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Friday night 'Promenade'-- Was it a success?

Original post made on Jul 20, 2007

Palo Alto's University Avenue today will be packed with people, not cars. As part of a six-hour "Palo Alto Promenade" downtown, beginning at 4 p.m., University is to be closed from late afternoon through early evening between High and Webster streets.

Read the full story here Web Link

Comments (113)

Posted by Susie, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 20, 2007 at 9:52 am

The street is closed now and is causing a major traffic jam in downtown PA. Not a fan.


Posted by Pedestrian, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 10:34 am

I'm all for this Promenade, and hopefully for many more closures of University Avenue between High and Webster. If it works this will be Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto legacy to the City, and one of the best legacies ever contributed to the city by a Mayor.


Posted by HP Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 10:44 am

What a wonderful way to honor the celebrations outside Borders for the launch of book 7 (Harry Potter that is).


Posted by downtown business owner and resident, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 20, 2007 at 11:06 am

They permanently closed the main street in Boulder, CO. It turned one of the country's nicest downtowns into a shopping mall. If you want a promenade, do it much smaller. Perhaps just Ramona Street. Don't ruin the best downtown in the Bay Area just because you have a neat idea.


Posted by Don Kazak, Palo Alto Weekly columnist
on Jul 20, 2007 at 11:44 am

Don Kazak is a registered user.

The story has been updated to note that University Avenue is closed and will be closed until 1 a.m.


Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2007 at 11:45 am

It will be a sad legacy if Yoriko is allowed to decimate the downtown business district by turning it into a pedestrian mall in order to push ahead with her climate change/too much traffic agenda.
It also does not speak well for any of PA mayors if this is considered one of the best legacies left to us by our mayors.


Posted by resident, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 20, 2007 at 11:57 am

I wonder why they chose to end the closure so early in the evening? I'd think people would be more appreciative of an evening closure and/or a weekend closure so they have time to visit and stroll.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 12:59 pm

The street closure started early - 8:00 AM in the morning. It's causing pretty bad traffic jams all around downtown. Alot of drivers are frustrated, having to wait multiple signal light changes to take detours.

I drove by again at around 12:25, and traffic has gotten even worse. Police was out directing traffic at Middlefield and University. One car on University wanted to make a left turn onto Middlefield (toward Menlo Park), but the two policemen directing traffic were devoting their attention to traffic from the other direction, and where the policement were standing, they were blocking the way of this car wanting to make left hand turn. The driver honked once, to see if the policeman would move, and the police man turned, and told the driver that if he honked again, he would be getting a ticket.

Once on Middlefield, trying to turn onto Hamilton or Lytton is a real zoo with all the traffic diversion.

Overall this is a very, very bad idea.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 1:25 pm

Whereas I am very much in favor of University being closed, at least for a trial run, on Friday evenings, I think that the way it is happening is wrong. If the advertised time for the street closure was 4.00 pm then that is when it should have happened. If University is closed now, are we sure that it is for the Promenade that it is closed and not say for the demolition of Walgreens or some other reason.

A properly organised trial run with scheduled road closures is a good idea. Closing the road for hours beforehand without warning is ridiculous.


Posted by Armanda, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 20, 2007 at 1:36 pm

University is always clogged with traffic and impossible to park in. With all the convenient parking structures that surround University, I don't understand how somebody still tries to find a spot in University. Just park in the parking structures and walk, for pete's sake: let's include some exercise in our daily routine! If people could walk in the street, the restaurants could use the sidewalk to put tables, for the real "al fresco" experience and the the stores could display their merchandise outside, like on the Italian or French Riviera. Palo Alto is the perfect place for this.


Posted by Maureen, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2007 at 1:52 pm

I am all for fun, and street closures for promenades. However, this has been a complete public relations bomb. I have to say that I'm not privy to what the PR plan was, but in my experience alone, notice prior to the event was not sufficient, nor was it accurate.

The material I read indicated that University would be closed from 4pm - 10pm. Not so! I work from home and ran out for a "quick" errand around lunchtime only to find it nearly impossible to get back! Many entrances to University were closed and I saw the police closing additional cross-streets. Traffic was an absolute nightmare.

Many of us are still doing business and could care less about any promenades etc. until the end of the work day. I understand that there are exeptions from time to time, but notices should have been posted all over University for 1-2 weeks prior, there should've been a headline on paloaltoonline.com for a week prior, a bulletin should have been sent to the Palo Alto E-bulletins email list, communications should have been made with 511.org, traffic.com and with 810AM and 740AM radio, and neighbors should've received a direct mail campaign. People will be so much more tolerant and supportive when they expect such closures. Most of the people I saw in their cars looked highly frustrated and that's how I felt.

Next time, the promenade planning group needs to tell us when they're REALLY going to close University and embark on a decent commmunications strategy prior to manage expectations and encourage a great experience.

Maureen
Palo Alto resident, Hawthorne Avenue


Posted by traffic watcher, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2007 at 1:57 pm

When University is closed to traffic, what happens to the cross streets? Are cars still allowed to cross University, or is the entire stretch closed to north-south traffic between Alma and Middlefield? How is it done today, and how would YOU design it in the future?


Posted by annoyed, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2007 at 2:13 pm

Maureen,

I completely agree...thank you for posting!


Posted by baffled, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 20, 2007 at 2:25 pm

traffic watcher, I was just downtown. Traffic is not allowed to cross University. IF I were to design this, I'd have traffic cops at key intersections directing traffic. And i would definitely have posted signs early in the week (or at all) notifying people of the street closures. I'd guess most drivers had no clue what was going on before they hit gridlock.


Posted by qq, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2007 at 2:38 pm

I just got home from a bike ride down closed University Avenue. It was wonderful! Plus, I got a look at the new support structures put into place to hold the Walgreens building up. Very nice. So many folks out walking and enjoying University Ave. Keep the closures up!

qq


Posted by ChrisK, a resident of Southgate
on Jul 20, 2007 at 2:55 pm

traffic watcher - a closure is a closure, no cross traffic. What I have advocated in the past (and still do) is that University be closed starting at High Street and ending at Waverly or Cowper. That allows easy access to all the parking structures and gives a "reasonable" loop of streets for getting around the closed area.

I'm not sure how they've done it, but it's pretty clear that there was not enough education beforehand.

Pity, that.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 3:05 pm

What has happened to all the cars that are already parked within the road closures? Are they able to get out or are they stuck for the duration with tickets? I am sure that some of the employees in various businesses, e.g. Facebook, or my dentist, are completely unaware that their cars can't get out.


Posted by Jackie J, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 20, 2007 at 3:36 pm

Maureen is completely correct about this. This is an extremely ill managed event from the general public's perspective. It's hard to imagine the costs associated... not with the event, but on lost productivity people that coming and going from the area for at least half of the whole business day. And for the police not to telegraph the closures accurately or in any significant way... what a joke.


Posted by Balatro, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 3:37 pm

More PAWAR - Palo Alto's Wishful Alternate Reality - to the people. ;)
Good grief! No wonder we get mocked in the national press.

It's imformative that the only comment with any context of experience came from the New York resident Allison Sands (ahh, it's soooo refreshing to hear from someone who actually knows what she's talking about!) - "This is a town with streets; it's not a park." Bingo!

Insight borne of experience is worth far more than dreams borne of a wish (can I coin that phrase?)

An occasional promenade on University is nice, but that's as far as it goes.

Note that the "retailers" who were quoted as liking the idea of a permanent promenade on University were NOT the owners of the stores mentioned - they were employees.

