Is "stage 2" the time to try a more pedestrian-friendly downtown? | A New Shade of Green | Sherry Listgarten | |

Local Blogs

A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

E-mail Sherry Listgarten

About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

View all posts from Sherry Listgarten

Is "stage 2" the time to try a more pedestrian-friendly downtown?

Uploaded: May 3, 2020
Should we be allocating more space for people and less space for cars in our downtowns? This question comes up every few years (1), but something is new this year — we are dealing with twin health and economic crises. That means we want to support our local businesses, but we (and they) could use more space to do that. Car traffic is down, schedules are more flexible, and people are out and about more on foot and on bikes. Can we make it healthier for people (more space), safer for bikes (fewer cars), and better for businesses (more outdoor area) by reclaiming some of the car space for shoppers, diners, and local businesses?

In the past, some dissenters have referred to presentations like this one (commissioned for Memphis) that describe how most pedestrian malls have failed. Downtown areas around the country were converted to pedestrian malls in the 70’s, but in many areas pedestrian traffic dropped off, stores closed, and vagrancy grew. One commenter a few years ago went so far as to say “Any time cars are restricted, there is an accumulation of homeless people and vagrants, and it really kills the vitality of the place. A constant flow (of traffic) is really necessary for the health of the street.” That seems implausible to me. More generally, though, the Memphis report has some reflections on which street conversions fail (page 14) and which succeed (page 17). How do our odds shape up? My feeling is we can do pretty well, at least by that analysis.

That said, a successful pedestrian-friendly downtown takes active management and investment. I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the iterations of Lytton Plaza in downtown Palo Alto, but that was a work in progress for many years. At minimum the pedestrian areas need to be kept clean and welcoming, but some of the nicest “shared streets” have features that involve significant expenses, which we can ill afford right now. Those include removal of curbs and sidewalks, distinctive paving and lighting, benches and plantings, removable bollards, and bike parking. Let’s assume we have none of that. We could use traffic cones to block off the street and deploy some (well-spaced) inexpensive seating (2) and a few bike racks. Takeout and shopping queues would have more room outdoors. It’s a tough balance, because we want to encourage shopping but not gathering. Is this shoestring effort to create more space worth trying? Or by attracting more people to downtown are we too likely to encourage social proximity, which I expect will be problematic throughout the nice weather?

Our downtown streets include University Avenue and California Avenue in Palo Alto, Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park, and Castro Street in Mountain View. Below are a few pictures, but the blocks vary a lot and some may make more sense than others. The pictures give you a sense of the space we dedicate to cars for driving and parking.

University Avenue in Palo Alto

Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park

California Avenue in Palo Alto

Castro Street in Mountain View

What could it look like instead? There are a number of variations on pedestrian-friendly downtowns, though all create more space for people. “Shared streets” prioritize people but also allow for some vehicles. The traffic can be two-way or one-way. Other plazas may just have a lane for bikes and emergency vehicles. Some allow buses. “Pedestrian malls” are limited to walkers. You can see examples of many of these by looking around in Google Street View at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Pearl Street in Boulder, 16th Street Mall in Denver, Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, or Fort Street in Auckland. (Feel free to suggest others in the comments.) Here are some snapshots that show a variety of configurations.

Third Street in Santa Monica (from Google Street View)

Sixteenth Street in Denver (from Google Street View)

Fort Street in Auckland (from Google Street View)

Pearl Street in Boulder (from Google Street View)

Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis (from Google Street View)

You can see that some allow cars and some don’t, some are one-way, others are two-way. None have car parking. All are more polished than we can do for a trial, and we have various impediments like parking bulb outs and street medians to deal with. But we also have a lot of flexibility. Could we put (well-spaced) dining tables in some bulb outs, seating in others, and reserve the street for buses and bikes? We could limit it to Friday-Sunday or weekends, and just a few blocks. But we face the paradoxical concern that a more spacious and more welcoming downtown might encourage more people to linger. Should we go for more spacious but not more welcoming? Or just keep things as-is?

