Town Square

Post a New Topic

California Avenue to remain permanently car-free

Original post made on Nov 7, 2023

Cars will not be returning to California Avenue any time in the foreseeable future. Despite concerns from some business owners, the City Council agreed that the city's "second downtown" should remain a bike and pedestrian promenade.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 7, 2023, 12:24 AM

Comments (54)

Posted by Interested Reader
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2023 at 6:13 am

Interested Reader is a registered user.

Great job City Council. A car free Cal Ave is the way to go. A pedestrian and bike friendly area that is attractive will be a great asset. Well done!

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 7, 2023 at 6:45 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thank you council for taking a clear action in favor of the many benefits of car free for Cal Ave and Ramona. And for supporting moves to enhance the Cal Ave experience. Retail struggles are real Andy have many causes som of which pre dated the pandemic as online shopping grew and grew with WFH during the pandemic but I am glad council firmly rejected the link between retail vibrancy and whether streets are open or closed.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2023 at 7:10 am

Bystander is a registered user.

It would be good to know if the same arguments held firm when the grade level crossing of the tracks happened. That was before my time, but it was also before the internet and I wonder if the community paid as much attention back then as to whether an East/West crossing was closed.

Yet, Cal Ave was vibrant after the grade crossing was closed and cars still managed to get there. I don't think cars being allowed on Cal Ave would help any of the retail get more customers.

Posted by 4good
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 7, 2023 at 7:36 am

4good is a registered user.

Thank you Council members for finally making a decision and not spending more money on expensive consultants. There is a plenty of parking in the area with large parking garages on both sides of the street. I enjoy the out door dining and space to walk without worrying a car will hit me. People say they want local retail yet delivery trucks circle my neighborhood all day long. Sorry to see the Country Sun close.

Posted by Eva_PA
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 7, 2023 at 7:42 am

Eva_PA is a registered user.

Thank you City Council for the decisive decision. I’m excited to see what Cal Av will become. In a few years we’ll forget even why we were debating this issue.

Posted by Ocam's Razor
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 7, 2023 at 7:44 am

Ocam's Razor is a registered user.

This is a good start and work the aesthetics of Cal Ave to make it special driving customers to the avenue. How about an electronic sign in two locations detailing the names of the restaurant and shops in a map design? This will enable all to see the whole street from the sign.

Interesting that the council was not unanimous on the car free decision. How many cars can actually park in front of a store? And the comment - "further analysis of business impacts" is the exact process a politician uses to not get anything done.

Posted by chris
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 7, 2023 at 7:48 am

chris is a registered user.

Now being made permanent....they get rid of the those ugly orange barriers build up nice walls, oh wait farmers still need to access those closed section on Sundays. how they gonna flush/clean the street???

Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 7, 2023 at 7:58 am

Local Resident is a registered user.

Great news. Thanks Ed! Also thanks to the other council members for skipping an unnecessary study.

Posted by Pogo2
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 7, 2023 at 7:59 am

Pogo2 is a registered user.

I have no bone chew, but I am thankful that it is not another "study" that eats up months or years of inaction. I just hope that it turns into a place where people want to come and enjoy shopping , eating, and dining with planted areas and outdoor places to congregate and schmooze but not continue looking like the uglification of a closed-off street. I keep thinking of a line from an old movie, "If you build it, they will come." A better possibility than "street closed."

Posted by Amie
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 7, 2023 at 8:21 am

Amie is a registered user.

Great move for bikes and pedestrians Council. With coordinated design standards, interesting signage, and more cohesion - this could be an amazing place. THANK YOU Council for choosing action and not another expensive study. Let's replicate that pattern with other city issues!

Cal Avenue deserves better design standards and better zoning so that more and more varied business can come in without complicated, time-consuming, and expensive Use Permits. Small breweries and businesses that might distribute locally or have more than 10 stores are forbidden altogether, as are most basic personal services (childcare, salons, fitness centers, learning centers, etc.) require those awful Use Permits. Let's fix that!

