What to do about Cal Ave.? | An Alternative View | Diana Diamond | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

An Alternative View

By Diana Diamond

E-mail Diana Diamond

About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

View all posts from Diana Diamond

What to do about Cal Ave.?

Uploaded: Jul 18, 2023

Once again, I hear that old refrain that California Avenue needs our attention. This time the Palo Alto City Council will consider in August what to do to the street itself – open or close it to traffic. It has been closed for the past three years because during the pandemic, restaurants wanted to expand outdoors into the street to allow for more outside dining -- and customers enthusiastically responded.

Renovating Cal Ave., “Palo Alto’s second downtown,” has been a frequent occurrence. Remember several years ago the “beautification” project was to install new sidewalks with small blue glass chips embedded in the cement. But people complained about the rough sidewalks.
The sparking stones remained, and pedestrians got used to them.

Retail merchants along the street are finally complaining now because after three years of street closure to cars, their businesses are suffering financially. “For lease” signs are increasing, daytime pedestrians are fewer, although the restaurant crowd is increasing.

But I am glad the merchants are complaining.

Why? Because Cal Ave. is restaurant row, with retail stores hidden from view hidden behind the umbrellas and tables the eateries have placed on both sides of the street; no parking is allowed on most of the avenue.

At first, the city encouraged this expansion outdoors, as did residents, who enjoyed the expanded ability to dine al fresco.

So, what to do about he retailers concerns about a traffic ban?

One suggestion is to have a vote of all Cal Ave. merchants (including restaurant owners) to see whether they want the street opened or closed. The street will definitely be closed to cars until the end of the year. And, of course, the city has hired a consultant to help the council decide what to do by December. Seems like city fathers can’t so anything without a costly consultant.

But I don’t think this city has thought all this through. There doesn’t seem to be any strategy or goal, despite the fact that Cal Ave.‘s future has been before the city officials for years. A big question: should the city cater to restaurants and forget about retail?

Consider the following:

• The brand new big four-story Public Safety Building is expected to open next year and will house the police and fire department headquarters. Will our public safety officials be able to cope with a closed Cal Ave.? I would think their goal would be to get to a fire or crime site as fast as possible. If so, why is closing the street to cars still even under consideration?

• Mountain View had turned Castro Street (its main drag) into a restaurant row years ago, and the result is the area was not a vibrant place to go during non-dining hours. According to MV mayors I talked to, years later they searched and searched for retail to relocate to Castro, but small businesses refused, because the daily pedestrian traffic was so low with so little retail. So, Mountain View was forced to remain restaurant row, and its downtown lacks the variety and vision of being a real downtown.

Do we want Cal Ave to continue its pursuit of more and more restaurants? I don’t.

• When residents were asked after the first year whether they liked the restaurant expansion into the street, most said yes, it’s fun to eat outdoors. But that question did not hint at any harm the closed streets caused merchants. So sure, I would have responded yes, too.

• If the city asks Cal Ave merchants to vote whether streets should be closed, it will be a battle. Feelings are strong. Merchants say that now that restaurants have taken over, so to speak, the issues that merchants are facing are something restaurant owners need not worry about, i.e. they’re selfish. And the restaurants say they are flourishing, the public likes the new arrangement, and the city has to look forward, not back.

• The now-closed Cal Ave. has really ugly street barriers closing off both ends, without any detour signs suggesting that motorists should use the adjacent streets north and south. I’m not convinced proposed bollards to close the street at both ends will turn into an enhancing entrance. Can’t we do? something more? At least try greenery to block the street!

But, not to worry, the city has hired a consultant to come up with a better way to block the street. I wonder how much that will cost?

I think the city’s role is to keep a vibrant business district in our community, a real “second downtown,” with a variety of stores, and gobs of greenery.

However, now is the time for a city economic development director to go out and find retail suitable for the Avenue – not two or three years from now. The search can take time, and building permits take a lot of time in Palo

Cal Ave. is an important spot on El Camino where the city should showcase its second downtown by an elegant entrance.

Let’s spend some real money to beautify this street. It would help in establishing a new ambience for this avenue.We can do better than before.

Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 18, 2023 at 6:57 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

I have a couple of comments.

Cal Ave is now a dining destination as opposed to a shopping destination. But if you go there to eat, that's eat, nothing else to do. Why can't we have some live music, nothing special but just a couple of buskers or similar. I often see that in Castro Street and it does make people linger longer, perhaps getting ice cream after dinner and perhaps a dance?

San Francisco is considering a Night Market. Well why not have something similar. A few pop up craft stands artisan cheeses or bakery items? Something to wander around after dinner.