Those retail workers quoted might have been asked "would you be willing to see a permanent promenade on University Ave. if it meant that you would most likely lose your job within a year?" I wonder if the answer to that question would be "cool"? I wonder what the merchants who employ retail workers would think of that? Has anyone thought to ask?

I would LOVE to see a poll of merchants on University Ave., about turning it into a pedestrian promenade. Why haven't we seen that poll? Could it be because most of the merchants don't live in Palo Alto? Hmmmmmmm.....

I support the Mayor in most of her "greening" efforts, but imagining how "nice" it would be to be able to walk down University - and then promoting that utopian impulse into action WITHOUT considering the logistical and economic displacement fallout is mind-boggling. [on a more cynical note, I suppose - for some politicians - it's convenient to say that a lot of dreamy wishes would be "nice", and then take credit for "having been there first", or saying "it was my idea from the beginning" if 5% of those things ever happen...it pads one's personal future]

Look at the traffic displacement today. How much of an ADDITIONAL CO2 load did that add to the air that we breathe, or the residents on Middlefield Road breathe?

How many of those who will be able to lollygag downtown this evening are those who can walk from their homes, anyway? Will there be a survey? Just an informal survey would be helpful.

Long-term, how many locals vs. out-of-towners would come to University Ave. if we converted it to a pedestrian thoroughfare? THAT would be a survey worth taking.

How many of the almost 40% (soon to be almost 50%) of Palo Altans who are seniors would enjoy walking the entire length of University Ave. to get what they want?

How about offloading merchandise to stores? Are the alleys behind big retail on University big enough to handle that, 100% of the time? If not, better start planning how to widen those alleys.

How does the "Palo Alto University Mall" experience compete with the Stanford Mall experience? Someone better put their thinking cap on, and sharpen their pencil, because the result might not be as blurry as the original version.

How about this? How about our Mayor, who sits on the VTA board, hammering out something with other mayors to get some SERIOUS mass transit happening in our region, so that people could use the streets in convenient ways WITHOUT having to get into their cars? I'm talking SERIOUS mass transit here - accessible, affordable, and goal-oriented (gets you where you want to go, WHEN you want to get there, including the middle of the night)

Again, occasional promenades on commercial streets that are normally occupied by cars is a nice thing. Properly promoted, lots of people will come out to enjoy the festivities and have a good time - that's wonderful.

How do you maintain something like that, long-term - without massive retail displacement? Could it be that retailers are considered dispensible? That seems to be the case.

How do you, as a landlord, justify high street-facing rents to a lessee who wants storefront parking (proven to be - in our age of pathetically poor mass transit - something that people actually want - which is EXACTLY why thre mass-transit solution HAS to happen before you wan turn downtowns into bucolic promenades)

What's even more telling is the quote coming from the Downtown Association (BID) president, Sherry Bijan:

1) "Bijan said University is too crowded for most drivers hunting for a parking spot and that passersby on foot would be more likely to stop in a store or restaurant than someone driving through"

then...

2) "Bijan said she thinks merchants along Lytton and Hamilton avenues would be pleased because the closure would bring additional traffic by their businesses."

Ms. Bijan, why on earth would merchant on Lytton and Hamilton be pleased about more traffic, while merchants on University would be more pleased with less? Never mind that a significant percentage of merchants downtown think that the downtown BID (Business Improvement District) is worthless to them.

This is the kind of logic that gets thrown around in Palo Alto, usually without a thought, especially when it comes to dreamy ideas that a few people think would be "cool"?

I may attend the promenade this evening; it should be fun - but when I see things written in the paper that appear to reflect PAWAR, it puts me ever-so-slightly on edge, like the retailers who will read that article and wonder what in god's name ever landed them in Palo Alto to begin with - because if University Ave. turns into a permanent pedestrian promenade anytime soon (especially before we have ubiquitous mass-transit), the merchant's respective gods are going to be the only ones that will help them (as no one with any PAWAR around here appears the faintest idea about how to do so).

See you at the promenade!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 3:49 pm

I know of one city where this worked and actually improved the way of life for residents and retailers alike. It was planned properly.

It was a street that previously held bus stops for a number of routes and lines of people waiting for buses made it very difficult to walk along as there were too many people waiting in line.

It was a street that was much too narrow to have parking and its first venture was to make it one way which didn't actually help.

It was a shoppers paradise, having many chain stores and the type of stores where people were actually heading for rather than just perusing.

It had many chain restaurants which people wanted to visit.

Naysayers were convinced it wouldn't work for all the same sort of reasons mentioned here.

It took months of planning, re-routing of bus routes and bus stops, etc. etc.

It took off almost overnight and was an outstanding success, so much so that they wondered why it hadn't been done years before.

The street was Grafton Street, in Dublin, Ireland. It was not a European idea, but they marketed it as "an American Mall".


Posted by Jennifer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2007 at 3:51 pm

One suggestion I have as I assume the Mayor has never owned and operated a retail establishment. We might want to see how downtown merchants and property owners would feel about closing downtown to traffic. The street faire for the past 20 years has never helped downtown that I can recall and always meets with resistance. Did they not at one time close California Avenue and today that area still has never recoverd from that error in judgement. I believe the traffic thru town brings life to the town and shoppers and visitors we may not get otherwise as they would drive around us to go to Stanford. I would hesitate to make such a decision and I would vote against it myself. The parking it would take away is as well simply does not seem to make that feasible for the area to accomodate even with the lovely parking garages we have that are full now as well. Not a decision one can not make lightly. My thought on that decision.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 4:20 pm

A total disaster! Several people were late to a noon yoga class. No one had any idea what was going on or why traffic was at a standstill.

I planned to go downtown to eat, but when I realized things were still blocked at 1:30, I got out of the mess as soon as possible. About 3:30 I was leaving Stanford via Palm Drive, thinking the traffic jam might be over and I could go to my optician. But traffic was still clogged going into PA, so I escaped via El Camino.

Mayor Kishimoto is just full of ridiculous ideas.


Posted by J. Ober, a resident of University South
on Jul 20, 2007 at 4:26 pm

These cloosings of University to cars are causing major traffic jams in the surrounding areas. We are on Lytton which is almost half residential and the traffic is horrendous. Lets put a slow down on this closing University idea until we can come up with a way to divert traffic onto surrounding streets.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Balatro, will you PLEASE run for city council? All of your comments are reasonable, rational, logical and obvious! Yet no one involved with the "promenade" seems to have considered them!

I love PAWAR (Palo Alto's Wishful Alternate Reality). It seems to be the principle by which the city is "managed."


Posted by Jennifer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2007 at 5:09 pm

I have just been downtown again. The traffic situation is ridiculous. No one to direct anyone. I hear they believe this is a learning experience for them. Why did they not get some involved that have experience. I hope someone goes tonight to see what this is all about. Let us know. I want to welcome ideas to Palo Alto to bring shoppers and interest and be open to new ideas. But why does there seem to be such little communication with those of us that are inconvenienced. I wish all of you going home well. AVOID downtown unless you are on foot.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2007 at 5:19 pm

Opening the north/south streets and closing University between them might be a good "experiment". I like the idea of a walking downtown, even with an occasional crosswalk, but commuting hour traffic was terrible today. Seems like opening the N/S streets would alleviate most of the traffic problem, esp Middlefield congestion. Heck, I try to avoid University anyway and usually take Lytton or Hamilton E/W.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2007 at 5:22 pm

...and I second the nomination of Balatro.


Posted by annoyed, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 20, 2007 at 5:45 pm

what a nightmare... I could have driven from SF [well almost] in the time it took me to get home from downtown Palo Alto. BAD idea to close what is already a traffic black hole.


