Town Square

Hungry for more outdoor dining, Palo Alto to close University Avenue to traffic

Original post made on Jun 24, 2020

Emboldened by its recent success on California Avenue, the Palo Alto City Council moved Tuesday night to dramatically expand opportunities for outdoor dining elsewhere in the city, including on University Avenue.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 24, 2020, 12:28 PM


Posted by Ross Mayfield
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2020 at 1:54 pm

Palo Alto City Council voted last night to proceed with Summer Streets for University Ave starting this Friday. Gives broad powers to the city manager to implement. They didn’t go as far as codifying 7 days a week, but encouraged doing so quickly.

Encouraging, but not decisive enough to help the crisis. Cal Ave open streets is positive by every measure. Merchant and restaurant revenue up, citizens enjoy the community feel. One restaurant hired back 95% of their staff. 3 days a week will not accomplish this demand pattern.

The reasonable issue is what happens when office workers come back. How will open streets effect traffic and parking for downtown and residential, and commercial property values.

Commercial and residential property owners need assurance of their interests amidst uncertainty.

Putting aside that Office worker volume and density will not be the same, and there is no returning to the prior state — we need to measure business revenue, traffic and parking as @GregTanaka suggested. During the Summer Streets program and as we do the dance of opening.

But 3 days a week does not allow the needed data to be collected. 7 days a week in this temporary program, with the option of pulling back to 3 or even full shutdown if public health requires it, will. @adrianfine suggested to start with 7, and 6/7 councilors said do 7.

I believe if @EdShikada uses the authority granted and the intent from the Council’s comments to start open streets with 7 days a week starting Friday, puts a focus on collecting revenue, traffic and parking data, expands engagement beyond business round table it will:

Provide meaningful impact to small businesses just as PPP expires, yield better consumer demand, support a governable framework with full data and reveal that open streets is in every stakeholder’s interest and make our community more desirable to live and work.

Posted by SGB
a resident of University South
on Jun 24, 2020 at 2:35 pm

Excited to hear this. I'm so looking forward to Summer Streets on University Ave.

I live right near downtown, and I was worried about the long-term health of our restaurants and retailers. We've already lost Dan Gordon's, La Strada, Joya, Walgreens, West Elm, and others, with more right on the brink of closing permanently. We do need to do everything we can to support all our downtown businesses.

Posted by Professorville
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 24, 2020 at 3:10 pm

Cal Ave has been amazing. I was so missing eating out of the house. Just seeing people from a distance is nice.

Before Cal Ave, I personally didn’t feel safe eating on the sidewalk, especially in a place with a lot of sidewalk traffic on University.

Having the tables widely spaced in the street is a game changer— I could certainly see a lot more people coming back to University once people see what it looks like.

I’m not sure why it shouldn’t start right now as a 24 / 7 option for businesses? There’s plenty of parking in garages right now and not a lot of traffic.

Certainly I think people would want to eat out as safely as possible during the week too. I do.

Posted by wonderful!
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 24, 2020 at 5:31 pm

This is terrific and I hope it's successful.

I was downtown the other day and saw many teens without masks on, not social distancing. I understand it's particularly hard for kids of this developmental age to fully absorb the consequences of their actions. Having said that, what should we as a community do about this? I see some kids with masks on their wrists or dangling from their pockets, so it's not a matter of them not having masks. I would like to see downtown thrive and be a model for other communities. I don't feel comfortable speaking to these kids, I'm older and not always steady on my feet, they don't want to hear an old fart like me telling them what to do, but it would help us all if we could get buy in from the teens.


Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2020 at 6:58 am

Terun had people packed in, also back by their dumpsters......

Posted by The virus is sneaky
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2020 at 10:58 am

Enjoy it while you can. Sara Cody plans to take us back to square one soon.

Posted by Bike Parking?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2020 at 11:11 am

If you eliminate on-street auto parking, it would be very helpful to add bicycle parking so people can who choose to bike can securely lock their bikes while they enjoy restaurants and shops. Adding bike parking was key to increasing bicycling at PAUSD secondary schools. Adult bicyclists need secure parking as well. Build it, and we will come.

For folks who may not know, it takes only 20 minutes to bike at a leisurely pace from the Mountain View border to downtown. If you take the Bryant Street bike boulevard, it is a lovely shady ride--a nice precursor to an evening out. My husband and I (creaky seniors) do this often. It takes 18 minutes to bike to California Avenue on Park bicycle boulevard for the MV border. These streets are quiet routes with many other people walking and biking, so you will be in good company.

Happy trails!

Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 25, 2020 at 12:11 pm

Has anyone on the City Council noticed that just as they move to expand public gatherings without masks, SCC Covid cases have been exploding exponentially ever since limited Stage II reopening (or is it Level or Phase II?) was implemented on June 5???? After all, you can't eat and wear a mask at the same time, can you??? Still, you could always throw your food in a blender and drink it through a straw. Also, didn't CA just impose a rule that everyone should wear a mask even while outside??? And doesn't the State trump (I hate that word) counties and cities?

Just wear your surgical masks like responsible citizens and don't infect the rest of us.

Posted by DJN
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2020 at 2:10 pm

I think this is great overall, and certainly will benefit all... But there is one significant difference between University Ave and California Ave - Univ Ave is a major thoroughfare.. California Ave is not a thru street.. So taking the closure of Univ Ave in stages makes a lot of sense practically for all in the community.

Posted by Carolyn
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2020 at 2:27 pm

Make this 7 days a week ASAP. Why mess around, 3 days is just stupid. Come on PA. Be bold and creative. We are better than this. Our businesses and budget depend on the retail and restaurant success!

Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 26, 2020 at 8:31 am

Block Univeristy. Lytton one way Middlefield to Alma. Hamilton one way Alma to Middlefield. Traffic pros figure out the transition at the end of each street. Change parking to 90 degrees on side streets that run into University. Make PA University Ave a destination that attracts many to the restaurants and retail. Apparently most love the idea. Let's go staff and council! This has been discussed for decades. Act now! It could be like this:
Web Link

Web Link

Posted by Concerned Pedestrian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2020 at 8:57 am

With U Ave closed, going to see a lot of cars zooming through the surrounding residential streets. Will there be any sort of increased protection against reckless drivers?

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 26, 2020 at 10:01 am

Until the COVID-19 danger has passed, traffic is artificially low, and we can close University pretty much whenever we want.

The situation is different in the long run. Between Alma and Middlefield, University normally carries 12000 cars/day, Hamilton 8000, and Lytton 11000 (Web Link If University stays closed under those conditions, drivers won't politely divert to Hamilton and Lytton. They'll cut through parallel streets in the neighborhoods.

We know this because it happens already. As University grew more congested, the traffic through Crescent Park reached levels that finally forced the City to act last year. Volume on Lincoln Ave in Professorville is up 85% since 2013 because it's a traffic-light-free path that runs nearly all the way from the 101 interchange to Alma. Many other cases exist, but aren't as well-documented because the City doesn't do regular traffic surveys in residential areas. And all these cases happened with University *open*.

So far, the only way I've seen to close University permanently without destroying the surrounding neighborhoods is to create partial street closures. We have these in a lot of places around town -- College Terrace, Bryant Street, Palo Alto Ave at Middlefield, etc., and they seem to be effective. So if you want to argue for closing University in the long run, please also argue for the changes that are needed to help the surrounding neighborhoods survive.

Posted by Kait
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 26, 2020 at 10:05 am

This is going to be a disaster for residential neighborhoods on Hamilton and Lytton, not to mention others. You can't compare University to Califonia--one is a major thoroughfare, one is not.