For many who continue to insist on looking for parking, I prefer to park East of the Caltrain tracks and walk through the tunnel. How about touting this idea more fully and in particular for those who live near enough to walk using the tunnel.

Lastly, how about a list of restaurants and their menus on a few boards, something like they do at Stanford Shopping Center. For those who feel like dining but can't quite decide which restaurant it might be nice to decide without having to walk up and down the street.

And the ugly entrance from ECR is unsightly and more importantly uninviting. Make it look like a destination providing more than a temporary closure will make it much more attractive. Sidewalk cafes in Europe always look so very inviting, coffee and exquisite desserts can make it something other than a dinner spot.

Posted by MV Resident, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Jul 18, 2023 at 9:04 pm

MV Resident is a registered user.

People are quick to blame restaurants and street closures as the primary woes of retail and not a multiple-years-long pandemic that shifted purchasing to online and delivery.

Posted by Anita Wickersham, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 19, 2023 at 9:19 am

Anita Wickersham is a registered user.

California Avenue has gotten over- cluttered with expanded outside dining.

As for the entrance from ECR, why not erect a metal archway like they do in some smaller SoCal cities that says 'Welcome to California Avenue'...paid for by the restaurant proprietors (and not the city). A horticultural design could serve as a traffic barrier.

As for the local non-dining businesses along California Avenue, it is time to move out as California Avenue has now become Palo Alto's version of Sunnyvale's Murphy Street for dining excursions.

California Avenue should also include some varied bar options like 'back in the day' when there was The Winery, Talbot's, Antonio's Nut House and The Edge/Vortex from which to choose from.

Then again, maybe the evolution (or de-evolution) of Palo Alto's after hours street life is to make it non-existent.

Posted by Puffin, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jul 19, 2023 at 10:38 am

Puffin is a registered user.

More retail please!!!!

Posted by Open Book, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Jul 19, 2023 at 12:23 pm

Open Book is a registered user.

Mayfield (California Avenue district) should consider seceding from Palo Alto but since the new Public Safety building is now situated there, the prospects are highly unlikely.

Palo Alto should be divided into North Palo Alto and South Palo Alto because of differences in resident concerns.

Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Jul 19, 2023 at 1:25 pm

Joseph E. Davis is a registered user.

Can anyone explain why restaurants are given such high priority over all other uses of downtown space?

Posted by JohnMcD, a resident of Professorville,
on Jul 19, 2023 at 1:26 pm

JohnMcD is a registered user.

I hope the city can be more forward looking than the author of this article, who seems to yearn for an age gone by, where you do your shopping while strolling through town.

Whether it's fair to the shops selling knickknacks or not, covid accelerated the country's transition to online shopping. It's more efficient and convenient to be able to buy anything with a few clicks, and the world isn't going back.

I hope the city understands this, and focuses on experiences you can't buy on Amazon, chiefly dining. There is obviously also room for some services and experiences, like exercise gyms and bike repair and the new Gamelandia space to play tabletop games (which is outside the closure.) Pure play retail isn't coming back.

That said, there is ample room for desired services in the city outside the Cal Ave walking area. I find the arguments of the old world retailers who want the city to optimize for them at the expense of a better experience for residents disappointing.

We have a beautiful new parking garage right next to Cal Ave. We certainly don't need to clog the beautiful new walking and dining area with more driving and parking spots.

Let's focus on the future and invest on improving the Cal Ave space with more places to socialize and congregate and more reasons to spend time there.

Look forwards, not back!

Posted by Easy Answer 101, a resident of Stanford,
on Jul 19, 2023 at 4:07 pm

Easy Answer 101 is a registered user.

According to AI, the reason California & University Avenues are so mundane & overridden with restaurants is because of a lack of civic imagination & the lack of interesting specialty stores that cater to esoteric tastes.

Stanford Shopping Center caters to expensive tastes & this measure is not necessarily associated with being either cool or esoteric. The same can be said of the many overpriced Palo Alto dining establishments promoting their bloated concepts of fusion cuisine.

What these two sectors need...a unique camera shop (like the former Keeble & Shucatt), a quality music store (move Gryphon Stringed Instruments to California Avenue) a specialty fly fishing shop (like the former Midge Shop in downtown Los Altos), an interesting bookstore that carries first editions, an art gallery displaying lithographs and photography by renowned visual artists, a music store that specializes in older vinyl records, an antique store etc.

It does not take artificial intelligence...Palo Alto can easily take a lesson from downtown Los Gatos which offers many of the above + some nice places to eat and drink.

Posted by anneschmitt, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jul 19, 2023 at 5:25 pm

anneschmitt is a registered user.