Notes and References
1. Even in 2007 they were saying “This is an old issue that gets resurrected every four or five years.”

2. I expect we could borrow some seating from closed concert or sporting venues.

3. This page has ten “before and after” pictures from various streets in New York City.

4. As another very new data point, Market Street in San Francisco recently went car-free. The San Francisco Chronicle covered it, and the aftermath. KQED has a writeup with some good references at the end. The larger project page is here.

Current Climate Data (March 2020)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

Here is a really interesting statistic. Between March 28 and April 26 of this year, electricity use in Europe+UK was down 14% from 2019, but electricity emissions were down a whopping 39%. A small drop in power use led to a much larger drop in emissions. The chart below from Carbon Brief shows why. It’s great to see the leverage that green policies, technologies, and pricing are enabling.

The top bar shows that emissions from power plants in Europe+UK decreased by 39% from 2019 to 2020, when measured from March 28 to April 26. The upper blue bars show that was due to large drops in demand for the most carbon-intensive power sources during that period. Renewables in contrast mostly grew (the lower blue bars), despite power use dropping by 14% in that interval (as shown in the shorter red bar). Source: Carbon Brief

Comment Guidelines
I hope that your contributions will be an important part of this blog. To keep the discussion productive, please adhere to these guidelines, or your comment may be moderated:
- Avoid disrespectful, disparaging, snide, angry, or ad hominem comments.
- Stay fact-based and refer to reputable sources.
- Stay on topic.
- In general, maintain this as a welcoming space for all readers.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Marian, a resident of Professorville,
on May 3, 2020 at 7:06 am

It seems logical that the first way to open restaurant seating would be in open air settings, perhaps closing a side street and allowing people to reserve ahead for time slots and menu items online. Bryant Street between University and Hamilton might be one possibility for evening street closures with spaced temporary tables outside during the summer.

Posted by GND to get us out of Trump Depression, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on May 3, 2020 at 8:37 am

> electricity use in Europe+UK was down 14% from 2019, but electricity emissions were down a whopping 39%. A small drop in power use led to a much larger drop in emissions.

Fantastic example of the strength of renewables.

Time to institute the GND: employ people immediately on the first phases - installation of renewables everywhere (panels, etc..) and upgrade building efficiencies.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 3, 2020 at 8:48 am

In Holland, restaurants have put greenhouses along streets, waterfronts, etc. for outside dining. It could work here.

Each greenhouse could be reserved for a small number, perhaps for a small extra charge, and the food is delivered to the greenhouse.

This would necessitate more space, but I think it could add a new dimension for dining out that could continue after the lockdown has ended (whenever that may be).

Posted by Bhatt, a resident of Crescent Park,
on May 3, 2020 at 9:20 am

Bury University Ave between 101 and El Camino and make it a green belt with bike, jogging and car-free space. This will eliminate traffic and congestion, reduce crime, force travelers to explore public transit or sustainable options, and improve quality of life for residents.

Businesses will thrive with more unscheduled shopping and dining opportunities (it's impossible to hop into a quaint shop or follow your nose into a new eatery if you're driving along in your car at 25+ MPH)

Going back to pre-COVID traffic is unacceptable.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 3, 2020 at 10:22 am

I haven't seen it lately, but, the K-Street Mall in Sacramento was an early attempt (1969) to imitate the burgeoning success of such things in Europe. Unfortunately, it arrived just in time for "de-institutionalization", which resulted in the K-Street Mall becoming an outdoor haven for the homeless mentally ill. It was a mess. Beware of unintended consequences. I love pedestrian-friendly, but, without a strategy to house the homeless, it won't be "friendly".

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on May 3, 2020 at 12:18 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

It would take a major redevelopment to block off vehicles from University Avenue and/or California Avenue.

The good news is that California Avenue area is benefiting from a large new parking garage. If the same thing could be built next to University Avenue, then it might be worthwhile.