Posted by One vote, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 20, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Will wonders never cease? Mike seconds his alter ego to run for council!
Problem is, he did run last time but withdrew for lack of support. It won't work Mike. You and Balatro still add up to one vote. Too bad.


Posted by Lisa Miller, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 20, 2007 at 6:19 pm

With what intelligence did they decide to close down Univ. at 4pm on a Friday!! I sit here looking at swarms of traffic in my neighborhood - I'd rather have peace in my neighborhood than a pedetrian mall downtown!!!

yorikos legagcy - right, just what we need


Posted by Mandy, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2007 at 6:33 pm

Please keep traffic on Univ where it belongs, in the retail area NOT IN OUR PEACEFUL, WALKABLE NEIGHBORHOODS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hopefully Ms.Kishimoto will be about as effective here as she was with her Embarcadero Rd Calming platform she ran for city council on years ago.


Posted by Balatro, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 6:34 pm

One vote, I don't know who you're talking about, but I do know what I'm talking about. Are you a retailer?

Do you have a response to that question, or would you rather fantasize about imagined opponents to your point of view?

Are you another member of PAWAR?


Posted by Crescent Park Neighbor and Downtown Buisness Owner, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 20, 2007 at 6:56 pm

Downtown is a mess right now and has been all day. Poorly planned experiment. This site was the only place that has any information. We have a downtown buisness and had no idea what was happening today.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 20, 2007 at 7:15 pm

I have been intrigued by this idea since I first visited Boulder, CO last fall and saw what they did there with Pearl Street. The possibiity that something similar on University could improve downtown on a variety of measures, most importantly retail traffic, sales and thereforce taxes in the city coffers suggested to this writer that trying this out is worthwhile. That said...

It is hard in reading the comments thus far if this is still a good idea, is a good idea with some bad execution, is a classic example of any change, which invariably present hiccups at the start, but are worked out with time and experience, or if this simply is turning out to be not a good idea after all.

I too was downtown this afternoon, turning from Alma to Forest, cutting over to Hamilton to drop some mail in the drive by box outside the post office, parking in the Webster garage, and crossing University to conduct some business at MidPen Bank on Cowper. I then exited Webster, drove to Lincoln and on to home. There was a noticeable difference in traffic, people did seem to be confused, but I would be hard pressed to draw any conclusions one way or another based on my own experience today.

I think we need to give this thing a more time before it can be seriously and objectively evaluated. I predict that, like most things in this town, the results will be ambiguous, people will elogquently and not so eloquently argue all sides of the matter, and whatever decision gets made will be roundly criticized by some as another example of the leadership we have in town.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 7:31 pm

I will stay away from where I am not wanted.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 7:40 pm

Paul

Well said, thanks for giving it the benefit of the doubt and I think that the real test will be this evening at the time the closure was expected.

Walter

You are wanted, but your car isn't.


Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2007 at 7:47 pm

Another feather in the cap of our intrepid mayor, Yoriko. When will she leave our city council for good--I am not sure we can handle many more years of her pipe dreams.


Posted by One vote, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 20, 2007 at 7:53 pm

I thought I read that the promenade was initiated by the downtown businesses association. It is promoted to get people to spend time and money at the downtown stores. And it's been in the news for quite a long time.
I came home about 6pm and the traffic on Hamilton Ave was slow, but nothing like what some of the complainers are writing about.

Paul, don't count the naysayers on this thread too seriously. There are fewer people here than meets the eye. :-) Some of us are good at making up names.


Posted by steve levy, a resident of University South
on Jul 20, 2007 at 8:03 pm

I agree that the advance warning was handled poorly and that some people were caught unawares.

But we walked around and had dinner downtown and that part of the experience was great. There seemed to be a lot of activity. Some of the restaurants had 10-12 tables in the street and were busy even around 6pm.

People seemed to be enjoying themselves.


Posted by retailer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2007 at 10:04 pm

festive, yes! my friend balatro was there too. we had a good time and we laughed about what it would be like to do this every day

a disaster! mon dieu!

funny to hear everyone who is a retailer weigh in with opinion. like my store is theirs?

losch is maybe right, but i wish he was retailer because he would not be indifferent to which decision is made

if you want good example of car mix and walkability see Champ-Élysées

hey! good public transport too

bye


Posted by middle of the line, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2007 at 10:08 pm

i work downtown and it was a mess today with the street closure.
on the flip side, it was nice to be able to walk the street.

probably not a good idea for palo alto.


Posted by Dave, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 20, 2007 at 10:15 pm

Instead of sitting around complaining online about the traffic, we got out and walked downtown to enjoy the beautiful summer evening. We ran into our neighbors and caught up on local happenings, met some old friends, and made some new ones. We had a drink at a local tavern, had dinner, and generally had a wonderful time. I'm already looking forward to the next one!

D


Posted by Heather, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 10:18 pm

Why should anyone who bought a home on a street that has a certain traffic volume have to suffer an increased traffic volume for this idea, after the traffic gets permanently rerouted?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 20, 2007 at 10:20 pm

It's 10:00 p.m. and I just returned from walking my dog downtown so I can honestly say that this event is not well attended at all. The event did cause alot of confusion earlier in the day that continues right now with people trying to drive on University Avenue. I don't blame them. Why in the world was University Avenue closed at Guinda, two blocks BEFORE Middlefield? There is absolutely no indicator of the event until you go another six or seven blocks down University toward downtown. It looks like an atomic bomb went off and there are a few survivors wandering the streets around here. I even saw frustrated drivers of buses and cars ignoring the detour at Guinda and using the wrong side of the street in order to continue on University to Middlefield. What a poorly designed and managed event. It's called the Film and Music Promenade. Where were the films and music? I saw one film being shown with about six people watching and two bands trying to play louder than the other. My advice....don't try this one again.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2007 at 10:20 pm

Well I want to thank you all for putting the word out. I went ordered food, the place we ate dragged out 3 tables for us, so we could eat in the street and listen to the music. It was a lot of fun. I'd like to see it done a couple times during the Summer.


Posted by Bicycle Commuter, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 20, 2007 at 10:58 pm

Congratulations, Palo Alto! Another remarkable feat of transportation planning!

So, the article says that, "...Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto and others plan to work toward opening University to pedestrians regularly, or perhaps even permanently..." Wow. Sounds like this was about as well planned as the intersection at El Camino and Sand Hill Road. The logic, at least, is similar: Let's make the cars not go where the need to go. Rather, let's have them pour more CO2 into the environment by rerouting them through less efficient paths.

Let's go even further and launch a street party without telling anyone! What fun it will be! Instead of showing movies, we can actually MAKE a movie, capturing all the fun and joviality. I'd like to call it "An Inconvenient Goof".

I'm all for alternatives like walking and biking. But let me assist the esteemed mayor with a few basic reminders about communicating with average citizens:

* There's a wonderful invention called "street signs". Some cities have found them useful for re-routing traffic. I highly recommend you try them so time for your next event

* There's another wonderful communication tool called "advertising". I can think there are a few thousand people in Silicon Valley that could assist you, if you'd like

* Notifying employers in the area about your plans would be much appreciated, too

Or if all else fails, let's leave the roads open and just show movies at the Palo Alto City Council meetings instead.

- A Bicycle Commuter



Posted by Richard Clark, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2007 at 11:03 pm

I love it! What a wonderful idea. We saw so many people we knew - we had a blast.

Thank you to whoever thought of this.


Posted by KS, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 20, 2007 at 11:41 pm

We had a lovely, lively, festive night in Palo Alto! I did feel sorry for the car drivers, frantically searching for parking or a way out of the snarl, but walking through with my bicycle, I thoroughly enjoyed the music and ambiance of the Promenade. By bike or on foot, it's a wonderful experience.