I agree with the author. CA Ave is very discouraging now and in my opinion, 'brings down' the surrounding neighborhoods. (Even Starbucks couldn't 'stand it' anymore. Although I assume their motivation is complex.)

I would vote for opening to traffic, in any way possible encouraging more retail and reducing the size of outdoor dining on the street.

Having the businesses on CA Ave VOTE is not a good idea. The restaurants votes would vastly outnumber the retail.

Posted by Evergreen Park Observer, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Jul 19, 2023 at 5:30 pm

Evergreen Park Observer is a registered user.

It has been three years since the pandemic began and the City closed California Ave to traffic. It opened again sporadically before closing for good. During the sporadic opening to traffic, the street became lively again. Closed again, traffic is pretty limited to meal times. Not what I would call a vibrant area. The City has done almost nothing to make Cal Ave attractive. No signs to indicate where to park, only the mysterious "detour" signs that give little direction. The orange blockades look like left overs from some war or traffic road work. The parklets are haphazard and not very attractive. Compare that to the City's investment in the "real" downtown which looks very festive and has plenty of traffic. A street mural and a giant chessboard are fine, but don't really do much to drive business to the street.

No city has two downtowns. Stops thinking that way. Make it something unique. Cal Ave used to be a neighborhood dining and shopping area. More Class A office space caused prices at restaurants to soar, meaning that local cannot dine there as often. Ironically, now locals have to drive to services while other drive to a "car free" street. I suspect many landlords have owned these properties forever and do not mind in the least holding their sites vacant until they can get a higher rent. Any losses on these parcels are simply tax deductions for money they elsewhere.

There are only so many restaurants that a city can support. As a 'destination', Cal Ave has to compete with many other areas for business. I wonder if the public safety building workers will be able to afford $25 lunches on Cal Ave. Even on Sundays during the farmers market, the most crowded place is the lower cost Indian/Pakistani restaurant and, of course, Joanie's.

The internet has not helped local retails, but plenty of retail survives elsewhere. Closing the street did not help.

Posted by Rose, a resident of Mayfield,
on Jul 19, 2023 at 10:19 pm

Rose is a registered user.

I live next to Cal Ave and bicycle through the area every day. Closing the street means a main east/west corridor, from the west side of Cal Ave and crossing El Camino to the east side of Cal Ave, and then continuing through to the train station or through the tunnel is now so awkward it's ridiculous. As someone mentioned above, the only time the street is busy is lunch and dinner time. Throughout the day all the parking spots that haven't been taken up by restaurants are wasted -- empty. Someone from Mtn. View or Menlo Park can't even drive up our main street to find the shoe store, or Mollie Stone's, or the Barre. Yes, dining outside is lovely BUT it's not everything. Because of the tracks and the narrow streets, this area is impossible with the street blocked off. I'm so glad Diana Diamond mentioned the new Public Safety Building. How can they move around the area quickly and efficiently to respond to a emergency? They won't be able to. Cars, trucks, and delivery vans drive north on Ash Street and then struggle to make a U-turn when they dead end at Cal Ave. Forward, back, forward, back -- tying up traffic and causing needless emissions as they wiggle around trying to get out. And then there are delivery cars and trucks who park there at the red curb so they can access something on Cal Ave -- meanwhile making it impossible to U-turn with NO room! CAL AVE SHOULD BE OPEN TO TRAFFIC. The restaurants will still be there to enjoy. We don't need to eat in the street given the extremely poor access to our neighborhood.

Posted by Cal Ave Restaurant Owner, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Jul 20, 2023 at 1:53 am

Cal Ave Restaurant Owner is a registered user.

The author makes it sound as though ALL restaurants on Cal Ave are in favor of the street closure, however, that is simply NOT accurate. While some restaurants have benefited from the additional seating and therefore advocate for the street closure, many restaurants are suffering from the lack of driver access and are strongly advocating to reopen the street. Naturally, business owners are pushing for the outcome that favors their own financial interest. If local residents really do care about having retail stores and restaurants on Cal Ave, they must support them reliably, or these small businesses will close and we will continue to see the number of vacant store fronts on Cal Ave increase.

Posted by memsman, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 20, 2023 at 11:19 am

memsman is a registered user.

The problem for retail on CA Ave is NOT parking availability or the street closure�"it is more likely major changes in society after pandemic. People shop online. People look for better prices than can be offered by trendy shops. No one is buying knick knacks at the ridiculously overpriced shoe repair? Maybe because the place smells SO bad you want to cross the street to pass by? So, it seems nail, hair, and eyelash salons, vape shop, and a plethora of workout businesses, are not attracting enough folks to make it vibrant during the day??? Blame the loss of high paid tech workers in the area during the day�"they work remotely and aren't driving to Ca Ave to spend time indoors at these places. It has nothing to do with parking on the street or the closure of a few blocks to traffic.

