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University Ave. should be solely a pedestrian and bicycle mall

Original post made by Andrew, Downtown North, on May 24, 2007

I believe that University Avenue should be turned into a bicycle and pedestrian mall, from Cowper to Emerson. Some of my reasons:

1. Parking is difficult on the street, and the loss of these places will not significantly change the parking situation.
2. Businesses will still get the same amount of buying traffic to them since there will be more people on the street.
3. There are much better ways to get through this part of town; University is not a very fast connector.
4. It could be made so much nicer with flagstones, plants and trees.
5. Everyone goes to University to walk down it anyway; does anyone need to tour it by car?
6. It will be much safer for everyone; near misses on this street are pretty common for pedestrians, bicycles and cars.

I understand that this must have been discussed many times before, and I think I also understand some of the sacrifices involved: more traffic on side streets, having to detour around instead of barreling across University, the cost involved, etc.

What do you think? Has this ever been put on a ballot for a vote? Do you think it should be?

Andrew

Comments (78)

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Posted by DoesItMatter
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2007 at 8:54 pm

Does it really matter what the residents of Palo Alto think? The City council is off on its own track ...


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2007 at 9:31 pm

Never happen. Used to much to get into Stanford.


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Posted by Happy Pedestrian
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2007 at 2:03 am

This is an old issue that gets resurrected every four or five years. I'd love it if University Avenue were turned into a pedestrian mall but it won't happen. It won't happen because restaurants and retail outlets say they can only survive with drive-by business.

Throughout Europe main streets have been turned into pedestrian malls, and whole City centers have banned cars; it is hugely successful. However, Europeans don't mind walking and taking public transportation. This concept has not taken off in the U.S. because we are wedded to our autos.

Also, our City Council won't take on an issue like banning cars from University Avenue - too controversial!!


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2007 at 5:19 am

On the other hand, see what this did to downtown K street, Sacramento.
If they improved the route for the displaced traffic it would be worth considering, but that would be foreign to City Hall.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on May 25, 2007 at 9:04 am

Pearl Street in Boulder, CO is the closest I have seen to what University could be like if it were shut down. It is near the CU campus, has a variety of eateries, lodging and shops such as we have in PA, and by the way, a large number of "visitors" who habituate their benches and corners in a fashion that does not make it a more attractive scene. (How's that for a tactful description?)

Overall it is a very pleasant mall, and I think it does enhance the atmosphere of that part of Boulder. The first time I saw it, I thought how University could benefit from a similar approach, even if it were just part of the year and on weekends for example. Castro Street in Mtn. View still allows cars, but it is much more pedestrian friendly than is University, so there is an example of a local community getting something along these lines done.

I have had some very informal conversations with a few people about this, and I think it is possble if there were some people who wanted to take it on as a "project" and the business community in the area gets behind it. Let's not get cynical about this sort of thing at the start of the discussion. Just because something was considered and not pursued previously does not preclude it having possiblities now, at a time when we should be getting very creative about how to attract successful businesses and eager patrons to the University Avenue commercial district. Could be part of a forward looking revenue strategy that this city so urgently needs.


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2007 at 9:38 am

It's the greatest idea Palo Alto has never seriously considered. Doing so and creating one way streets on Lytton and Hamilton makes a lot of sense. Parking on those streets could be altered replacing parallel parking with side by side which would add significant parking. When going down town now, who parks on University Ave? Only the lucky - maybe 1 in 10 chance. You either park on side streets or on Lytton or Hamilton or further. The corridor to Stanford would simply be altered, not eliminated. Besides, as is, driving from Middlefield to Alma is extremely inefficient - takes at least ten minutes most of the time. More trees, outside resturants - it would be awsome. Just needs a persistant driver with a lot of time on his/her hands.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2007 at 10:11 am

This would be a wonderful idea. Who drives University to Stanford anyway, most use Embarcadero which is I think what the highway signs say.

A pedestrian precinct would completely alter the feel of downtown. There could be plazas, outdoor events, latte stands, community atmosphere. It could do a lot to get rid of the vagrancy also if monitored accordingly. I say yes, go ahead.


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Posted by suzie
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2007 at 11:01 am

Great idea and worth seriously re-visiting again. However....the people who "live' on the benches would not change and that is too bad.


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Posted by Pedestrian
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2007 at 11:06 am

Great idea! Good for personal and public health, reduces energy consumption and air pollution, great way to make a special place even more special and good for business.


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Posted by Mark
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 25, 2007 at 11:28 am

Maybe if we could out source some of our city services we could afford the hit to sales tax revenue and enjoy a total walking retail environment down town. Maybe some of the homeless could also be employeed to carry the bigger packages!


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Posted by co
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2007 at 11:31 am

I'd rather see it turned into all handicapped parking. It is very hard for a handicapped person to get to Univ. ave shops and restaurants with the handicapped spaces only on rare side streets and at least 1/2 block away.