Perhaps a bit more planning could even make it enjoyable for those who feel the need to drive there. Clearly marked directions to parking or traffic directors, or a feasible detour route may have helped quite a lot.

All in all, thank you for the enjoyable evening, Palo Alto!


Posted by WishIwere there, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 11:53 pm

Great to hear so many people had a good time! We'll go downtown next time. Sure there was some bad planning but that can be fixed. Point is, people really enjoyed it and spent money at the stores and restaurants.
Who's the NAYSAYER now, Sanford?


Posted by Pedestrian, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 21, 2007 at 4:14 am

Count me as one of the big supporters of turning University Avenue into a pedestrian mall permanently.

Times are changing people need to get out of their cars, take the bus and walk. Europeans have been closing off main streets for years and other Cities throughout the U.S. are closing off streets. Palo Alto is taking the lead in the Bay area with this great idea.


Posted by trudy, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2007 at 6:45 am

I told you this would be a mess when the idea came up in another thread, that it would make it difficult for older people. No one believed me then. Even I didn't foresee how big a mess it would be for all concerned.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2007 at 6:47 am

I think next time we should route the traffic conjestion, horn blowing, exhaust generating cars past the homes of the organizers of this street closure.


Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 21, 2007 at 6:51 am

I wonder if Yoriko has considered the fact that if University is closed permanently, then more people will use Embaracdero road to get to 101. Which will mean more traffic passing the home of a certain PA politician. Maybe we need to convert both University and Embarcadero into pedestrian malls.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2007 at 7:32 am

Those of us whose infirmities preclude long walks have been banned from downtown. Okey dokey, there are other more friendly venues itching for my money.


Posted by Senior Citizen, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2007 at 9:05 am

I was just an innocent shopper trying to fill a needed prescription at Long's yesterday. Had I known about this event, I would have filled my prescription some where else.

For future events, I respectfully ask the City Council to do further planning and notify residents of closures such as this. Suggestion: Menlo Park has street signs in strategically placed locations to inform residents of congestion this weekend for their own event. Perhaps Palo Alto can do likewise.

As for closing the street permanently, that would likely result in my shopping else where permanently such as Mountain View or Menlo Park which means lost sales tax to our great city.

Thank you for your consideration.


Posted by Jon, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 21, 2007 at 9:27 am

The traffic was certainly a problem but any long term plan could easily solve this with one way streets, turning lanes, etc. Opponents need to face what happend last night - a huge success!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2007 at 10:28 am

I am waiting to hear from restaurants and other downtown businesses whether their business was up or not yesterday evening (during the posted closure hours) compared to a normal Friday evening. I think these numbers will be the ones to take note of.


Posted by Balatro, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2007 at 3:05 pm

Resident, of COURSE business may be up during a single PROMOTED event. That's a no brainer. The REAL test comes at long-term closure. Talk about cognitive dissonance; where's Phil Zimbardo when we need him.

The ideas put out for closure by almost everyone on this forum are bizzarre by any diligent standard that a rationale retailer would consider living with - long term.

Closing University isn't the issue - it's HOW and WHEN something like that would happen in a way that didn't casue FURTHER inconvenience to others - in some cases, their very livlihood.

I have yet to see or hear a SINGLE retail mechant on University praise this as a long-term idea. Name one, just one...

Walter, you are right on!

btw, I was at the promenade, and was NOT iimpressed with the attendance of retaurants, downtown. It was NO businer than on any Friday evening, when restaurants are normally packed, anyway.

I guess that those who want to see this thing happen have found NORMAL Friday evening attendance as a way to convince themselves that a permanent closure is a good idea.






Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 21, 2007 at 4:06 pm

It would be helpful if there were some generally understood metrics that people with stakes in this approach agree to, and which could be used to help evaluate what the results are, and what they may imply.

Consider it a "test market"--a common technique used by companies and organizations that pitch to the consumer/public--that needs to look at various data that comes out of the Friday evenings for which this is planned over this summer. Retailers along University should be one of the groups that make it clear what their objectives are for this Promenade Trial, and findings should be collected that can inform retailers, policy makers and other stakeholders about what objectives were/were not met, and provide a myriad of other information that could lead to a better thought out decision around this entire matter.

I don't think anyone wants to see people's livelihoods put at jeoparday here, but something like this is a change, and will be disruptive at first. A fair set of metrics would help everyone involved think through more effectively if that inevitable disruption leads to a potentially better outcome for University compared with the status quo. I honestly don't know what such findings would tell us, but they would certainly affect my thinking about whether this idea, an experiment that I support our trying, is worth pursuing after a trial period.

If they have not done so already, I encourage those at City Hall, the CofC, Downtown Business Association, landlords and others most involved and affected by this to put some kind of analytical framework together before the next Friday night Promenade event. Use it. Share the results with the public. Worst case, we might not learn a blessed thing from it, but perhaps it will help shed some light on what this effort brings about.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2007 at 5:32 pm

For all those who advocate walking: just how far do you expect people to walk to get to the "promenade"? Even if I'd like to walk on University in the evening, I'd have to drive to get there, and after my experience with traffic yesterday, there's no way I would face that mess again.

I spoke to a business owner on University today who said he had no idea the street was going to be closed. When he drove to work yesterday morning, he thought the traffic jam had something to do with the Walgreen's building.

I hope we've seen the last of the "promenades." Traffic is bad enough downtown when University is open to traffic.

What problem are we trying to solve (vs. create)?


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2007 at 5:46 pm

I'm so tired of those "holier-than-thou" people who say it's time to get out of our cars and walk or take the bus. I've worked as far away as Campbell and San Mateo and I never worked a 9 – 5 job. The ONLY way I could get to work was to drive.

What exactly are we (residents, shoppers, business owners, neighbors) supposed to gain by turning University into a pedestrian mall? It's perfectly walkable now.

How would one-way streets would solve the traffic problem? The same volume would still have to flow -- with one major artery shut off. And traffic is generally slow even when University is open.

As with so many decisions made by our mayor, there's never any data to back them up.


Posted by Baltro, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Paul, who si fdriving this initiative? The Mayor, some downtown citizens who want to walk to their favorite restaurant, and the BID (trying to justify its existence). Let's kill this idea now; we have more important things to focus on


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 21, 2007 at 9:52 pm

Baltro,

I personally am not involved in this except as an interested community member. I have traveled enough to see how things like this have and have not worked elsewhere. I don't know if it is possible to be a success and improve the University Avenue experience or not, but I do think it's worth giving it a good try.

I am not sure what else could be more important than trying to make sure that University overall is thriving, but the notion of "killing this thing now" to my way of thinking would leave more questions unanswered than not. IMHO, developing a set of metrics that can measure what the impact of Promenade was from the individual retailer level to the overall University commercial environment would enable the entire community to discuss and weigh this question more thoughtfully and completely. That we are giving it a try is a done deal, how we evaluate it can still be done well or poorly.


Posted by Ana, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2007 at 10:12 pm

We already have Stanford malll we don't need another one!!! Palo Alto downtown is such a great downtown. The idea of closing it is tragic!!! It will make the area totally artificial and will bring more problems for business owners and residents. It will be a terrible thing to see such a nice downtown area turned into a mall!


Posted by Balatro, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2007 at 11:00 pm

Paul, we can develop metrics that point to results of a promenade that was heavily promoted (with $12,000 of our taxpayer dollars spent to help it along, really).