Let's face it, University Ave is open to cars and retail uses are failing there as well. We also need to address the elephant in the room, housing. Imagine several hundred new residents (customers) nearby on ECR that could and would frequent Cal Ave. We need better zoning there as well to facilitate that development and provide a lifeline to Cal Ave before we lose it. As the article said (quote below), these workers are not returning the way we'd hope - so let's put residents there instead!

"Steve Guagliardo, who is heading the city's economic development efforts, said that he had recently spoken with officials from Stanford Research Park who told him that on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and, only about half of the employees at the business park come to work on-site when compared to pre-Covid levels. The percentage is even lower on the other two weekdays, he said."

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2023 at 8:49 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

The biggest take away listening last night. The biz on Cal Ave to Park & the City Council need PAM Palo Alto Mediation services to unsettled disputes.

I did not appreciate Council Burt’s assessment of “Why a grocery store houses itself at a dead end”. insight 20/20? Really unfeeling remarks toward a long time owners dilemma of “car fee” area. And this was just after Molly Stones owner came to speak at meeting on Zoom as the final commenter. Obviously Burt does not shop there.

It’ll be a joyous day when the council embraces housing upzones in denser, climate friendly neighborhoods in PA.

And it’s remains true. As it is now. Having a shut off street on top of four lane HWY 82 ECR does not work for safe streets. Does 19th Ave in San Francisco have a barrier wall cutting off a major intersection?

The wildly populous—deadly— intersection at ECR & Cal Ave was ignored entirely by presenters & council last night. As if the vulnerability crossing at the intersection did not exist. The lack of care at the closure at ECR dilapidated four corner intersection shows me the City is ignoring safe crossing upgrades to enhance the “experience” once out of harms way. Bluntly. The closure at ECR has put a ton more pressure on this crossing more than ever. Fix it.

Posted by Deborah
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 7, 2023 at 9:09 am

Deborah is a registered user.

I'm wondering how much of that vacant office space around Cal Ave (80% by my casual count) could be converted to housing? More customers for merchants, housing for people who need it - talk about a win win.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 7, 2023 at 9:16 am

Online Name is a registered user.

At least we saved $384,000 on another consultant and all that $$$$ staff time. '

NOW do you think the city can finally put up a BUSINESS DISTRICT sign and maybe list some of the businesses on the barriers or a banner??? If not, why not?

Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 7, 2023 at 9:36 am

Ferdinand is a registered user.

Thank you city council for making a difficult decision. We look forward to seeing…
• Signage: a beautifully crafted sign at the head of the street, with a list of all the stores, restaurants, and services; proper/clear traffic signs for parking and flow.
• Collaboration between the city and merchants: marketing and business support that indicates this is a valued resource; collaboration between merchants so they aren’t competing excessively with one another to offer variety to fill the MANY voids; consider regular attendance at the CalAve business meetings; don't forget to consider garbage pickup, street cleaning, and supply deliveries in the traffic model.
• Customers spending their money on Cal Ave: Identify and shift your purchases to support our retailers; ask for what you want to buy.
• Retail: Be proactive by asking customers what they might like to see; rethink hours--later opening and closing?

Now could we get some angel investor(s) to rescue/renew/modernize Country Sun? It could be an excellent project with a legacy and community heart. The building needs to be purchased, the infrastructure repaired/solidified, and the business model tweaked.

Posted by Lightning Man
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 7, 2023 at 9:49 am

Lightning Man is a registered user.

Can strollers and pedestrians walk down the middle of the street, or is it only for bikes? Why do we have to keep "Parklets"? Can't the restaurants have retractable awnings and beautiful umbrellas? It seems like the sidewalks will be for pedestrians and the bikes will go down the middle of the street. This is NOT really a true walking street when you have to walk on the sidewalk. It seems like a bait-and-switch resolution. In the future, it can be reverted back into car lanes again! The problem with visibility all along has been the overwhelming parklets. I hope there is a way to make them more attractive, less intrusive of neighboring retail, and uniform in appreance. More trees and vegetation should be added. Also seating for non-diners. I waiting for a design.