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Posted by ed
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2007 at 11:31 am

amen, this is such a great idea!

make lytton one way west and hamilton one way east and time the lights and we would ease traffic problems at the same time.


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Posted by Bernie
a resident of The Greenhouse
on May 25, 2007 at 11:54 am

Our Mayor should get behind this idea, she wants to increase pedestrian and bicycle access to Palo Alto and decrease the number of cars entering the City.


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Posted by chris
a resident of Southgate
on May 25, 2007 at 11:57 am

I've advocated this for years, and still think it is a grand idea. Close it from High to Cowper, make Hamilton one-way east, Lytton one-way west, Cowper one-way north, and time the lights appropriately. That permits continued access to all the parking structures, and leaves High as the southbound crossing.

I think the businesses would get *more* traffic from passersby.

But there will be a vocal minority that complain about having to walk two blocks to get to parking...


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Posted by Andrew Sharpe
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2007 at 2:03 pm

I neglected to use my full name when I started this thread; my apologies. Especially if this idea does take off and folks want to contact me, they should know who I am.

I agree that this idea needs someone to drive it. If I tried it myself, I'd feel a little like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", and I don't have Jimmy Stewart's (nor Jefferson Smith's) talent. Unfortunately, I also don't have oodles of time of my hands; I'm a 50-year-old engineer with a family.

However, I am interested in helping this idea along in whatever way I can. It looks like there are some common, good ideas given by folks here; the traffic routing suggestions seem to be almost in unison already.

I also thought of another good reason to do it: all the five star restaurants on University Avenue with outside seating wouldn't have to garnish their offerings with car exhaust!

Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I think something like this can be done. I don't pretend to understand the intricacies of traffic management (nor of City Council politics), but there are people that do.


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Posted by Noah
a resident of University South
on May 25, 2007 at 2:46 pm

I really love this idea, and here's a simple cost-effective way to make it happen.

Instead of investing in costly EIRs and asking for feedback for 6 months, how about the city do this as an experiment on the weekends? All we have to do is close University Ave from the streets mentioned from say 9am-10pm on Sat/Sun for a month.

Setup a *FREE* survey at any number of the free online survey sites allowing the public to register their feedback, and place a few banners around with that link so anyone can participate. Total cost (not including police time) would be maybe $100 for flyers. The downtown business district could easily take a vote from it's members after the trial/experimental period and see what the businesses really think.

At worst, we would have 8 weekend days of terrible traffic and poor business revenue. At best we would have 8 weekend days of reduced downtown traffic as more locals choose to walk around and hang out on our main strip, along with higher revenue for most of the businesses involved. Reality is probably somewhere in-between.

Thoughts?


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Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on May 25, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Go count the cars that go up Univ Ave any given hour. Now add that many to Hamilton Ave.

Count the cars fighting to make a left turn at the X of Middlefield and University. Multiply it by 20.

Still like the idea?


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Posted by Noah
a resident of University South
on May 25, 2007 at 4:19 pm

Yes Eric, I do like the idea. And I live 2.5 blocks South of University Ave so in a purely selfish, traffic-only world-view I should oppose this idea.

Everyone I know laughs when talking about people driving up University Ave, and how silly that is. They are usually in bumper-to-bumper traffic while one person parks a block ahead or tries to make a left on any of the side streets. Hamilton and Everett are usually almost empty, even at peak times.

Is it so hard to think of this as an opportunity and an experiment? I'm not asking for any permenant or costly things to be done such as putting in planters / tearing down stop-lights. Let's just try it for a few weekends and see what both the people and business owners think. (I'm in the former camp - a resident, but not a business owner).

There are already several times per year when University is shut down for fairs / festivals, and those days are usually awesome, with lots of people walking/biking, and even driving in from neighboring towns. I usually see an abundance of commerce and much coolear heads (no honking, tailgating, rushing thru red lights).


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Posted by Noah
a resident of University South
on May 25, 2007 at 4:20 pm

Yes Eric, I do like the idea. And I live 2.5 blocks South of University Ave so in a purely selfish, traffic-only world-view I should oppose this idea.

Everyone I know laughs when talking about people driving up University Ave, and how silly that is. They are usually in bumper-to-bumper traffic while one person parks a block ahead or tries to make a left on any of the side streets. Hamilton and Everett are usually almost empty, even at peak times.

Is it so hard to think of this as an opportunity and an experiment? I'm not asking for any permenant or costly things to be done such as putting in planters / tearing down stop-lights. Let's just try it for a few weekends and see what both the people and business owners think. (I'm in the former camp - a resident, but not a business owner).

There are already several times per year when University is shut down for fairs / festivals, and those days are usually awesome, with lots of people walking/biking, and even driving in from neighboring towns. I usually see an abundance of commerce and much coolear heads (no honking, tailgating, rushing thru red lights).