The question is "why work on something like this now?" The downtown merchants did not create this idea; it was created by the BID, with strong support from the City Council Executive.

Maybbe UNiversity will be a pedestrian mall someday, but that impetus should come from commercial interests that have thought through how this would be best for BUSINESS.

Turning University into a pedestrian mall is so far driven by mostly NON-COMMERCIAL interests. The tail is wagging the dog.

I would not recommend messing with the success we have had on University Ave., in this way, at this time. The University Ave. district has been a success, and is already quite walkable. Why try to fix something that isnh't broken.

Keep in mind, that we are playing with very, very marginal tolerances when we alter consumer travel and behavior patterns - as concern retail buying and restaurant-going behavior. We need to tread VERY carefully, and let initiative like this bubble up from the MERCHANT perspective. Anything else is meddling where citizens and policy-makers really don't belong.

I have already spoken with at least 7 retailers (four of significance) who are rolling their eyes at the proposal to convert University,


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 21, 2007 at 11:24 pm

Balatro,

This idea has to work for the commercial stakeholders, that is a necessary condition. I don't dispute your own perspective, nor do I question what other retailers with whom you have spoken have expressed to you as their points of view.

I am on University pretty regularly, and I see a number of long vacant storefronts, places that turn over quickly, and too many of certain types of businesses, not a robust mix. Maybe things are good, but are they as good as they can get? I think there is room for discussion around that.

I merely am suggesting that a sound way to understand how this trial has worked is for those who have a stake and are affected, retailers for sure, but others as well, develop some measures that can be used to evaluate this thing after the summer period and several Fridays of this are over. I doubt very highly that the postings on the Weekly web site will result in cancellation of the remaining planned Fridays for this type of event. Shouldn't we do our level best to capture information that collectively is identified as useful and important, and use that, in addition to your good judgment and experience, to help determine just what the whole effort looked like?

I don't know what makes such a suggestion controversial. I have a truly open mind on whether or not this idea can work as it has shown to work successfully elsewhere. I just don't think we have enough experience or information after one evening to draw any conclusions, and I feel it would be helpful when the time comes to draw conclusions if there were some generally agreed to measurements that we all could examine in order to evaluate this thing.

BTW, if you and others with retail sites have some ideas on what can be done to make a good thing even better, I hope you are working with the CoC, BID, the City and others to bring them to fruition. One thing I think we all want is for University to be a thriving retail area for Palo Alto, and the merchants along there to do well.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2007 at 6:34 am

Go look at the K street mall in Sacramento. That would be the best thing that could happen here - for California Avenue.


Posted by Ahhh.... PA, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 22, 2007 at 7:26 am

Major success !!


Posted by Leon, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 22, 2007 at 8:23 am

I would suggest trying to move at least some of the Promenade trials to Saturday; Fridays are a workday, and closing University on a workday reduces the number east/west streets from 3 (Hamilton/University/Lytton) to two (Hamilton/Lytton). Closing all the cross streets (Cowper/Waverley/Bryant/etc.) aggravated the traffic, as they now had to go to Middlefield or Alma to get across University.

This last weekend was the Menlo Park downtown fair, which may have affected attendance. I would also say that attendance at events like this would grow as long as they were held regularly, and the quantity (while maintaining the quality) of performances were increased.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 22, 2007 at 9:43 am

Walter's cryptic comment about California Street as an alternative venue for this concept does have some merit. University and the streets that parallel is do have a great deal more pass through traffic, whereas California is largely self-contained. So, it would be easier to implement this on California, but I do think the outcomes would also be different.

University, I believe, attracts more people from outside of Palo Alto, whereas California tends to service people who largely live or work here. I doubt that would change a great deal should California have this type of arrangement. So what are we trying to accomplish? If it is intended mainly for the "locals," perhaps California is a candidate to consider. If it is intended to do other things around retail, attracting visitors, generating additional sales tax revenue, then one could make a case that University would be a better choice.

To re-state, I think trying this is worth doing, I don't know if it will turn out to be worth pursuing and further developing or not. But I do think one thing that is surfacing around this conversation is that it is not entirely clear just what we are trying to accomplish, let alone measure it to determine if is has worked well or poorly. At either possible location.


Posted by kate, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 22, 2007 at 10:16 am

I was unaware of the closure of University on Friday and was unhappy to see this closure at 8 AM. With all the people coming in to work, the "detours" made driving incredibly slow. It took me 5 minutes to get through 2 stoplights.

A promenade makes much more sense on a weekend or during the evening. But not on a business day and in the morning.

It would have been helpful if residents or people who work downtown knew about this closure beforehand. As I drove by, I thought maybe it had to do with the Walgreens building.

I would much rather see this sort of thing on say, a Sunday afternoon.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2007 at 10:48 am

Cryptic? Moi?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2007 at 1:32 pm

It is interesting as to why a Friday evening rather than a Saturday or even Sunday afternoon as suggested above was not used. It is also intersting in that this weekend Menlo Park had a road closed type affair in the community which may obscure the numbers. The other big event was the Harry Potter book release which meant that a lot of people were out partying for that prior to going to Borders or Keplers and these people would probably have been in town for that anyway and not on an ordinary Friday evening.

My suggestion would be to continue to try this out, but do not close any streets until at least 4.00 p.m. having put up parking signs all week and also alerting businesses and residences. It would also be good to try at weekends and I love the idea of a Sunday afternoon.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2007 at 3:31 pm

I hate to think of more days like last Friday, but I hope that if more of these "promenades" are planned they will be well-publicized far in advance so I can avoid going downtown.

Balatro, you mention $12,000 taxpayer dollars spent. Was that the actual or projected cost of last Friday's event? Thanks.

In addition to the inconvenience and determining what downtown businesses really want, we have to consider the costs, especially given the city's budget problems. Someone mentioned converting some streets to One Way and close University permanently. I think that would be a major expense that we cannot afford.


Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 23, 2007 at 12:33 am

It is Sunday night, and there are dozens of temprorary signs and traffic barriers that are still scattered around the area of the event -- this is emblematic of the poor planning that surrounded the whole escapade.

The traffic tie-up all day Friday on University, and especially the winding detour down Guinda and Lytton, was totally unacceptable. A horrible and gratuitous imposition on those who live and work in the area.

If the event junkies insist on having more of these things, do it on the weekend.

Permanent closure of University Ave. along the business district would be a disaster for the businesses there. It would be a great gathering place for homeless drifters and teenage troublemakers, however.

Some comments are to the effect, "Go ahead and close it, because you can't ever park there anyway." Indeed, whenever I walk down University, all the parking spaces are filled. But wait a minute. The limit is 2 hours. The moment someone pulls out of a space, I notice that it is filled almost immediately. So I guess hundreds of people are finding spaces all day. And that constant turnover gives the street a sense of activity level crucial to a viable outdoor business area. And those who find a parking space, and then (in all probability) have to walk back to the store they wanted to go to, get exposed to the variety of other stores along the street, building up a familiarity, and impulse buting opportunity, that is essential to connecting customers to stores.

If you turn University into a mall, it will become empty and unwelcome, especially once the storefronts start getting boarded up. (Unless the city turns them into re-education centers to indoctrinate the few remaining citizens who are not members of the Green party as to proper new age recycling techniques.)


Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 23, 2007 at 12:35 am

Sorry -- impulse buying, not impulse buting. And that was not a Freudian slip.


Posted by Pedestrian, a resident of another community
on Jul 23, 2007 at 6:28 am

Its about time! Mayor Kishimoto has great courage to support pedestrians over cars.