Posted by Charles
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 7, 2023 at 9:54 am

Charles is a registered user.

"Can strollers and pedestrians walk down the middle of the street, or is it only for bikes?"

Apparently only for bikes (and e-bikes and scooters and one-wheels). Pedestrians will be using the sidewalks, according to the council.

Posted by Shireen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2023 at 10:03 am

Shireen is a registered user.

Wooohooooo!!!!!! Fantastic news. The closure creates better community, and community is what we need most right now.

Now, please bring more community-oriented things! No more white tablecloth restaurants - more things like the board game store.

Posted by Charles
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 7, 2023 at 10:26 am

Charles is a registered user.

Ferdinand wrote above:

"Retail: Be proactive by asking customers what they might like to see; rethink hours--later opening and closing?"

Easy to say. But tell that to a store owner, one that has barely enough time for dinner and sleep. And one that's having a tough time finding employees.

Posted by dlundell
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 7, 2023 at 10:34 am

dlundell is a registered user.

In case you missed the later parts of the city council meeting last night, the council voted 5-2 for a modified proposal. The major modification was to make the closure permanent. Not only that, but Pat Burt snuck in a bullet point to create 'Slow Bike Lanes’ down the center of Cal Ave, in order to force pedestrians to use the sidewalks. You may remember that the bike freeway proposal was voted down about a year ago. It’s back. If you’ve ever watched bikers blow through the stop signs at Birch and sail past the “Walk Bikes” sidewalk sign, you can imagine how these 'slow bike lanes' will work. By the way, out of the thousands of bikes I’ve watched go by our store, I can count those that were walking their bikes on one hand.

And not only that, but they’re going to investigate reorienting the farmers market so that the booths face away from each other, with the bike lanes running between / behind them. The shoppers would then make a big loop around the outward-facing booths. It’s beyond ridiculous.

Posted by another parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2023 at 10:55 am

another parent is a registered user.

I'm very happy to hear this news. We've lived here since 1995 and have really enjoyed the closure of CalAve. CalAve was already a regular destination for us whether grocery shopping, dining, or other shopping. (Our kids grew up with the animated display in Mollie Stone's produce department which made regular grocery shopping so much more fun.) But now, CalAve is very alive with community hanging out together. That's rare these days and hard to value in terms of dollars, but absolutely priceless in terms of social well being. Thanks.

Posted by Cheers To All
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 7, 2023 at 11:00 am

Cheers To All is a registered user.

Well THAT was a waste of time meeting!

Perhaps the most disrespectful part was when the council did an hour+ sidebar in a backroom on a real estate matter while leaving a room full of citizens wanting to speak out on this issue to twist in the wind and THEN, upon their return, cut the time for citizens to speak from three minutes to a minute and a half. However, personal grievance rants were given the full three minutes at the end of the night (11 pm!!!).

(sidebar: I will say though, the Palo Alto High School teens representing their environmental group were perhaps the most thoughtful and intelligent of ALL those who spoke last night… including the council!)

Just a thought: perhaps if the council has business which requires privacy away from meeting attendees, maybe schedule that business for another day. Given this unprofessional conduct, it’s hard to believe ANY thoughtful due diligence was given to the California Avenue closure.

It was clear how this vote was going to go - their minds were already made up. The ‘road closure can’ will no longer be kicked down the road - however, last night, a LOT of great businesses were kicked to the curb.

The council’s ‘we haven’t thought this through’ was on full display, especially with regard to the Sunday Farmer’s Markets (which should be relocated given CA Ave. wants to be ‘car free.’). And when one council member talked ‘Pollyanna’ about new buildings being built on California Ave. with residents above and retail below - excuse me? More street/business disruption with demolition and new construction? I don’t see any developer stepping up to do this (unless the council knows something we don’t know).

At any rate, it will still be MANY YEARS before completion. In the meantime, there WILL be elections.