For instance, if the city purchased the 7-Eleven, a large garage could be built along Lytton Ave between Waverly and Kipling (replacing the existing ground level Lot T with just 50 vehicle spots). A multi-story lot could provide more than 250 parking spaces -- sufficient to offset the number of spaces located along University Ave.

Of course, we cannot simply try to end access (by vehicles) to the area. The downtown area is filled with businesses that are NOT a group of charities. They are businesses that need parking for customers -- especially those from outside of Palo Alto.

If the goal is to simply close down University to vehicle access, then most of those businesses will close. Those business owners (including non-merchandise businesses) and their families will suffer. The shops will convert to office space. The city's coffers will be somewhat lighter too.

Posted by Allen Akin, a resident of Professorville,
on May 3, 2020 at 12:22 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

University is one of the few major east/west routes in our area, and if closed, its traffic and parking loads would have to go somewhere else -- most probably onto the neighborhood streets nearby. So if you don't live in one of the downtown neighborhoods, please keep in mind that a major change for University may well come at the cost of other people's homes.

Posted by bored, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on May 3, 2020 at 5:18 pm

Santa Cruz would need more foot traffic friendly businesses and maybe some extra attraction to bring evening visitors to make much of a pedestrian mall. Maybe a theater or live music venue if those are still things And even then I don't know if it's as attractive or easy to get to as downtown Redwood City or University Ave / Cal Ave. It's a lot smaller and hemmed in by residential neighborhoods, not that easy to drive to, and parking is probably okay in the evenings, but I think bad during the day.

Posted by Father of 3, a resident of Palo Verde,
on May 3, 2020 at 9:37 pm

[Comment removed, not on topic, see guidelines. In the future such comments will just be removed. For my comment on Planet of the Humans see Web Link

Posted by Ben, a resident of Downtown North,
on May 4, 2020 at 7:11 am

My sense is that parking and car traffic are vital to downtowns. Almost all the vitality of university avenue has shifted to town and country and the shopping mall. I don't like either but I can see that they are both more convenient if you are driving. More important than diverting cars on university would be to encourage outdoor seating. Both for covid safety but also because it attracts customers. Today Palo Alto lags both Mountain View and Redwood City in the vitality of its down town areas (it used to lead), largely, imho, because parking is such a pain.

Posted by Dan, a resident of Professorville,
on May 4, 2020 at 8:38 am

@Sherry - While it's a noble goal, I think there are at least three practical problems with this strategy.

1) Downtown Palo Alto contains lots of businesses that are not consumer retail. The folks who work in those businesses and engage with those businesses need a route to get there, and a place to park. It's not realistic that these folks are all going to be local from Palo Alto under any circumstance, so public transportation won't be an option.

2) Palo Alto is not dense enough to support our large downtown shopping district with people getting there via foot and bike traffic alone. People need to be able to get there, and a place to park. Again given our low density, I don't think public transportation is a great option to bring enough people in from all over Palo Alto to support the size of the district.

3) There doesn't seem to be any good option for a street to replace university as a thoroughfare into Palo Alto and also into Stanford. Embarcadero is already pretty full. If you close off University, even just the Middlefield to El Camino segment - what will happen to traffic in the neighborhoods and also on Embarcadero.

Net is I am just not sure this is going to be possible on University. On California Avenue - let's get the big new garage done and see how things develop. I'd also love to see us redevelop the Fry's area as much much higher density - like 10 story apartment buildings - imagine how vibrant the California avenue corridor would be if we did that!

Posted by Simple Solution(s), a resident of Community Center,
on May 4, 2020 at 8:43 am

Individual dining tents along the sidewalks until restaurant interiors re-open.

Outdoor space restrictions will require reservations in advance. Those without reservations (i.e. walk-in customers) take their chances on seating.

Smaller restaurants can maintain take-out or delivery options. Further use of food trucks is another option.