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Posted by anon.
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 25, 2007 at 4:29 pm

it's only naturalt that people would want to reclaim some of their civic space that is
dedicated to our mode of transport, esp. in the downtown area. great idea. take back the
streets. it would indeed draw more folks into the area, and help to revitalize a rather stagnant
downtown scene, would be esp. great in the hot days ahead.


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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2007 at 4:40 pm

Bad idea. Would vastly increase the homeless vagrent problem.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2007 at 4:48 pm

The added traffic would probably arise from people actually choosing to go to downtown rather than another venue. I think it sounds very european and friendly. I would rather stroll around a downtown that is pleasant rather than rush to do a couple of errands before heading somewhere pleasant to relax. A pleasant ped blvd could be both.


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Posted by Miike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2007 at 4:50 pm

I like the idea very much, but you will get SERIOUS push back from retailers. There is an ingrained belief among retailers that store front parking is primo. You are going to have to change that perception, or work VERY close with the retail establishment to have a chance of making this happen.


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Posted by Indian
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2007 at 5:26 pm

Trying it out on weekends is a great idea. The downtown traffic in my mother's hometown in India was a mess. They changed it to a 'walking plaza' on Sunday afternoon - and it is a super duper hit ! The city in this town, provided free shuttles from the parking structures - to help seniors get to the downtown walking plaza.


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Posted by A resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2007 at 6:59 pm

I love the idea, I'd even go Downtown on weekends if I could walk about. I don't think you would even have to make Hamilton, Lytton or Cowper one way streets to make it work. Incidentally, changing those streets to be one way will cost millions. (see the costs for re-surfacing and re-striping Charleston/Arastradero!!)

Presumably there is no traffic on University during the annual parade, how does it work then?


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Posted by just thinking
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2007 at 3:54 pm

And this would be paid for ............................how?


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Posted by Noah
a resident of University South
on May 26, 2007 at 4:51 pm

Just Thinking, what exactly would need to be paid for? We're not exactly talking about a new multi-year education program. We're simply talking about trying a few weekend days at closing down one of our popular destination streets.

This is already done several times a year and works out well (day long festivals, parades, etc). As someone who lives 1.5 blocks from Hamilton - one of the supposedly "impacted" streets, there's hardly any traffic difference on those days, as people spend more time walking around and less time looking for parking on crowded University Ave.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on May 26, 2007 at 9:03 pm

I like the idea. A trial seems like a great way to test closing University. We live close by and will take our share of the traffic that moves. No big deal. Let's give it a try.


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Posted by Gary
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2007 at 9:51 pm

It is worth a try. Imagine horse drawn carriages and strolling couples entering restaurants. Clean sidewalks, and no bums.

Nirvana!

Other towns have done it, why not Palo Alto?


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Posted by trudy
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2007 at 11:08 am

Parking provisions for the elderly as well.


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Posted by joe
a resident of College Terrace
on May 27, 2007 at 11:13 am

How are people going to carry packages to wherever their cars are if they aren't in the prime of life? There is already too little parking in the area.

And let's not add abused horses to the problem. Have you seen the condition of the horses in Central Park? How are the horses going to be transported to the street, are they going to be stressed by being in vans twice daily? Or ridden on concrete to get there?


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Posted by joe
a resident of College Terrace
on May 27, 2007 at 11:15 am

p.s. clean sidewalks? Maybe, but not the street, that's for sure. You're forgetting the horses pooping next to an outdoor cafe, that would be enjoyable.


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Posted by Gary
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2007 at 11:35 am

Sounds like some party poopers here! BTW, the horse poop is conveniently pooped into a sack tied behind the...well, you know. Come on, guys and gals, a number of cities have accomplished this task (car-free zones). It is not rocket science. University has the ambiance to be a very nice pedestrian (and horse) only zones.

Palo Alto, a city full of political liberals, is VERY conservative when it comes to innovative change that would benefit the city as a whole. It seems to get paralyzed by special interest groups. The NIMBY attitude is alive and well in PA, although it is always denied (not PC!).

Downtown Palo Alto could be a real jewel, instead of the so-so place that it currently is. Build it (a clean, bum-free, car-free zone in Downtown) and the customers will come in droves.


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Posted by Eva
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 27, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Trudy, I'm elderly and I can walk 2 blocks and more. If you are so incapacitated by age, you need to apply for a handicapped parking sticker. As for carrying packages, you'd carry them exactly the same ways as you do at the Stanford Shopping Center to the parking lots.


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Posted by Walker
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 27, 2007 at 2:11 pm

I like the idea and weekends sounds like a good beginning. I think a lot of people would support this. But the NIMBYs in this case would be the business people. So the residents-haters might have to find a new term.
The business people have a majority on the council. Talk to them and to the businesses on University. It could work.