Posted by PA Streets
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 7, 2023 at 11:52 am

PA Streets is a registered user.

I like car-free California Avenue. I grew up in this area and have been here since 1990. California Avenue was the street I would take to bike to Greene (Jordan back then) and Paly. Comix and Comix (where Joanie's is) was my detour coming home from school.

My office has also been in this area for over 23 years now too and I love being able to walk down the street to have lunch. The sense of community amongst all of the restaurant owners is fantastic. Most of them recognize me and have been friends for many years.

I think the other non-restaurant businesses can still thrive on California Avenue as long as there is foot traffic on the street. Why can't we be like many European areas where we get people out of their cars and walking down the promenade? Parking is not an issue with that huge new parking garage. We have three parking garages in the area and I have never had an issue parking my car (if I had to drive there).

Live music and performances are sure to generate more foot traffic to the area. I like the idea of non-restaurant merchants maybe matching the hours of the restaurant so they can be open concurrently. I think Amazon rather than the lack of street parking has led to the decline of retail sales. We just have to innovate in order to bring sales up at those places.

I wish our community the best as it has been home to my family for well over 33 years. It will always be home for me.

Posted by Chris K
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 7, 2023 at 11:57 am

Chris K is a registered user.

Hooray! Now we have some certainty and can move forward.

I'm not a favor of trying to cram a bike-priority lane in the middle of a pedestrian zone where kids are playing. If bikes are in a hurry, there are two pefectly usable streets running parallel to Cal Ave.

With any luck, success here will eventually lead to closing part of University Ave - but that may be hoping for too much.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Nov 7, 2023 at 12:00 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

All of the retail establishments on Cal Ave should be allowed to dissolve their leases penalty-free, and receive compensation for all of the lost revenue for the past 3 years. Wait to see what happens when there are permanently vacant retail buildings gathering dust. Maybe the City Manager could hire a consultant to find out how much it would cost to bring in a wrecking ball and knock down all of the retail buildings and make the whole street a food court. Stupid idea, and of course somebody I know is already looking into federal funding that was spent building ADA accessible street parking. Misspent funds and failure to provide accommodations to disabled people on a public street. Whoo hoooo.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 7, 2023 at 12:08 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"All of the retail establishments on Cal Ave should be allowed to dissolve their leases penalty-free, and receive compensation for all of the lost revenue for the past 3 years.."

Maybe that should be 13 years because that's when [the] former PA "Transportation" czar was "beautifying" Cal Ave with his bejeweled glass sidewalk project that went way over budget and lasted for YEARS longer than expected for which the poor merchants we awarded around $200 a MONTH for their lost revenue.

How many businesses got destroyed by that fiasco?

Posted by dlundell
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 7, 2023 at 1:25 pm

dlundell is a registered user.

Online Name posted:

"when [the] former PA "Transportation" czar was "beautifying" Cal Ave with his bejeweled glass sidewalk project that went way over budget and lasted for YEARS longer than expected for which the poor merchants we awarded around $200 a MONTH for their lost revenue."

As a business owner that lived through the 'Streetscape' debacle, our business didn't receive a dime for lost revenue. I'm not sure where that story started.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2023 at 1:36 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

I think this is a good decision. Glad to see bikes integrated in the decision. The devil will be in the details, so let's all stay vigilant and ask good questions as this project moves forward.

RE: Mollie Stones--I love them. I shop there, especially for Kosher items. Their custom meat and fish counter is excellent. Very skilled staff behind that counter. For small trips, I ride a bike which takes me 17 minutes each way from the Mountain View border--FASTER than driving and parking. For big shopping trips, when I have to purchase more than three bags, I drive there to access Mollie Stones parking lots on CAMBRIDGE, not California Avenue. I also accessed from Cambridge BEFORE the street closure because it is easier.