Re-openings are best suited towards the higher-end restaurants as most people are not going to pay $75.00 to $100.00+ for an expensive/artisan meal served in a take-out container. They are paying for the ambiance & service as well.

The restaurants that cannot meet these basic requirements will simply it survival of the fittest in the dining industry.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 4, 2020 at 8:57 am

Posted by Dan, a resident of Professorville,

>> I'd also love to see us redevelop the Fry's area as much much higher density - like 10 story apartment buildings - imagine how vibrant the California avenue corridor would be if we did that!

You lost me right there. You don't need high rises to get density. I guess you like high-rises. I don't. If you are looking for traditional European-style vitality, 3-4 story buildings will give you plenty of density and avoid the costly construction required for high rises. (References previously posted many times.).

Posted by Colorado, a resident of Midtown,
on May 4, 2020 at 12:41 pm

As a former resident of Boulder Colorado, I lived there when Pearl Street downtown was turned into a pedestrian mall with in the warmer months lots of outside restaurant space. Pearl was the main street and was closed to cars, the parallel streets to each side were made one-way. Traffic flow on the two lane one-way streets improved the traffic flow. For University Ave this would mean making Lytton and Hamilton each one-way. Then the traffic signals could be timed for smooth flow at the speed limits and the space on University being opened up. In Boulder at the time, many said it would not work, but in fact it turned the area into a boom town.

Posted by good idea for MP, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 4, 2020 at 1:16 pm

good idea for MP is a registered user.

Downtown Menlo Park currently is tricky to navigate by bicycle (and car) since restaurants have been allowed to be on the street, and there are stop signs almost every short block. The on-street dining structures are starting to look shabby. Let's take advantage of this opportunity to try something new. If there is a plan (novel idea here!), there also could be a parking garage sensibly located in an area where the downtown business customers' demand will be highest.

The idea of making Menlo and Oak Grove one-way streets makes a lot of sense, too, especially if Menlo is one-way headed west (will make the intersection with University and those crosswalks more safe), and Oak Grove is one-way headed east.

Posted by Allen Akin, a resident of Professorville,
on May 4, 2020 at 2:39 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

Downtown Boulder had the advantage that it was served by two four-lanes-plus arterial roads (Canyon and Broadway) in two directions. Pearl Street wasn't arterial, so closing it didn't have the kind of effects on traffic that closing University would have here. (Closing Hamilton might be a better analogy.) It would be interesting to know how much traffic flows on downtown Boulder's streets compared to ours.

Posted by Holistic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 4, 2020 at 4:20 pm

I have been an advocate of turning University into a pedestrian mall for decades. And then city council let it become an office park, and enabled so much density it's awful to go there, so I don't think I've been downtown for the last 2 or 3 years. All the great businesses got pushed out.

Densifying means you have to take resources from further and further away -- energy, household goods, food. Even "local" requires fossil fuels to get here.
Pandemics, displacement from drought and other natural disasters, urban heat islands, terrorism, crime, those things are all costly environmentally, too. At this point I don't think it's time to change the conversation and direction of city planning.

It would be nice if the tech whales would start looking for sustainable places for satellites, and even nicer if environmentalists could begin thinking holistically again. Downtown Los Altos turns into a pedestrian mall once a week, and so does California Avenue. People go for the farmer's markets. Not many residents interested are interested in strolling around the gyms and corporate cafeterias that have taken over so many formerly attractive retail spaces in our downtowns, so I'm not really that keen on spending resources on the pedestrian mall idea anymore.

I'm outside loving the bird song these days, and the ability to talk with people I am walking with absent the constant airplane roar. All it took to get me walking again, at least in my neighborhood, was to reverse the many unpleasant effects of overdevelopment. We were a productive Silicon Valley back then, too, by the way.

I find it pretty ridiculous that Palo Alto sees walkability as something you FORCE people to do -- people do those things when they are attractive, not because, for example, someone makes the lives of people with mobility problems who have to drive cars an absolute living hell, imagining it will force them to do things they can't.