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Posted by trudy
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2007 at 4:53 am

I'm not handicapped, but it is an obvious burden for many elderly people to carry packages back and forth blocks to a car, or even to walk significant distances. I haven't shopped at the Stanford Shopping Center for some years, since they did away with the stores for people of normal incomes.

So, okay, rule out the use of the University business area by many seniors, we'll move all our formerly Palo Alto shopping to in Menlo Park or elsewhere.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on May 28, 2007 at 7:28 am

Almost all of the parking will be the same as now. All of the lots will remain. All parking spaces will be as before except for the very few that are on University Avenue. If needed one more parking structure will more than compensate for the lost street parking.

How many people actually need to park right on University to avoid carrying things "too far"?


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Posted by A resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 28, 2007 at 8:00 am

As an 80+ I usually park in the garage on Webster Street or under City Hall. From both these places you must walk two or three blocks to get to University Avenue now. What difference will it make to remove the parking on University Avenue and make it a nice pedestrians and bicyclists only street. Walking is very good exercise for the elderly!! I'm all for this great idea.


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Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on May 28, 2007 at 10:00 am

I'm not sure of my position on this, but trying street blocking on Sat./Sun. would be a good test. Then let us see how it works or doesn't.


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Posted by joe
a resident of College Terrace
on May 28, 2007 at 11:47 am

I'm really annoyed by people in good health who have no concept that others are not. Well, what do you expect of Palo Alto, home of McMansions, and a population distinguished by its self-centeredness.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on May 28, 2007 at 12:57 pm

Joe,

I don't think anyone is trying to be disrespectful to people in poor health. Can you give a few examples of what worries you.

Unless the person is driving alone someone can drop off and pick up. Longs has parking behind it as do many places along the street.

There are several parking lots within a half block of University. Examples of where you see harm would help understanding and, possibly, solutions.


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Posted by Resdient
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2007 at 1:07 pm

I am not sure, but I can't ever remember being able to park outside a store I wanted to visit on University. Even if there was a disabled spot, I am not sure it would be free for someone who needed it outside the store they were visiting. The days of being able to park right outside the store you want is long gone.


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Posted by bruce
a resident of University South
on May 28, 2007 at 5:40 pm

The best idea is to try blocking University Saturday and Sunday for a month - maybe two. As pointed out it is routinely done for several events during the year.

I suggest all those in favor e-mail the City Council and ask for their support. I think at least 5 or 6 would be in favor - especially if they got enough e-mails. Once you have their encouragement, it could be brought up by a council person and voted on openly.

Typing on this blog is like preaching to the choir and gets nowhere.

PS There is a group which is supposed to help keep the downtown area clean. I believe it is sponsored by the Downtown Assn. and is headed by Norm (forgot his last name) who ran for City Council last time. Perhaps they could assist those who needed help with packages.


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Posted by Jimmy
a resident of Downtown North
on May 29, 2007 at 1:03 am

Converting University Avenue to a "pedestrian mall" zone would be more pleasant, more consumer friendly, increase foot traffic immensely, and increase revenues for downtown retail businesses, thus increasing sales tax revenue for the city. Boulder, Colorado was cited as an example, also the 16th Street Mall in Denver should not be overlooked as a successful example of a revitalized downtown retail area project.

Utilizing the existing roadway and streetside parking surfaces for pedestrian endeavors, including but not limited to the addition of trees and landscaping, benches and seating, public art, tastefully implemented retail and food service kiosks, community use space, aesthetically pleasing recycling bins with environmental education "tips and facts" on signage, digital touch screen directories at each end and throughout, and tactful solar powered signage depicting special events or promoting the area as a whole, would be a wonderful depiction of the next level of evolution for the downtown area.

Obviously the city would keep a lane clear for emergency vehicle traffic, which could also be utilized by the Stanford Marguerite shuttle, or an enhanced version of the alternative fuel shuttle, to transport people from nearby areas to strategic stops in the pedestrian mall.

Any potential downside would be negligible and rather easily mitigated. Existing alternatives to streetside parking on University Avenue can be more fully utilized, shuttle service can be more fully utilized and enhanced, traffic can be routed on alternate east-west thoroughfares, drop off/pick up areas can be designated, municipal vagrancy codes can actually start to be enforced and/or homeless people can be directed to other areas such as Lytton Plaza, the creation of a team of multi-talented cleaning crew/welcome ambassadors which can assist consumers with information and carrying packages if necessary. Volunteer ambassadors? Sounds like a perfect part time endeavor for some energetic senior citizens or youth with time on their hands.

In order to offset costs, the city would be prudent to put out a bid for the master lease of potential kiosks, and parts of the mall could be leased out for events... even canopied/tented when desired. Sponsorships could be sold for seating areas, public art pieces, and specific flora and fauna areas, all noted with tasteful donor plaques such as at a hospital or performing arts venue. Also tastefully done advertising could be sold at the touch screen directories and on the solar powered electronic signs strategically placed throughout the mall. A new website for the pedestrian mall could be created and advertising sold within the website.