Mollie Stones management needs to do some customer wayfinding publicity on their web site and in their advertising and sales promotion literature and better signage directing customers to their excellent Cambridge access. The city could help by providing links that businesses can use with maps to businesses and parking. The city could also provide kiosks with sections dedicated to promoting businesses in the Cal Ave area that have been negatively impacted. The city could provide mapping materials and wayfinding signage now, directing drivers from El Camino Real to auto parking for specific destinations. Each of the businesses should have a map of the Area on their web site with wayfinding to parking and to their businesses. None of this is hard. Other cities have done it very successfully. Start proactively problem solving. Staff's slow action has stretched this out and increased the impact on businesses, but they could help right now with some short-term help with wayfinding solutions. Short-term communication could alleviate some of the retail owners' frustrations.

Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 7, 2023 at 1:41 pm

Ferdinand is a registered user.

Thanks for your thoughts "Consider your Options," and thanks for biking the distance for shopping! Agree that the details--and the interactions between them--are critical. Listening (and supporting) our businesses is essential, especially since many of them are under-staffed with overworked people who've been under pressure for at least these past 3 years. As mentioned by a previous poster, hiring new staff is a priority and connecting job seekers with these companies should also be part of the analysis.

Posted by Carla
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 7, 2023 at 2:02 pm

Carla is a registered user.

This is a win for the citizens of Palo Alto. I'm glad the Council had the courage to listen to them, instead of the negative car-obsessed stakeholders. It is one step in the right direction to increase the quality of life of the average citizen.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 7, 2023 at 3:08 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Another missed opportunity was the underutilized alleys behind retailers on Cal Ave. These are unofficial city maintained streets with a ton of potential to attract commerce.

I don’t think Council Burt has ever worked a retail job. His remarks as usual showed no understanding of the “real” world economy or having a one-on-one customer relationship w a shop keeper. With such sentences he loftily uttered like: we have to make shoppers move to sidewalks to see the storefronts so they can buy things from these retailers like w the hardware store. (Which is really a variety store for emergency toilet sundries or Liquid Plummer).

It’s far and away removed from day to day life for us plebeians living on the ground level of our inner commerce, social fabric interactions.

Too many comments last night about European outdoor dining. Europe has perfected its outdoor “experience” over a millennium of pandemics, as well as perfecting its mass transit systems — 100 years beyond where Palo Alto is with its grade separation this decade and another 10 to go to complete.

As for threading community ? Having an outdoor experience in a smallish enclosure every now and again will not save us from the “car is king” culture American oil has tied us up with.

As usual the Council puts its cart before the horse.

I do wonder where some of the Council park their very, very expensive, high end automobiles when coming to enjoy the enclosure for their “car free” experience within the Cal Ave between Ash & ECR orange protected pen with all the car free people inside.

A Pharmacy to replace Country Sun closes — something beyond a specialty boutique or restaurant ? Spitballing out side the “car free” box… all to attract beyond just the infrequent dinner crowd.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 7, 2023 at 3:20 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

""when [the] former PA "Transportation" czar was "beautifying" Cal Ave with his bejeweled glass sidewalk project that went way over budget and lasted for YEARS longer than expected for which the poor merchants we awarded around $200 a MONTH for their lost revenue."

As a business owner that lived through the 'Streetscape' debacle, our business didn't receive a dime for lost revenue. I'm not sure where that story started.

@Dundell, apologies if I'm wrong but I could have sworn I read an article here that talked about the pathetically low compensation to Cal Ave businesses and but my recent search isn't finding that.

Could the piddling payment only been given to certain types of businesses?

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2023 at 4:11 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Not everyone can ride a bike or walk a fair distance to get into a shop or restaurant. Hopefully, there are provisions for ADA-compliant parking and drop-off locations for inclusivity. While Palo Alto likes thinking of themselves as progressives with farts that don't stink, in their hasty "forward thinking" they all too often lose sight of the elderly, infirm, and less "advantaged" among us. This idea that we are going to do away with cars is crazy town thinking and caters to young, unmarried tech workers with six-figure salaries; leaving out families, low to middle-income, often gig-workers who are disadvantaged by some of the decisions those with money and power are making here in California. More can be done with the design of Cal Ave to incorporate easy access to the restaurants and shops from the alley-like or parking areas behind the establishments for those who are not capable of biking to/from the area.