Posted by Disappointed, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2007 at 8:14 am

I was one of the many people surprised to find University Ave closed and with this event. I guess I was one of the lucky few that didn't have any problem with getting in and out of the city. I must say that really enjoyed the event.

I was, however, very disappointed that I didn't know anything about it. Not only did the lack of information make for the traffic jams, it impacted the attendance. We need more venues like this where musicians can display their craft. This is a perfect venue for it. This event suffered terribly due to the lack of press coverage and proper posting of street closings. I hope that is taken into consideration before moving any hasty decisions on whether its done again. (Maybe Saturday is a better day to do such an event.)


Posted by jay, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 23, 2007 at 10:41 am

When the streets were closed right after the fire, we talked with a couple of police officers. They were against the closure of University Ave. for any length of time because it was a revenue source for them. Since they were the ones directing traffic and, in general, trying to make the experience "pleasant", does anyone think maybe it was not in the their best interest to make this a success? Hmmm?

The disaster at the Borders at midnight (the police trying to squish 1000+ including the kids into the small courtyard, the Borders management stupidly closing the store, and then having to call the fire marshal) should have been a big clue as to how bad and unclear on the concept (of public safety) some of those who were directing this are.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2007 at 10:58 am

As a parent of an eager Harry Potter fan, I would agree with Jay in the fact that there was a fiasco at Borders around midnight. They have been here before and should have done a better job of organising the midnight sale.


Posted by Balatro, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2007 at 12:02 pm

pat, the city "kicked in" a gratuituous $12K to help underwrite the total cost of the promenade. I don't know what total costs are.

Dissapointed, About organization: look to the BID (Business Improvement District) "management" for a good share of the blame. How on earth the BID got started, and why it still exists, are questions that only a few insiders can answer. It's a colossal waste of time.

Also, keep in mind that our city staff IS strapped for time; staff IS running lean. Loading this "feel good" effort onto the backs of staff that is alrady pretty thin got just the result one would expect. Some talk about "better planning". How many staff hours is that going to take? Of course, when the Mayor gets behind something like this "because it sure would be 'nice' to walk downtown" (!!), those who need the Mayor's favor (like senior city staffers) fall in line. How can they not?

an important note: I think our Mayor has done a fine job in other areas, but there is too much "dream visioning" going on when it comes to environmentally friendly actions. The Environment is possibly THE issue of our time. Symbolic events like a once-in-a-while promenade are OK, but when they're as ill-conceived as this one, with embedded promises to literally change the commercial ecology of our downtown without the proper due diligence, they go too far. There is a term (transfer costs) that applies to efforts like this. What are they? And, would a promenade mean LESS or MORE CO2 loading into our local atmosphere? Would is be MORE OR LESS convenient for pedestrians who ALREADY frequent University? There are MBA's on our City Council - the Mayor is one of those. Where is the diligence?

Pedestrian, It doesn't take "courage" to support pedestrians over cars in Palo Alto. Remember, the sentiments of many voters here (including mine) lean toward "green".

There's nothing wrong with the idea of pedestrian malls; I'm a big fan of things like that. I would love to see Palo Alto's shopping districts free of cars one day.

That said, there is a TIME and a PLACE for big ideas like this, or else they just become bad ideas that flew "because they could".

Amsterdam (Holland) has banned cars from central city; London controls ingress and egress during rush hours with special permitting (NYC may soon follow), etc. etc. etc. Those places all have very good to superb MASS TRANSIT that MORE EASILY help citizens alter their habits.

A few suggestions for the next try, as well as a few suggestions for those who want to reduce auto traffic on our streets - some are repeated:

1) AGGRESSIVELY organize the policy makers of this region to demand FAR BETTER mass transit than we have. Why aren't we getting more out of VTA (our Mayor sits on the VTA board)? Why aren't we encouraging (even incentivizing) small, independent service providers - like jitney buses and *competitively* priced private taxi companies - to get into business here? Why haven't we done a better job lobbying CalTrain for more stops at places like California Avenue (which had its stop frequency cut a few years ago, with almost no outcry from city officials)? Why don't we work even closer with Stanford to find ways to improve the Marguerite, perhaps as a far more comprehensive dual city (Stanford and Palo Alto) municipal system?

2) Include ALL downtown merchants in further decision-making of this type. the BID meetings typically have no more than a half-dozen marchants at the meetings. This is not a representative body, as shown by the massive resistance to paying dues. Talk to local merchants about the BID - it might surprise you.


Posted by Julian S, a resident of University South
on Jul 23, 2007 at 1:24 pm

I'm a big fan! I've always wanted University Ave to be closed to cars on Friday and Saturday nights. I love pedestrian malls in other cities. I live downtown on Homer and I would gladly suffer the extra traffic.


Posted by West Coast Songwriters Association, a resident of another community
on Jul 23, 2007 at 2:22 pm

The over 30 bands and musicians that played on the stages or in the shops and restaurants were all volunteers and received no compensation (including meals) for entertaining the Palo Alto community Friday evening. Some bands flew in from Los Angeles at their own expense, others drove from Northern California and the Central Coast, still others were local. Thanks Palo Alto for providing a fabulous opportunity to showcase independent music! Hope you all enjoyed the evening!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2007 at 2:46 pm

Thanks then are due to all the entertainers.

However, if this is the case, I fail to see why the event cost the city so much.


Posted by Balatro, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2007 at 4:10 pm

Tune in here for another response from retailers, who threaten to sue of there is another event like this promoted by the city. Sure, the promenade was fun, and good exposure for some independent bands, but there was also a COST.

Did the benefits outwight the costs?

I find it rather astounding that not one person chose to estimate waht the real benefits of the promenade might have been (even subjective metrics would have helped) vs. what the cost would be to the community.

In all, the promenade was fun for those who wanted it to happen; it provided a few nice photo ops, some exposure for independent bands (who often play for free, anyway), and a nice stroll down University free of traffic.

A good long term idea. how about reading this, before you make up your mind
Web Link

What I find interesting about the article (which calls the promenade a failure and success, respectively) is that everyone went ga-ga over the fact that the restaurants were filled.

Please, someone, bring forward a balmy Friday evening in summer, on University, when restaurants weren't filled, anyway?

Again, the promenade was cool, and it would be nice to see University free of traffic one day; the latter is FAR off, unless the opportunity for "official press" trumps the realities of commerce that retailers face EVERY DAY.


Posted by Joanie Crombie, a resident of another community
on Jul 23, 2007 at 4:30 pm

Balatro, if you delve, you'll find that these bands rarely, if ever, play for free.


Posted by Connie Louise, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 23, 2007 at 4:56 pm

Agreed. Artists, like every other profession, don't just work for free. There isn't a bill paying fairy who goes around and makes sure these artists can afford to live in the Bay Area while playing gigs for free. The fact that they chose to play for free in our town speaks highly of them.
Furthermore, I really enjoyed watching all the great young talent performing on our streets. It was a heck of a lot better than fighting traffic on University Ave.

We are a town that promotes communiy. We drive hybrids and care about being green. Yet, you make a stink when the road is closed off for one night for pedestrians??? Sorry, but watching all the families strolling down the street and friends congregating at the local restaurants listening to good music was a great way to spend a summer night. There are 364 more days in the year that these store owners can have to recoupe all their losses from Friday night.


Posted by Parent of three, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2007 at 5:02 pm

Our family had the best time Friday night. We had friends meet up with us and they parked easily in one of our new parking structures. The stores I went in were thrilled with the amount of traffic they had. I don't know why we're just hearing from the whiners, everyone I ran into loved it! So much fun!!!! thanks, organizers. It wasn't perfect, but it was great!