No matter what side of this discussion you are on, one issue is undeniable: Something needs to be done to revitalize the downtown area. Conversion to a pedestrian mall solves many concerns, not the least of which reared an ugly head again when an elderly lady was struck by a vehicle while in a cross walk recently. Turning the downtown commercial area of University Avenue into a beautiful and pleasant pedestrian mall experience will benefit everyone on all sides of the issue.

Residents and property owners in the downtown area will have a space they can be proud of which will make their daily lives more enjoyable and increase the emotional value of their homes, if not the property value as well. Consumers not residing in the downtown area will come to shop, to dine, to have a coffee, to have a glass of wine or drink, to congregate with their friends, and enjoy themselves immensely because it is the most pleasant retail experience on the Peninsula. Retailers, restaurateurs, and the like will experience increased sales that a properly executed concept of this type will bring, and can even choose to rent one of the new kiosks to bring in additional revenues and brand recognition. (Restaurants may sell some of their popular appetizers as "street food" in front of their business or even on the opposite end of the mall to help attract people down to their main location.) The town will benefit from increased sales tax revenues, and an enhanced reputation as a fine place to shop, dine and enjoy.

Let's face it: If a merchant in the downtown area thinks conversion to a pedestrian mall is a bad idea, they are probably quite inept as a business owner and their business will most likely fail, regardless of what happens on University Avenue. Any consumer who states they will be negatively affected because they consistently find parking on University Avenue in the downtown commercial area, especially in front of the specific merchant they wish to visit, must be one of the luckiest human beings on earth and should really buy a lotto ticket ASAP... or their memory is a bit skewed or prone to embellishment when it comes to parking matters. If anyone thinks a top priority of the city of Palo Alto is the enforcement of vagrancy laws, and that the city strictly enforces vagrancy laws with zeal, they must be privy to a top secret effort to do so, because it is certainly not obvious to the rest of us.

The bottom line is that there is no downside in converting University Avenue to a pedestrian only zone in the downtown commercial area. The only issue is if it is executed properly or half-baked. The only obstacle is if some residents and the city are too short-sided to take action and implement the concept. If we choose to do nothing about it, then we only have ourselves to blame when in the future other nearby cities institute similar programs and lure our potential revenues away.

Just food for thought, and my own, humble opinion.


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Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 29, 2007 at 9:19 am

The residential areas surrounding the Downtown area would strongly object and rightly so. There is not enough parking as it is for all of the visitors to the Downtown area. When the area is closed off for May 1 every year, the surrounding areas pay the price with a hugh increase in traffic backup and outrageous parking problem It's not OK to expect nearby residents to suffer so that you can have a quiet pedestrian mall atmosphere.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on May 29, 2007 at 9:59 am

It is encouraging to see generally supportive comments to this idea. Nothing in this town is exempt from criticism, nothing can be done without potential negative consequences, it is a matter of what is best in the balance--"this dog might could hunt" a phrase from my days living in Houston, seldom used or heard in these parts.

The number of parking spaces in question on University Avenue is a minor consideration, in my opinion, be it for handicapped access or their impact on the surrounding neighbors. The parking garages opened up in the last few years added significant capacity for people wishing to park downtown, many more spaces than are on Univeristy itself. Few of the University spaces are easy for someone handicapped to use, my dad is very frail, and the times I have taken him downtown, I headed straight for a lot or garage, it makes me cringe just to think about getting him in and out of a car and wheelchair from an angled parking spot on University, even with a "handicapped" designation.

I am beginning to think my middle name is "built out city." We simply have to recognize that as a built out city, the way we approach ideas and develop opportunities must be different than was the case when Palo Alto was getting built out. I really hope our community can start to recognize this simple but profound reality, and come to understand that some of the conversations and objections that were part of how things used to be around here may no longer play as important a role.


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Posted by Walker
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 29, 2007 at 10:15 am

The parking garages would be more available on weekends because people who work downtown aren't there. The garage under City Hall is not much used on weekends. The big events like the May parade bring in people from far and wide, a normal weekend would not be that crowded.
Has anyone talked to the businesses or to the business interests on the council?
I would do it, but I'm only 5' 1" and as Jimmy suggests, I may be too short-sided.


