-shop, the health-food store and others. Their rights have not been respected, nor have those of the older pedestrians who could easily access them.
The only people who will benefit from this narrow vision are those who have good, strong legs and the money to sit in restaurants.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2022 at 1:14 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Looking forward to continuing to walk and browse in the various shops while walking to lunch or dinner. It is so pleasant to not to have to watch for traffic while chatting and looking at the various options.


Posted by CEQA Required
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 1, 2022 at 2:05 pm

CEQA Required is a registered user.

Reopen it now! The current closure IS a project under CEQA and IS impacting other roads where nearby previous projects were built under environmental analysis that assumed Cal Ave was open to traffic. Time for the affected merchants to file suit.


Posted by Carl Jones
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 1, 2022 at 2:40 pm

Carl Jones is a registered user.

A comment to Midtowner and others. You speak of walking and browsing the stores along California. And when you did, you parked your car, made your look, then returned your car and left. No reason you cannot do so with the street closed to cars. However, it DOES need to be made easy to get to the area (the adjacent parallel streets) and park easily so that you can still do the walk and browse. THAT is still a problem to be solved. But it can be done. There is Pearl Street in Boulder Colorado (Web Link as an example. Traffic is nicely routed along the parallel streets and there is ample parking. I think it is worth a try. But it certainly cannot be left 'as is'.


Posted by Ken Powell
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2022 at 2:43 pm

Ken Powell is a registered user.

I'm so happy the council decided to keep Cal Ave closed to cars in order to investigate a better setting for a permanent change. Yes, it's upsetting to merchants who assume things will always remain as they are; but we in the US (including our beloved Palo Alto) have gradually built our cities and infrastructure for cars and not for people.

It was a slow and steady process over decades (a century, actually) and it now feels like "normal". And it's understandable that people want "normal" after Covid. But that "normal" is not the stasis point I and many others want, nor is it the design of more livable cities.

Cheers for council to leverage one of the silver linings of Covid to shake us out of our conservative desire to return things to how they were as quickly as possible. Congrats to having the willpower and leadership to at least explore the possibility of coming away from Covid a bet better for the experience.


Posted by jimfruchterman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2022 at 6:14 pm

jimfruchterman is a registered user.

My nonprofit organization has been on California Ave for 20 years (well, we're still paying rent for our office even if our team is mainly working from home!). I'm also a resident of Palo Alto. I am supportive of this decision: I think it makes Cal Avenue even more attractive for me personally and our team. I get it wasn't an easy decision, and look forward to doing a pedestrian mall conversion well, rather than pandemic ad hoc.


Posted by DON AUSTIN HAS A SPINE
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 2, 2022 at 7:21 am

DON AUSTIN HAS A SPINE is a registered user.

Businesses should have the first say. Do cars on Cal Ave bring in more pedestrian traffic? If I’m in a hurry, I personally avoid “doing business” at Cal Ave. Not sure if I’m in the minority.


Posted by NB
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 2, 2022 at 8:41 am

NB is a registered user.

If Cal Ave is to remain car free then the City really needs to engage Caltrans immediately to fix the timing on the traffic lights at El Camino Real to take that into account. Ever since it has been closed there have been useless cycles in the light sequence that delay traffic on ECR to allow non-existent traffic flow onto Cal Ave.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2022 at 2:56 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

There is more-than-ample auto parking ONE block away--on the street, in at-grade parking lots, and in a brand new, enormous, multi-story new parking garage. I sometimes drive to shop there for groceries, house paint, shoes, clothes. It is more convenient parking than Stanford Shopping Center, in my opinion. I often bike there--also a very pleasant experience.

Let's please calm down a little and work together on next steps to make it better.

I agree that some redesign is needed to support wayfinding to parking and businesses. An intentional street design is coming, as I understand it.

Cal Ave CAN be closed to vehicular traffic AND be a successful shopping and dining destination. This has been done all over the world. We certainly can do it here.


Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2022 at 7:47 am

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

The headline is a little off. Council decided to have an action item to consider closure until Dec 2023. That decision has NOT been made and will be coming to council before June. While council members stated their opinions at this point in time , the vote was only on whether to agendize the topic.


Posted by California Dreamin'
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 3, 2022 at 8:09 am

California Dreamin' is a registered user.

As per Mr. DuBois' clarification, it appears that many here are jumping to conclusions with their pro-con positions.

As a nearby resident, this decision should be based on input from the Southgate, Evergreen, and Ventura neighborhoods and not by those who reside outside of the California Avenue shopping district.

Perhaps best to focus on one's own immediate neighborhood rather than focusing attention on your personal conveniences.


Posted by red
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2022 at 11:30 am

red is a registered user.

lived in this town for a long time......
for better or worse....and have been going to cal ave throughout the pandemic....wondering if the street will ever come back to life.....it is on
life support still.....many shuttered store fronts......as many of you know....and then it comes to life on the weekends during the farmers market....one day a week really.....and most of the stores are not the center
of attraction.....except for the few dining places that have managed to stay afloat the majority of local venues are neglected......and sure, it's great to be able to walk or ride a bike down the street without fear of cars.....but at what point does this simply become a short sighted selfish trio for the few that do....of course it's great to see......but let's get real.....the situation is bleak at best at the local retailers and all of you folks who are to foolish to realize this should try to pull your head out of the sand where it is presently burrowed and open it back up and try to help the local stores who are being crushed by your selfish and shortsighted ways......get a clue iut is not working!


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2022 at 2:44 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

My crystal ball sees a lot of lawsuits springing up, for those residents who live near or have businesses on CalAve since the City decided to prevent passage to and from their destinations using tax-payer funded streets.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2022 at 3:01 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

CEQA Required, I'm in. As a disabled person who is now told I have to walk (lol) a block from the parking lot to CalAve, I believe my civil rights have been violated under the "California Unruh Civil Rights Act". It's very easy to prove the City has been violating my civil rights since they first blocked a city thoroughfare to streets that used to be accessible to disabled people.


Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 4, 2022 at 3:30 pm

Old Steve is a registered user.

As a Mountain View resident who can walk to Castro street, I frequent Cal Ave because waits are shorter and parking easier. The cobblery never seems to be open when I am on the street. Printer's Inc and Keeble & Shucat were the only retailers I ever used. Folks drive next to parklets in other Cities. That may be what Palo Alto comes up with. Many people have become fans of outdoor dining, so I guess you could run the experiment backwards. Close off outdoor dining, see how many stay open through next summer??

BTW I know many disabled folks who cannot walk a block, but they are faster in wheelchairs than I am on a bike, and they can get anywhere.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2022 at 3:36 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Steve, your assumption that I'm in a wheelchair is typical of ableist culture and thinking. Stop while you're behind. All I have to do is prove on ONE occasion that I was denied equal access to places you can go to without having to consider all of the ramifications I have to think about before I even step outside of my front door. I can prove MULTIPLE occasions when CalAve has violated the Unruh Act.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2022 at 3:41 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Web Link

After you read this, think about how you would feel if you didn't have legs that worked, or arms that worked, or sight that worked, or any other barriers that are protected under the Unruh Act. The reason the Unruh Act exists is because most of our culture is ableist and doesn't allow for the free travel of many people with disabilities.


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