Someone create a fair online reservation system so we can buy in bulk again so I can know I will find what we need when we go out, and I can find enough of it, and the businesses know approximately what I will be expecting to get when I go. Fewer of us will need to even go to the store for now.

When the lockdown lifts, what happens will really depend on whether the tech whales resume their push to cram every tech worker in the world into Silicon Valley like before, regardless of the ills. Now they at least know what the rest of us are so angry at them destroying. At thin point, I don't even care about downtown anymore. I just want to stop enabling the destruction.

Posted by Holistic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 4, 2020 at 4:21 pm

Oops, not sure why this is wrong:

I meant: At this point I think it's time to change the conversation and direction of city planning.

Posted by There was too much traffic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 4, 2020 at 4:44 pm

Here is an article describing an attempt to close university back in 2007 by mayor kishimoto.

Web Link

If they do this again they need to make sure traffic is rerouted to the 100 block of embarcadero road.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 4, 2020 at 5:13 pm

One thing the SIP seems to have shown many of us is just how friendly people are when walking around neighborhoods and parks. We are social creatures. We enjoy being in social settings.

The problem with Downtown areas is that they have become places where people are in a hurry, don't expect to socialize with those they don't know, meet new people, or be entertained.

I tend to think people might change their perspective due to this SIP. People do value the ability to see other people and to exercise, yet our Downtowns don't make it easy to do so. University Avenue, for example, is not the place to job, ride a bike for exercise, skateboard or rollerblade (which I believe is coming back into vogue with gyms and other exercise harder to do). Without traffic, University Avenue (or Cal Ave) could become a haven for jogging, walking, or any other exercise activity. We could have signs at each end with distances logged at the end of each block. Water fountains or hydration stations so that people could easily fill a reusable water bottle. Faster exercise on the center of the street and slower exercise on the sides and a keep to the right protocol to prevent meeting another jogger face on. Some setbacks or layby areas designed for conversation, and less strict rules about sitting at tables with several people eating food from different restaurants.

OK, pure speculation which may not work, but good ideas sometimes come from pie in the sky pipe dreams.

Posted by Is It Worth Walking Down, a resident of Midtown,
on May 4, 2020 at 8:00 pm

Is It Worth Walking Down is a registered user.

The real question for me is: Is it worth it to walk down University?

My answer has been no for quite some time.

No bookstores, no interesting retail, no useful retail, nothing other than other than overpriced restaurants and cafe's, why would I waste my time? Event the Peninsula Creamery has gone over the top with $20 mac and cheese.

I use University Ave for specific trips to the Apple store and an occasional restaurant. Other than that, University Avenue is not very interesting at all.

Stopping car traffic will not change this one bit. But, it will annoy those of us who know it is boring and want to simply get from Middlefield to Stanford/Palm.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on May 4, 2020 at 8:54 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

These comments are just great! I think you are hitting on a few big questions.

1. Is there enough “there” there to be interesting? I agree with those who think there isn’t, at least on University, and it made me kind of sad to read the article (and comments) from 2007 that someone linked to with all the businesses I remember (and KFOG!). One of the keys to success for these pedestrian-focused areas is some enhancement -- seating, live music or other programming, specialty food carts. The question is whether that is workable in the time of a pandemic. I’d guess instead you almost want to create unattractive space...

2. Parking. A couple of you mention the need for parking. I thought University would have enough, since there are nearby garages and there isn’t that much on the blocks we’d close. But I don’t really have numbers. Castro and California (soon) would be fine. Santa Cruz I’m not sure.

3. Traffic. My thinking here was that starting during this slower period would be a good way to test it out and see how traffic responds. You have to do it for a while to get to some new steady state. You could limit to Fri-Sun to reduce risk. I think the ideas around one-way nearby streets are interesting, too.

BTW, here is a picture of the greenhouses in the Netherlands that one reader mentioned. Can you imagine sneezing in there? Do they wipe it down between diners? *sigh* I just don’t understand corona-living yet.