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Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 29, 2007 at 11:07 am

Reality demands that the parking ramifications be scrutinized via a seven day consecutive period of time. To do otherwise is simply pretending that it's being accurately reviewed. What about the residents on nearby streets, including all of our local elderly that live at Lytton Gardens? There will be a huge traffic problem when you block off University Avenue at Cowper and that will definitely have a negative effect on the elderly. That's just morally wrong. I suppose, in the spirit of contributing some positive advice, I would say that perhaps University could be shut down from 101 all the way to Palm. It would provide a wonderful biking/pedestrian route for locals and visitors. The homes along University make for a nice vista while walking or biking too. I would love to see University turn into a more pedestrian friendly street, but I'm not optimistic about it actually happening.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 29, 2007 at 11:22 am

Closing University from 101 to Palm will not happen. What about the residents on University? they will no longer have access to their homes and garages?
Anyway even converting University into a pedestrian area from Middlefield to Alma will never happen because of the things mentioned by Concerned resident, for example. A very vocal group will come out against it and then the city council will not touch it with a ten foot pole.
Also, Paul Losch raises some interesting points about PA being built out an dhow we need to look a things differently now


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on May 29, 2007 at 11:25 am

If there is a concern about Lytton Gardens, perhaps the closure is more approriate at Middlefield, with some sort of special access along the portion of University/Webster/Byron that abuts Lytton. My dad has lived there on two separate occassions, and we used the Lytton and Webster access, avoided University when driving to Lytton Gardens.

If University became pedestrian only from Middlefield or from Cowper, I don't understand why it is a moral issue. Cars backing up at Cowper is a potential problem and can affect pedestrians walking along there, in particular people who have physical limitations. But that is not a moral issue, it is a practical consideration when trying to figure out what can potentially be done around this idea.


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Posted by bruce
a resident of University South
on May 29, 2007 at 5:48 pm

I meant make University a mall only on Saturday and Sunday for a short or long period before considering doing so every day. Problems will surface and can be addressed as the arise. It may be that only certain days would be restricted to pedestrians only. Let's try something!!


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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 29, 2007 at 7:47 pm

They closed Main Street to traffic in my hometown, and it killed the downtown. Activity moved out to the edge of town. Restrictions always hurt. A lot of people like to drive by and see what's going on. Closing the street is a bad idea.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2007 at 9:14 am

Closing just part of University - say High Street to Cowper might work. Running a shuttle of some sort up and down the street and out to parking garages would help with the parking issue (anyone remember the Winter Fests or what ever it was called when they closed University in December? We could further utilize some great space by adding kiosks, tables and chairs, etc. at City Hall - a great, underused plaza.


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Posted by Sanford Forte
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 30, 2007 at 11:12 am

If you want to experience a local promenade, come out to the grand opening of the California Avenue Farmer's Market, this Sunday, June 3rd, from 9AM-1PM.

California Avenue will be closed to traffic, between El Camino and Ash St., to accommodate the market.

The market will be a year-round venue, every Sunday, featuring fresh, locally grown produce, food products, and crafts. Musicians will play, children will laugh, and residents will be happily browsing and buying from the more than 60 vendors presenting their goods.

When you're finished with shopping, feel free to wander the Avenue and enjoy the many fine restaurants, health food, retail, and other merchant wares.

We look forward to seeing you there!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2007 at 11:36 am

Sanford

I would love to be able to join in, but Sunday morning is out for me as I am heavily involved in church commitments. Do it someother time, or longer, and I will be there.


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 30, 2007 at 12:10 pm

Do I detect a groundswell of support here? I notice that some inner circle types have made positive comments about a pedestrian zone on parts of University. Could this be another Mayfield project, where there is enough buy-in to get the job done? Anyone on the City Council listening? This one could be a winner.


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Posted by Been there done that
a resident of Professorville
on May 30, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Has anyone lived here for more than a few milliseconds?

This was done in the late 70s. University was closed to traffic for about two years. It was a disaster.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Been there

With all due respect, times have changed a lot since the late 70s. To begin with, who would have thought that we would all be buying bottled waters and designer coffees at our many Starbucks on every corner type of lifestyle. Back in the late 70s, even after the oil problems earlier in the decade, getting the average American out of his car was a challenge. We had drive in everything and the car was still as big as a barge. Now we are all a little more exercise conscious, ambience is very important, and communication with our fellow man takes the effort of getting together somewhere or else we are only communicating in cyberspace. No, we do need places where we can walk locally and enjoy what Palo Alto has to offer in a nice environment.


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Posted by Bernie
a resident of The Greenhouse
on May 30, 2007 at 5:05 pm

A very revealing article in the Palo Alto Weekly of May 30th entitled "Facing Growth, Parking Challenges downtown", may put a damper on any ideas of closing off the commercial area of University Avenue to automobiles, and creating a pedestrian and bicycle only boulevard.

The start-up company "Facebook" plans to make University Avenue the center for it's corporate headquarters. They are adding employees rapidly who require parking spaces adjacent to downtown. Since they invited Council and staff to their headquarters to discuss the problems of locating their offices downtown; they will have considerable clout when it comes to deciding the future of University Avenue.

I wonder what Facebook thinks of banning cars on University Avenue?


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Posted by S Brown
a resident of University South
on May 30, 2007 at 6:56 pm

I support the idea of trying it out as an experiment for several months.

Perhaps if all the parking on side streets such as Ramona and Bryant were designated handicapped within half a block of University that would help.