Posted by member, new, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2007 at 5:15 pm

Many of you talk about how you want to support people who don't drive. Please understand that the closure of University Avenue on a weekday or of California Avenue (happened a while ago) is not supporting users of public transit. Those of us on Stanford or other shuttles to Palo Alto Caltrain or California Avenue Caltrain could not get the trains we usually can get, because our shuttles could not get to the stations. You may not know how restricted Caltrain service is during the commute hours (sounds strange but it's true - thank the Baby Bullet) and so may not know that people had to wait 45 minutes for the next train.

That can't be allowed to happen. Mayors who paint themselves green have to know that people will drive if they can't be sure of getting to their infrequent trains. It's stressful already. You just can't close University Ave. or Cal. Ave. unless you do something really major first.





Posted by Balatro, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2007 at 6:07 pm

Joanie, Web Link

You're discussing this with someone who has a fairly intimate knowledge of the Indie band space - having been in the music biz. PLaying venues for free gets Indie bands *noticed*.

Note that I'm not saying the promenade was a flop. I had a good time! BUT, all the talk about turning the promenade into a full-time change on University is what has raised my hackles.

With due respect, doing the above stems from gross ignorance about the many peripheral challenges involved. Just watch the commercial merchant community here come out in force if anyone suggests taking away car traffic on University Ave, permanently, unless we have a VERY efficient mass transit infrastructure - that is WELL LEVERAGED by promotion - to get EVERYONE who wants to shop on University there WHEN they want to get there, CHEAPLY, and within EASY ACCESS if their home.

Why aren't those promoters of the promenade who are calling this the beginning of something "new" working HARDER ON MASS TRANSIT INFRASTRUCTURE that enables pedestrian malls.

Suddenly converting University to a pedestrian promenade w/o supporting mass transit infrastructure is one of those goofy "if you build it, they will come" ideas that just doesn't hold water in the real world - especially in the real _commercial_ world.

It's unfortunate that those of us (including myself) who _like_ the idea of pedestrian malls, who enjoyed the promenade, and are "greens" ourselves, get taken to task when we poo-poo ideas that make thinking greens turn blue with embarrassment...as good one-shot ideas like a downtown film fest and promenade get turned into hackneyed plans by wide-eyed politicos and failure-to-consider-commercial-ecology ecologists that want to convert the entire commercial ecology of a successful downtown, seemingly overnight - BEFORE supporting infrastructure is there. Strange, indeed.

It's stuff like this that makes commnercial interests here shake their heads in gaping wonder at the lack of forethought, and commercial interests outside this place think hard before wanting to settle their investment dollars here.

Of course, our demographic will always be a draw for retail investment. But before policy makers try to ride that horse too hard (thinking it will save them from bad decision-making), they has better remember that the rest of Silicon Valley is drawing high-end demographics, too. We're not immune, long-term, to getting the best *second-rate* high end retailers in this city. Think about it.


Posted by Hmmmm..., a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2007 at 10:33 am

If city officials could better prepare for the traffic problems, it would be nice to see Promenades more often downtown. The traffic was the big disaster with this one, otherwise the night was very entertaining.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2007 at 11:42 am

I asked a business owner on University if there had been notice given in advance about the "promenade." I just got this reply:

"hahahahah . . . that's too funny!! No I had no idea what they were doing, and its safe to say, it diverted whatever business that could have come our way, elsewhere . . . . the event was apparently planned for the evening, so closing University for the duration of our business hours was nothing short of MORONIC!!! hahahaha but then again, there is little they do that surprises me . . . ."


Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2007 at 12:48 pm

I bet if you ask the mayor, she will put on her rose-colored glasses and her best "photo-op" smile and tell you that it was a smashing success--never mind the inconvenience to the businesses, the lack of notification regarding the closure and who knows how much pollutants were spewed into the air from cars stuck in the traffic mess.
Speaking of the traffic mess-I am not sure why University Ave was. closed in the morning. All that needed to be done was put signs on university that the street would be closed starting at 4PM--no parking allowed after that. At 4PM you put an officer at University and High Street and another at University and Lytton. Right before that you have officers close all the cross streets at University. At 4:01 Pm the officer at University/high closes the street heading towards 101, at the same time the officer at University/Lytton closes the street heading towards Stanford. You wait a few minutes until all the traffic is out off University and then you close the street completely.
Pretty simple, huh?? I bet you it took our city leaders,, the planning commission and the traffic department weeks to come up with the fisco that occurred on friday.
Our mayor should be held responsible for this.


Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Not so fast, you are right on the money. Please email your recommended plan to city officials. I was stuck in traffic earlier in the day and was puzzled and did not make the connection that the much later event-to-be-held was responsible for the traffic...


Posted by Jeez!, a resident of University South
on Jul 24, 2007 at 3:02 pm

Get over it. All you can do is complain about your God given right to drive around Palo Alto. Heaven forbid anyone try to do anything fun and new in this town without being crucified.


Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2007 at 3:21 pm

Jeez--there is nothing wrong with an occasional closure of streets for "fun" (the whole issue of permanently closing University is another issue). However if you are planning to close streets on a work day you need to inform the public about it ahead of time and if you say you are going to close the streets from 4PM to 10PM, you do not close them at 8AM. That is why our city leaders are being "crucified".
And until PA and the rest of the region provide some real form of public transportation, then people will be driving around palo alto.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2007 at 8:08 pm

Since there were so many sponsers and the bands played free, I still can't understand why it cost so much!!


Posted by Wendy H, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2007 at 9:32 pm

Please do it again.... first times are always rough.... it was wonderful fun, and my friends and I wish it could be a permanent all-weekend closing. That's right... I said ALL WEEKEND. It would be a huge draw and people would get used to it.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2007 at 10:33 pm

I found out that police costs were estimated at $5200. Public Works had additional costs, estimated at $2800, for a total of $8,000.

I've been told that the cost of the venue (roughly $90k) was paid through sponsorships from large companies and donations from local merchants. All musicians donated their time to perform and the Community Media Center donated their equipment and staff to produce the film venue.

Because I didn't know anything about the "promenade/music festival" until 4 pm Friday when I read the Weekly article online, I asked about notification of residents and merchants and was told the following:

ALICE Radio supported the event with a major contribution (in kind) worth 60k. They aired information regarding the event every 1/2 hour for over 3 weeks; sent out eblasts to their 65,000 members; included information and chatted about the event in their radio talk shows and offered volunteers for the event itself.

The Palo Alto Daily offered 4 1/2 pages of free advertising, and other radio stations -- KDFC, KZSU, KGO and KFOG -- all aired public service announcements.

Organizers spoke to the Weekly, trying to get them to write an article -- which they finally wrote on the day of the event -- but nowhere near as large as requested.

The San Jose Mercury also wrote a couple of articles.

Street banners can only be put up if space is available, and University Ave/Embarcadero Rd. are taken for almost one year in advance. Flyers were posted at libraries, schools, notice boards, Craigs List, Zvents, KRON Community Events etc etc.

Someone walked all streets and chatted with all businesses explaining the venue and encouraging them to participate. They also received merchant letters requesting their sponsorship, along with street closure announcements and flyers regarding the venue.


Posted by Karen Amon, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2007 at 6:03 pm

The experience of place without cars is a real joy! I support walkable downtowns.

I'd prefer closures on Sat & Sunday early evenings to late, vs Friday. This would probably ease the auto congestion the neighborhood streets experienced on Friday. In my opinion, Friday's closure did impact child safety on residential side streets.