Anyway, thanks for all the great thoughts/ideas...

Posted by There was too much traffic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 5, 2020 at 9:51 am

Not really worth considering. University is a major thoroughfare from 101 to el Camino. The trial in 2007 was a disaster. As other pointed out, where will the traffic go? And those that say that it works in Boulder, I believe that on either side are 4 lane streets that handle the traffic. And what about emergency vehicles.
This suggestion is typical of the “too much traffic" and “walkable neighborhood" people.

Posted by commonsense, a resident of Professorville,
on May 5, 2020 at 10:35 am

commonsense is a registered user.

It would be relatively easy to try this and see how it works. Make Lytton one way to the west and Hamilton one way to the east and block University. Parking is an issue but if all side street parking was changed to 90 degree parking spots, it would make up the lost spaces on University. If done right, beautifully, it would be a unique destination. NOBODY comes to University expecting to find a parking space on University Ave. Why not give it a try?

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on May 5, 2020 at 11:00 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Interesting idea but:

1) University is one of the few direct routes to/from 101. Where do you expect the traffic to go other than nearby residential streets on which the city has already spent a fortune constructing weird barriers to eliminate cut-through traffic.

2) With the city pleading poverty to the tune of a $30,000,000 budget shortfall and announcing service cuts, we clearly don't have the money for yet another massive, disruptive and costly project

3) The few retailers that haven't been displaced by offices clearly don't need more disruption that will cost them business.

Posted by Carol Kersten, a resident of College Terrace,
on May 5, 2020 at 11:24 am

Carol Kersten is a registered user.

I love the idea in this article. It would be helpful in the short term and as a pilot for the longer-term.

One reason so many European towns are so appealing is streets that are closed to car traffic, at least in evenings and on weekends. It contributes to a friendly and welcoming experience.

Posted by Holistic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 5, 2020 at 11:42 am

@ Carol,
"One reason so many European towns are so appealing is streets that are closed to car traffic, at least in evenings and on weekends. It contributes to a friendly and welcoming experience. "

True, but pretty much all of those European towns are also aware of the aesthetic, often ensuring that there is beauty, space, even views that everyone can enjoy. They also don't willy nilly close off car traffic for the sake of making life hell for car drivers, they have transit options that are actually desirable, clean, safe, affordable, accessible, and go where people want to go, also in aesthetically-pleasing circumstances, so they choose the transit over driving when it is possible to drive, too. For people who want to walk, the walk itself is usually a lovely part of life, not something to be endured because the sidewalks are an obstacle course, too narrow, and right up on the street because the city thinks building right up to the street with no room for a comfortable walking space is somehow going to encourage walking.

Posted by Holistic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 5, 2020 at 11:45 am

"Not really worth considering. University is a major thoroughfare from 101 to el Camino."

For downtown the Office Park. It makes no sense to talk about making University a foot traffic mall anymore because it's no longer a thriving downtown for resident-serving shops, and hasn't been for a long time.

Posted by commonsense, a resident of Professorville,
on May 5, 2020 at 12:49 pm

commonsense is a registered user.

It could look like Aspen which is beautiful Web Link

Posted by SoccerDad, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards,
on May 5, 2020 at 5:25 pm

SoccerDad is a registered user.

Sherry I'm surprised no one has brought up downtown Redwood City, where Theater Way (Middlefield Rd.)is a good example of the pedestrian mall implemented locally here. It has one way traffic and some parking, lots of restaurants with plenty of space on sidewalks for some of their seating. The theater draws well, and the location near the Courthouse Square is good for pedestrian traffic and even outdoor concerts and movies. Probabably over the top for University Ave but some of the concepts work.
Web Link

Posted by Carl Jones, a resident of Palo Verde,
on May 6, 2020 at 12:57 pm

@Colorado is right. Now is the time to at least TEST OUT THE IDEA of diverting traffic around University (between Webster and High). You don't even have to make Litton and Hamilton one-way for the test. Just time the lights between High street and Webster street for (say) 23 mph with long green light times so that a car crossing Middlefield heading towards Stanford can turn right onto Webster, left onto Litton, and drive all the way to High or Alma without stopping. Likewise a car coming under the train tracks on University would have to turn right onto High, then left onto Hamilton and drive all the way to Webster or Middlefield without stopping. Allow all the perpendicular roads to cross University, but not turn. No construction costs; only barriers at each end an the signal timing. SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. Might be bad; might be delightful.

