Around Town | December 2, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 2, 2011

Around Town

THIS IS NOT A THREAT, BUT ... Palo Alto officials are convinced that reducing driving lanes from four to two along California Avenue would usher in a new era of economic prosperity for the commercial strip, bringing it closer in character to University Avenue or Mountain View's Castro Street. Some in the business community aren't so sure. While many bicyclists and residents have praised the proposal, a number of California Avenue merchants, including owners of Cho's Dim Sum, Palo Alto Sol and Keeble & Shuchat have come out against the lane shrinkages. David Bennett, owner of Mollie Stone's Market, also counts himself among the opposition. This week, Bennett wrote a letter to the City Council suggesting that he may convert the supermarket to housing if the city proceeds with the change, which he claims would hurt his business. The site's commercial zoning allows housing but only as long as there is retail on the ground floor. "Bicycle and pedestrian access is wonderful, but unfortunately for us, we are at the end of a one-way street, and access is already VERY limited," he wrote in the letter. He also noted that his store owns the property, which is "targeted as a property for housing." "We are adjacent to the rail and have alternate plans if our store does not succeed," Bennett wrote. "In my career in the grocery business, I have not seen the supermarket survive when access is limited in this situation." "Please do not take this as a threat," he concluded in his letter, "but the supermarket may be in jeopardy if our sales are impacted by reduction in auto access." The non-threat did not, however, keep the council from unanimously reconfirming its commitment to the lane-reduction plan. Councilman Pat Burt said he was "baffled" by the merchants' opposition, given the positive impact of reducing lanes at prominent commercial strips in neighboring cities. Councilman Greg Scharff agreed and pointed to the city's traffic study, which showed that the lane changes would not create the traffic congestion feared by the merchants. "It's fairly obvious that there's no impact, especially when you look at traffic," Scharff said.

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