Other people have mentioned this, but I will reinforce it, if considered for permanence, there would need to be some solution for all the traffic that needs to go from University+Middlefield to Stanford or the Caltrain station or El Camino Real.


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Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2007 at 7:51 pm

I don't understand the comments about Facebook and parking. The article said they liked Palo Alto because of the Caltrain station and the nearby restaurants. Why do their employees need parking nearby? They are not driving for work or using their cars during the day. Thousands of people work at Stanford and have to park long distances from their offices. They either walk, bike or take a shuttle to get from the peripheral lots to their offices and labs. Small amounts of close-in parking are available at very high prices. This model seems more sensible and more efficient in terms of real estate use. I think Facebook is just trying to throw their weight around.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2007 at 7:58 pm

Actually, the article says that it gives a stipend to those who live within 1 mile of their office, this means that their employees are more likely to be able to walk to work. Also, the possiblility of closing University is initially only a weekend proposal and although many people in high tech companies do work weekends, there is usually a much lower workforce and so once again any parking problems will not make a difference.


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Posted by Bernie
a resident of The Greenhouse
on May 31, 2007 at 8:03 am

Richard, the article in the Palo Alto Weekly about "Facebook" expanding in downtown Palo Alto clearly states that: "One complication of being located downtown, however, has been parking ......Facebook workers were contributing to city revenues from the parking tickets they were getting while waiting six to eight weeks to receive permits from the City." The article seems to indicate they need more parking spaces downtown.

But as a trial period, if University Avenue were to be closed to automobiles on weekends only, that would not affect Facebook's employees providing they don't need parking spaces on weekends.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 31, 2007 at 1:48 pm

Today's Mercury News has an article on the success Santana Row

Web Link

We already have most of the mix - the restarants, stores, etc. What Santana Row doesn't have is parking on the main street. Cars can get by, but there is more space for sidewalks, cafe tables, etc. PA could learn from their success.


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Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2007 at 1:59 pm

Bernie,
I read the article on Fecebook again, and I think the reporter and/or the headline writer muddled things a bit. The article says there is a lack of permits, not a lack of parking. The employees are clearly finding places to park because they are getting parking tickets! The exact problem is not identified, but my guess is that they are parking all day in 2-hour spots. The Facebook person interviewed in the article seems to indicate that the time to receive permits is the real problem, not a lack of parking places. To call this a parking problem is a bit off target.


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Posted by Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto
a resident of University South
on Jun 1, 2007 at 9:46 am

As Mayor, I'm pleased to see the interest in our walkable Downtown! I have been supporting opening up sections of our downtown streets for pedestrian enjoyment and al fresco dining one or two nights a month during the summer months. And it's happening, thanks to our downtown association and hardworking businesses. The first event is coming up June 9th on Bryant.

See:

Web Link University Avenue Promenade
Web Link

Web Link
Palo Alto Downtown will welcome a Summertime Promenade.

Every first Friday night of each month throughout the summer, the span of University Avenue from Emerson Street to Cowper Street will be closed to through vehicle traffic. This street closure will allow for the creation of a Promenade, whereby all businesses downtown will be granted an encroachment permit to allow for outdoor dining, live entertainment and merchant sales.

For more info contact: ladybugali@gmail.com


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Posted by sherry
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2007 at 10:29 am

As President of the Palo Alto Downtown Business & Professional Association and Palo Alto resident of 22 years, I believe that the ultimate permanent closure of University Avenue will greatly benefit our business & residential population and enhance the enviornment.
With the support of Mayor Kishimoto, we will hold several events associated with street closures creating promenades during the summer of 2007. I urge everyone to turnout for these events and guage for yourselves the impact on the community at large.


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Posted by Andrew Sharpe
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 1, 2007 at 1:15 pm

Well, this is excellent news. I had planned on waiting for this thread I started to slow down so I could write up a summary of it and pass it along to the Mayor and City Council. But it seems that the Mayor and the City Council read this forum, and have already had this idea and have plans to initiate it quite close to the suggestions voiced here.

It's good to see that the naysayers on this thread were incorrect, and that Palo Alto does have plans to eventually permanently close University Avenue to cars from Cowper to Emerson, creating a pedestrian mall, with the full backing of the Downtown Business Association.

I'm looking forward to it.


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Posted by elena
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 1, 2007 at 2:18 pm

Well, that kills downtown. If you think road work has had a negative impact on businesses, you ain't seen nothing yet, once you close it to cars.


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Posted by bruce
a resident of University South
on Jun 1, 2007 at 3:00 pm

Looks like either Elena or Andrew, Sherry, and Yoriko will be wrong. I'm betting that the occasional street closures in the evening or week ends will not hurt the downtown, but will enhance it as people get the message.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 1, 2007 at 3:58 pm

Occasional street closures that center around a promotional venue have been going on for years. What's new about that, except that this time University Ave. is involved, one _night_ per month, in the summer.