Posted by Donna Davies, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on May 6, 2020 at 5:53 pm

Donna Davies is a registered user.

Sherry, I have the same type of vision for Mountain View and have encouraged the city staff and council members to make it more people-centric. I have suggested we permanently close Castro to through traffic from the CalTrain tracks to California Street, a total of four blocks, to allow the main business section of town to flourish. Cars won't be able to cross the tracks on Castro once the street is closed there, so that would be the ideal time to implement this. Europe seems to have the ideal city centers with lots of tables outside, spread across their plazas for eating and drinking. It really promotes community building besides increasing business to that area.

Posted by ASR , a resident of College Terrace,
on May 6, 2020 at 6:52 pm

Make university avenue foot traffic only Saturday and Sunday.
Allow traffic only Monday through Friday.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on May 6, 2020 at 9:39 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Those are great examples (and links! thank you!) from Redwood City and Aspen. As a few of you mention, the question is really about experimentation and whether we can learn something useful. It's a little awkward since we want to have a nice environment but not so nice that distancing becomes hard. But as someone mentioned in an email, if we can do farmer's markets, it seems like we should be able to do this.

More generally, what worries me is that, given all the budget cuts, we are going to default to just doing things *worse* when we might instead generate some ideas and try instead for doing things intentionally *differently*, particularly in a way that takes advantage of the changes we are seeing and that has the potential to make a positive impact in the future. This is just one idea in that vein -- I am sure there are others.

Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park,
on May 7, 2020 at 9:21 pm

@ Nayeli: I'm happy to inform you that downtown actually has not one, not two, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7, not 8, not 9, not 10, not 11, not 12, not 13, not 14, not 15, not 16, not 17, but EIGHTEEN parking lots and multi-story parking garages.

So it looks like your wish has been granted, and we can open up University Ave to people/bikes by limiting access to cars and removing vehicle storage spots.

Posted by Ed Swenson, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on May 8, 2020 at 8:18 am

Really a fabulous idea.

It seems like it would help small businesses survive in the short run, even if it is only an experiment. If it works we can keep it.

The counter arguments don't survive the COVID-19 reality.
Too much traffic - not now and not soon.
Not enough parking - see above.
Not enough interesting businesses - the few that are left are more likely to fail if we don't do something.

It's already hard to find a place to wait in line for takeout and phase 2 will be worse.

Posted by Scott, a resident of another community,
on May 8, 2020 at 1:37 pm

It's a great idea. One that has been very successful in other cities which have done it. Stores and restaurants benefit from increased foot traffic. Summer is the peak season for this kind of thing to work, so they had better do it soon.

Posted by Stay Home, Save Lives!, a resident of Crescent Park,
on May 8, 2020 at 2:15 pm

Post removed, off topic. If you'd like to discuss moderation, wait for the next post :)

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a blogger,
on May 8, 2020 at 3:38 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

A friend of mine forwarded me this article from the Seattle Times. Seattle ran a "Stay Healthy Streets" experiment, found it to be successful, and will be making it permanent on 20 miles of streets. Their experiment was on residential streets, so pretty different, but the scale is impressive. I do wonder what will happen in the winter up there, though. Will people continue to bike and walk?

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

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

Burning just one "old style" light bulb can cost $150 or more per year
By Sherry Listgarten | 7 comments | 1,990 views

Reflecting on lives this Thanksgiving Day
By Tim Hunt | 0 comments | 1,049 views