More importantly, why not choose California Ave-permanently and make it a walking promenade? It needs a face lift. The street is wide enough for a walking promenade, entertainment zones,green belt,small vendors, children's activities etc. in the center with some new big trees, lighting & landscaping. Parking Garages are there and other parking lots could be enhanced. Property values in the area would benefit as well as retailers, etc.

The California Ave Farmer's Market is a pleasure. Add more bike racks, tables and trees and it's nearly perfect.


Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2007 at 6:45 pm

Not sure if many of you caught this gem of a quotation from our inrepid travelling/dancing city council woman Dena Mosser in todays write up of the Promenade on friday:

"When the City Council gave a nod to the idea, "It never crossed my mind that I was voting to close University all day Friday," she said. "University Avenue is a major east/west thoroughfare. It's a bit like closing Page Mill Road," with a difference in scale."

the full story is here:
Web Link


Maybe that explains why we are in the situation we are in--our city council representatives do not know what they are voting for!!!


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 25, 2007 at 8:43 pm

That is a gem indeed.


Posted by Claudia, business owner, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 25, 2007 at 10:53 pm

To the business owners/operators in downtown Palo Alto:

Get out and be part of the community!

It is a complete lack of vision for businesses to exist in Palo Alto and not be part of the business community. Get out and function as a member. Be part of the organizations that make this place viable.

Read the newspaper!

If you don't, it is your prerogative; but please don't whine. Yes, it is your responsabilty to stay informed of what happens around you.


Posted by Humored, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 26, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Balatro Ol' Boy,
get a life. preferably in a different community.


Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2007 at 7:30 pm

If this same event had happened in say Mountain View on Castro, or Mary, it would undoubtedly have been a huge success. Why is it that Palo Alto always seems to fail miserably when trying to be innovative like this. Surely putting a road closed event into place does not take 8 hours to prepare for with closed roads, it could easily have been done at 4.00 and still had time to do what was necessary.

I think that the poor planning for this event is just typical Palo Alto, I am ashamed to say.


Posted by bemused, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2007 at 9:36 am

Tell me when you first learned to drive or ride a bike....did it go smoothly instantly? Let's give 'em a chance for god's sake! I think the idea is great and I would truly like to say thank you to those who have braved the hoards of insular palo alto residents to attempt this pleasant summer evening.

And, by the way... I was on University and the place was packed! Guess it's all in that perception again.


Posted by mary, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 27, 2007 at 2:56 pm

Doing this maybe once a year on a weekend might be OK, but only if there is plenty of advance notice. Last week's closure was a nightmare. I had headed downtown from Stanford for takeout, but I just gave up. It took me half an hour to get home (a five-minute drive under normal circumstances). When there is a downtown event that blocks streets, my friends and I just stay home.


Posted by anne, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 27, 2007 at 3:01 pm

I live on a street that was a mess because the usual University Avenue route was unavailable all day. Sure....close University for good....the surrounding neighborhoods will suffer. OUR streets are not set up to hold all that traffic from downtown.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2007 at 3:34 pm

Mary

The point of the promenade is not to keep you home, but to get you to walk. Anyone going anywhere for a 5 minute drive just to get take out shows that they are missing the point.

A little exercise, convivial company, convivial ambience, is good for all of us.


Posted by Charlotte, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 27, 2007 at 3:38 pm

For your own sake people get out of your cars. We have a very walkable city here with oodles of services such as the Free Palo Alto shuttle. Break of your bad habits, open your eyes and enjoy this community for what it is and offers you on a daily basis that seems to go unnoticed. Take a trip to a third world country and see how the rest of the world lives.
Give up the sense of entitlement and count your blessings. Stop the Whining!
Get involved that way you can no longer claim ignorance wich is incidentally what this spells out clearly. Plenty of advance notice went out on this event- An event that was designed to benefit this ungrateful lot; go figure! If you didn't know, then high time you join the living!


Posted by bemused, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 28, 2007 at 8:45 am

Dear Charlotte,

Thank you for pointing out to these lame people the purpose of closing the street! You're so right....the point is to change your habits and try walking that 5 minute distance!!!

I'm glad someone understands, but then...this self-entitlement is the Palo Alto mentality!


Posted by Eve N. Reynolds, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 30, 2007 at 9:30 pm

The recent promenade on University Avenue brought out the best that Palo Alto has to offer: music, film, al fresco dining and door to door boutique shopping. The Avenue, protected from traffic, was superbly transformed into a promenade intertwined with music, film and a "let's go green" theme promoted by our new Mayor. I applaud Mayor Kishimoto for her desire to make Palo Alto a more walkable, livable city. Why not? It is common in cities all over Europe, and more recently a few areas in the United States to partition main thoroughfares one day per week to allow markets, shops and pedestrians to feel a relaxed, comfortable and breathable shopping day. Palo Alto is once again forging ahead!
The evening was warm, thousands of families, pets, friends, co-workers and neighbors strolled along the promenade enjoying the live music at each stage and the outdoor film-shorts viewed at dusk. The shops, with sidewalk sales and enticing interiors lulled me into believing I was on vacation in Europe and searching for that perfect holiday purchase. A most desirable combination for anyone!
However, what struck me most about the promenade was the community spirit that it developed. I had forgotten what it was like to be in downtown Palo Alto without the traffic, pedestrians and search for the closest parking spot available (even if it took 3 times around the block!) I found myself relaxed, amenable to the neighborly chat, a nibble here and a nibble there and a few stops along with way…I felt relaxed and happy. Isn't that what we're supposed to feel at home?
Mayor Kishimoto, you deserve recognition for spearheading the promenade and encouraging all us SUV drivers to leave the car at home and WALK. If Palo Alto is at the forefront of green living, with almost 17% of households converting to renewable energy, then it's only right that we leave our cars behind just one day per month (or preferably per week) and remember a calmer, more gentler way of life. The promenade was a brilliant scheme to encourage all of us to get out of our conveniently polluting vehicle and walk amongst the lively crowds who were out enjoying a summer evening celebration! So the street was closed, and we were forced to walk, wasn't that the whole point of the event? Walk, save trees and reduce those nasty green house emissions. As I understand, the electrical and power usage came from the solar and wind power grid. Based on the promenade's estimated electric usage of 3,000 kWh, the donation of renewable energy prevented 2,636 pounds of CO2, a critical greenhouse gas emission, from entering the earth's atmosphere. In terms of global climate change and environmental benefit, this is the equivalent to three months not driving one car or one acre of forest protected. If we all supported the weekly/monthly promenade just think how many forests could be saved.
It is hard for us to change our habits; it seems to only occur when it is forced upon us. Therefore, Mayor Kishimoto and the event organizers achieved their goal. We were "forced" to recognize our addiction to motor vehicles! We were forced to come face to face with the inevitable traffic jam, BUT we enjoyed the evening, we saw old friends, we chatted, listened to music, viewed a film clip and most importantly, remained outside of the "box" by walking and enjoying ourselves.
Mayor Kishimoto, I look forward to the next promenade!


Posted by Ben Reaves, a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 12, 2007 at 3:43 pm

Remember a couple of years ago when the driver mistakenly crashed into Noah's outside seating? Luckily no one was killed. I'm no lawyer but I think there might be some room for argument for the city's liability if it allows car traffic on a street known to have high pedestrian traffic. I hope that other cities follow Palo Alto's lead. If Santa Monica can, Palo Alto certainly can.

University Avenue is such a bottleneck for traffic that closing it off is not like closing off Oregon Expressway or El Camino Real - Lytton and Hamilton are much better alternatives to University. Look at a map and you can see that opening up Willow Road to El Camino would solve the traffic problem in an instant, but I have no faith in Menlo Park and Palo Alto cooperating on street traffic issues.


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