As for the businesses, I can't remember the last time I purchased anything not food-related from Cal Ave, and would welcome a recreational type establishment, a music venue, or other more creative endeavor that was also affordable and not a 3-digit figure to participate in. We also need inviting and welcoming spaces that aren't these sterile and cold modern buildings. (The design for the former Antonio's Nut House is an example of the uninviting!) Lived in colorful, and less "perfectly scrubbed" and lifeless spaces say, "Hey, come as you are and hang out in our neighborhood! We want you to feel like family." Instead of the buildings reminiscent of waiting for someone in scrubs to say, say, "The doctor will see you now".

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2023 at 4:38 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Personally, I will continue to walk down the middle of the street for the simple reason I do not want to bump into wait staff coming out with hot food. The more pedestrians, strollers, on the sidewalk, the more likely food and beverages will spill.

Saying this, I don't think bikes, ebikes, escooters should mix with pedestrians either. Will there be a speed limit? And how would pedestrians be kept out of the middle of the street?

I think more thought should go into these issues, but I am fully happy with the decision to keep the street closed to cars.

Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 7, 2023 at 6:50 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

Great. And since there evidence that reopening University Ave to traffic did nothing, can we shut it back down also?

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 7, 2023 at 9:04 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

Re University Ave, Staff said that no reliable conclusion could be drawn from the data presented last night. If I remember correctly, that's because the data covered all of Downtown, not just University.

University also differs from Cal Ave in that it's a heavily-used east-west arterial with an existing grade separation at the tracks. It carries 12K vehicles/day. With Lytton already at 11K and Hamilton already at 10K there's not enough excess capacity, so rerouting would require a major engineering project. Even more so with the expected traffic increases from new housing.

(Speaking for myself, not the PTC.)

Posted by Airbnber
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 7, 2023 at 10:20 pm

Airbnber is a registered user.

What are people going to ride when it rains? Specially designed bicycles with covers, electrification, and side bags? Who will carry fine wines across downtown to their car?

What about older people or people who don't like to bike? Do they have a choice to take their cars, or not bike and shop?? How in the world does limiting car access help Country Sun sell multiple bags of groceries? Do people shop for 4 bags of groceries and then carry them 4 city blocks to the 4th floor of a parking structure?? No they do not, and now Country Sun (a non formula retail business) will be closing. Will Whole Foods move in? No can do.

Posted by Forest
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 8, 2023 at 3:32 am

Forest is a registered user.

Where are landlords? The street dictates rent: shops come and go but landlords are for generations. I've heard a lot are 2nd/3rd-gen shared estates managed by firms -- maybe this was all under their radar.

Posted by Colm
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2023 at 4:29 am

Colm is a registered user.

The biggest retail street in Ireland is Grafton Street in Dublin which is 100% pedestrian. It has mostly high-end stores, restaurants and a grocery store. The model works, just give it time.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 8, 2023 at 8:19 am

stephen levy is a registered user.


When we go to Country Sun, we park in the covered surface lot right behind their back door. No one has to carry large bags long distances from their store. Access is not why they are closing.

Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2023 at 11:39 am

Ferdinand is a registered user.

Agree with Stephen Levy there are places to park, and the awesome CS staff Kindly offer to help when needed.

Country Sun needs some well-funded angels to purchase the building not for profit, but rather for preserving a small, environmentally-focused, community feeling business. Too bad some of us didn't know about the situation earlier when the cost would have been lower. The current building owner (purchased in 2021 by some hotel business?) has it back up for sale. We can help in the short term by spending more $$ there, but a long-term solution [I think] has to involved a new owner with heart.

Posted by Liquidamber
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2023 at 11:51 am

Liquidamber is a registered user.