Believe me, the rents on University Ave (I know of an eaterie there that foots a $20K monthly rent bill (that doesn't include utilities, etc. etc.) pay a premium for street exposure that includes easy access to their businesses from cars.

It sure isn't anything remotely close to "University Ave. should be solely a pedestrian and bicycle mall", which is what Andrew entitled this thread.

We may see a permanent pedestrian mall downtown one day, but don't count on it anytime soon.



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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 5:31 pm

I think that to the contrary of the need for passing car traffic, the businesses on University will actually do much better as a result of no traffic. For the majority of us who want to visit a University Avenue store, we automatically go to whichever parking lot suits us and then walk. The majority of us do not expect to park outside. While we walk the distance to whichever store is our destination, we suddenly think of a reason to visit another couple of stores en route and voila the stores are getting business. Now take that to the next step and see what happens when people have to walk past other stores to get to their destination store. Drugstores, coffee stores, bookstores, etc. will all benefit because they are not destination stores.

Now I do know that some business is generated by driveby, but I think the increase in business from walk by will compensate. I think that those who need help walking or carrying packages will choose to do their shopping at non closed times and those who need to be dropped off near the restaurant they are visiting while their driver parks the vehicle will be happy to wait on a pleasant corner near their destination.

The hurdles can be overcome. This is a cosmopolitan city and since so many of the residents have visited other countries where this is the norm, I think you will be surprised at how successful it will become.


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Posted by Veritas
a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2007 at 5:27 pm

What about the rights of Lexus SUV and Hummer drivers?


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 3, 2007 at 1:25 pm

I am in favor of a trial period, in which the streets between Emerson and Cowper are shut for about 3 months to gauge the impact, both businesswise and traffic wise of such a move.
Also we need to work out what we would wantin a permenant closure--would the streets be paved over and made all sidewalk (what about emergency vehicle access).
More importantly does the City Council have the stomach to face the issue and address it quickly, because as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, a vocal committee/group will be formed to oppose the move because of traffic impacts on them and their neighborhoods. Or will this issue be sidetracked by the Palo Alto process and the need (by the city council) to have consultants, committees and blue ribbon panles study the matter for years.


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Posted by Bernie
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Jun 4, 2007 at 12:33 pm

I thought it was interesting that the closure of California Avenue to automobiles for the Farmer's Market on Saturdays was at first resisted by some of the retail merchants.

In San Francisco an attempt was made to close Powell Street to automobiles between Market and Geary and allow only the cable cars, bicycles and pedestrians. The idea was killed by 2 restaurants who claimed they needed drive by traffic to generate business. (They were probably contributor to the Mayor's campaign)!!!

Anyway, I'm thrilled that our Mayor is getting behind the closure of University Avenue on every first Friday evening of the month for improved outdoor eating. I hope this is the start of a new trend. Way to go Mayor!!!


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Posted by Jimmy
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 13, 2007 at 10:36 pm

It is great to see so much support for what is an economic, safety, and quality of life improvement for all. Having lived in U.S. cities with pedestrian only zones and overseas where pedestrian only zones are the norm, it is clear they are absolutely successful and a magnate attracting customers of all kinds. The biggest beneficiaries always seem to be upscale retail and restaurant operators within these zones.

Regarding the few opposing views, it seems most tend to be negative just for the sake of being negative, with no real basis for opposition. Oh, the issue about Facebook... come on... be real, in the highly competetive fight for talent among tech related companies, what internet business wouldn't love to have being located on a pristine, upscale, fun, fun, fun, pedestrian only University Avenue as an additional tool to lure and keep staff?

Any potential downside mentioned can be effectively mitigated, especially if a temporary-to-permanent plan is implemented.

I look forward to the improvement in my downtown shopping and dining experience.

Just food for thought, and my own, humble opinion.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2007 at 8:59 am

I know of one small company located one block from Castro Street in Mountain View which thrives partly because of its location. When customers come for meetings and park at the office, they can have their meeting. Then they are invited to lunch at one of the many fine restaurants, can enjoy and wine or beer, walk back to the office for more meetings, knowing that they do not have to get into their cars for a couple of hours. During the afternoon, coffee is brought in and at the end of the day the customers drive away sober and spent a pleasant day of meetings and lunch, or alternatively can be taken out for a meal in the evening, all not needing to get into the car. It really is a boost for the business and both local customers and those from out of town really approve of the locale.

The same could be said for downtown Palo Alto. It can really attract businesses for power lunches, etc. With many Stanford related meetings also, it could be really successful at attracting these business folk.


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Posted by Candice
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 17, 2007 at 1:14 am

This is sinply a brilliant idea. Our family walks or bikes to downtown PA and to Stanford Shopping Center now anyway, so creating a vehicle free University Avenue would make us very happy and motivate us to walk downtown more often than we do now to shop and eat.


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