Expect lots of retail vacancies until the 2bd/3rd generation land heirs get offers they can't refuse from big investor funded redevelopers who can fund skyscraper pack n' stack as seen in the new Sunnyvale and Redwood City downtowns by their Caltrain station and the similar dense pack all-rentals housing by the new Fremont/Warm Springs BART station. The real "game" being played is how the big REIT funds which pat for these dense packs income properties in "old urban centers" promise 15-18+% annual rates of return to their investors. Goodbye to retailers or young home, townhouse or condo owners able to own their own real estate. All in thrall to land owners who don't live here in the Wall Street dark and windy canyons they love where they can pack in their rent payers. Who, like the Stanford Land Trust and Duke of Westminster (who owns a lot of London, England) might give a tenant a 75 year lease but never ever sells their dirt.

I dare the Palo City Council to walk around the new Sunnyvale downtown and the Warm Springs BART station. That's what our Cal Ave will look like in under 10 years unless the City starts promoting mom & pop businesses like Country Sun and Molly Stone's, and home ownership instead of tenements.

Will be interesting to see if Palo Alto City Hall forces any of the new Cal Ave owners such as the one who has evicted Country Sun to do any land sales by requiring condos instead of all-rentals. A favorite ploy of REITs is they threaten city halls with leaving a parcel vacant unless they get approval for all-rentals because selling condos r retail spaces never, they say, "pencils out" for them. Their biz plan is be a Duke of Westminster. Generational wealth for a small few large
land investors. Now that City Hall has signaled strongly its height limits are over, the City is letting the Big Investors & Redevelopers Gold Rush commence.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2023 at 12:17 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

There is TONS of easily walkable parking that abuts Cal Avenue Businesses on both Sherman and Cambridge (parallel streets). Businesses who can might open and clearly mark rear entrances that connect to parking. WAYFINDING signage is needed NOW. City of Palo Alto, please clear the sightlines to European Cobblery's front entrance, making it visible to people who are walking or biking into Cal Ave from the new parking garage area. FIX ASAP. Restaurants should not be allowed to steal storefront visibility from their neighbors.

To European Cobblery. It's true I shop there less than I used to. You used to carry a fabulous array of high quality European boots and shoes that drew me in. I have non-standard size feet, and your soft leather, well-made shoes and fitting service was really helpful to me. That's what I went there for...and your excellent cobblery skills for repairs. (I'm willing to pay for fine repairs on higher quality, expensive shoes that feel good on my feet.) I visit less because I don't need low cost beaded bracelets, socks and little things that are available everywhere these days. Those gifts should only SUPPLEMENT your primary business as cash register impulse purchases. They have taken over your display area. BE your brand name. European Cobblery is WHO YOU ARE. I miss the high quality shoe selection. I recently bought some Berkenstocks and a pair of wool slippers in your shop, but it has been years since I last bought a nice pair of boots or shoes there. Your selection is not what it used to be. Have you considered improving your sales by offering online sales options to supplement your store front business? Bring back high quality, handmade Italian and German shoes. Advertise the high quality shoes and repairs you offer. There's tech for on-line fitting now. There is a market for what you do. Your charming storefront might be the local small retail face of a really great community shop AND online business.

Posted by Claudette
a resident of Woodside
on Nov 8, 2023 at 12:40 pm

Claudette is a registered user.

Goodbye seniors and people with disabilities.
Goodbye retail shops with long history.
This is the new Palo alto.

Posted by Palo Alto well-wisher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2023 at 9:38 pm

Palo Alto well-wisher is a registered user.

Wow, great news! Well done, council!

Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 9, 2023 at 9:27 am

Me 2 is a registered user.

Let's stop talking about it being a second downtown and call it what it will eventually be - the California Avenue Entertainment District. Hope all those residents nearby who advocated for permanent street closure will enjoy the clubs and loud music.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 9, 2023 at 11:44 am

Online Name is a registered user.

What clubs with loud music? Directions please.

Posted by Pogo2
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 10, 2023 at 10:13 am

Pogo2 is a registered user.

Results coming in, about right. 50/50 pro/con. That's probably pretty good, showing a lot of interest in making it better (however, "better" still to be defined).
My 2-cents: Mixing bikes and pedestrians not a good idea.

Posted by Crystal G Gray
a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2023 at 12:52 pm

Crystal G Gray is a registered user.

In 1977 Boulder closed off Pearl Street between 11th and 15th street- they left open the cross streets which many attribute to the long time success of the "Pearl Street Mall". The cross streets act as windows into Pearl Street and there is easy parking access from the cross streets. Boulder has had one of most successful street closure areas in the country and it would be worth it to learn more about what makes it so successful. We do not allow bikes on the mall nor Lime type scooters -one of the cross streets is designed with bike lanes. The original mall was designed with water fountains for dogs but dogs are now not allowed -a few people wander along with their dogs but it is not a big issue. The entire length of the Pearl Street Mall is accessible including getting in and out of most stores and handicap parking is adjacent to the mall on the cross streets. There are also areas for kids on each block and benches and out door dining. We have height limits (55') and the whole street is an historic district.
Lots of info on the internet about the Pearl Street Mall.
Good Luck!
I was born and raised in Palo Alto and now live in Boulder, CO a few blocks from the Pearl Street Mall.

Posted by Lightning Man
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2023 at 11:24 pm

Lightning Man is a registered user.

Consider Your Options, I agree with your statement about European Cobblery.
Bring back the high-quality German, French, and Italian shoes. Go back to the shop you were years ago. The store has too much clutter. Go back to being a beautiful shoe shop!

Posted by Andrea
a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2023 at 4:17 pm

Andrea is a registered user.

Totally disagree with this decision. I would rather drive down the street and park. I would drive up and down Cal ave just to see what's going on. I haven't been there except once since its closed up. Its a hassle. Sure, maybe close on the weekends but permanently. Nope. Businesses will suffer. Lived there 40 years. Trust me. I've seen the messes they've made of this street. Sad to see this happen.

Posted by Bill Bucy
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2023 at 9:36 am

Bill Bucy is a registered user.

The council made a decision on an issue clearly important to the community. Kudos for ending the back and forth and moving forward.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 13, 2023 at 12:40 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

I disagree with this decision. Oregon Expressway is often heavily clogged if/when I drive over to access this district. I have one professional service reason to go there once a year. I WILL continue to do that. I am not inclined to “explore.” I used to drive down the avenue, occasionally, stopping at times for the Cobblery, Country Sun, Med Wraps, bowl place, Mollie Stone’s, art place, camera store, (and way back the bookstore and music store).
There is a transit hub at the Caltrain station. Direct access up/down California Ave was useful. We SAW this!
Many of us (who don’t live nearby) will be inclined to overlook this region now. Out of sight, out of mind.
I sometimes drove in California Ave also off El Camino Real. Mentioned because someone on NextDoor or here stated he rarely saw anyone access California Ave from that way. Funny!
I wish you luck.

Posted by Lightning Man
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2023 at 1:03 pm

Lightning Man is a registered user.

Liquidamber, in the post above, is 100% correct! Rental properties will preserve the LAND VALUE
for the investors. These landowners can make money on their investments forever and the renters continue to pay higher rents year after year. I my opinion, we need to build more condos and permanent housing.

Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 15, 2023 at 6:45 pm

Pat Markevitch is a registered user.

If the Council Members who voted to close Cal Avenue are so opposed to cars and the convenience of parking close to their destinations, then they should voluntarily give up their prime parking spots on the first level of the underground garage at City Hall.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Backhaus in Burlingame finally opens for the holiday rush
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 2,700 views

Burning just one "old style" light bulb can cost $150 or more per year
By Sherry Listgarten | 10 comments | 2,400 views

Fun Things to Do Around the Bay This Holiday – Peninsula Edition
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,310 views

Banning the public from PA City Hall
By Diana Diamond | 23 comments | 1,765 views

Premiere! “I Do I Don’t: How to build a better marriage” – Here, a page/weekday
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 851 views


Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 30 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away almost $10 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.