We should be happy there are restaurants thriving, we should support the new hardware store instead of going to big box stores! A good bakery/ice cream shop would be nice. Hopefully the game store survives. We old folks pine for the bookstores where one could browse, the art supply and framing shop, the seedy bar, the big time music venue, a movie theatre. But the internet changed a lot. Sadly.

The trees�"finally big enough to notice�"are a plus for the street atmosphere. The restaurants should be allowed to build attractive, well-maintained outdoor dining on a street closed to traffic. Maybe a new music venue will replace the old Antonio's. That would be fun.

The new street murals are not going to make Cal Ave a destination�"they are not all that attractive IMO.

Posted by Miriam Palm, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jul 20, 2023 at 11:22 am

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

Another problem was a supposed error in Sept. 2009 when contractors cut down all the street trees for some nonsensical reason. They

Posted by Miriam Palm, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jul 20, 2023 at 11:23 am

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

The trees are only now just recovering 14 years later. OY.

Posted by Priscilla James, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Jul 20, 2023 at 4:19 pm

Priscilla James is a registered user.

We don't like to dine on the streets...no privacy.

OK for Paris, but California Avenue is a stretch.

Posted by Peter Venkman, a resident of Monroe Park,
on Jul 20, 2023 at 7:58 pm

Peter Venkman is a registered user.

What to do about Cal Ave? The first step may be to change our perspective from what's wrong with Cal Ave to imaging what it could be. Rather than reviewing the obstacles, recounting past errors or debating opinions on antecdotal evidence the focus should be on assets of Cal Ave: location, access to transportation and an evaluation of zoning that hinders/supports merchants and restaurants/pubs.
If the goal for Cal Ave is to develop a thriving destination a study/evaluation is required to collect data, analyze and benchmark. With that foundation strategies for investment, structural development, mix of use and district identity will realize what Cal Ave should be. Quite honestly, I don't believe any of us would build a home without an architect. My opinion is Palo Alto deserves a thriving, dynamic Cal Ave that provides a public gathering space for restaurant, retail and service providers for our city. The only thing to be done with Cal Ave is a change of perspective!

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 20, 2023 at 8:54 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Palo Alto retail is too expensive unless it's being sold at Stanford Shopping Center which is a tourist destination. I can't think of any retail store that I shop at in Palo Alto that isn't for groceries. So perhaps coming up with a way to lower the rent would help retailers offer items are affordable prices for us "locals". Maybe try co-ops as a business model, so several businesses can share one retail space and thereby split the rent! I'd love to see more shops and other locations that provide experiences like the bowling alley once did, or put in a full-size roller or ice rink as a destination to go hang out in and get some exercise in return! I loved the author's idea of using greenery for "living" barriers. I also want more spaces to feel comfortable hanging out in, instead of all the sterile glass and cold steel buildings going in that feel like medical buildings, who wants to hang out in those spaces for very long?

Give us more community spaces. Food truck courts and swap meet spaces like what the church on Middlefield is experimenting with in their parking lot. Get a brewery to occupy some space somewhere! Give us a destination to take fun selfies in, and provide monthly activities that are family-friendly. (GISH anyone?)

Too many of us are feeling isolated and our "town centers" have been lost to development. Let's figure out how to bring those back. There is more to being out in "retail" spaces than just consuming "new" junk. How about the city and retail provides a way to connect us more as people instead of targets of consumption? We can consume experiences too, and they don't all have to cost a month's "spending" money to participate in.

Make being out in public fun again!

Posted by Jean Struthers, a resident of another community,
on Jul 21, 2023 at 2:24 pm

Jean Struthers is a registered user.

Restaurants are in the street in Los Altos, but the cars drive there, but have to park in back. Seems to work. I have not gone to Cal ave for 4 years due to the barriers. I miss it. why cant the barrels move a little and let cars come thru? It makes it like a little club not a nice shopping/eating area like is was.

Posted by Jeff Grafton, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Jul 21, 2023 at 2:37 pm

Jeff Grafton is a registered user.

California Ave had a total of 53 car parking spaces that are now blocked off. There are still 3 garages + several lots, all conveniently located a short walk away from shops and restaurants. It doesn't seem like a lack of parking in close proximity is to blame for the decline in retail.

Indeed, if you look at Google Street View from January 2020, you can already see numerous "for lease" signs, including some that have been vacant back to 2019, well before the street closure.

The public safety building has easy access to El Camino via Sherman and Cambridge and Oregon via Birch and Park. It doesn't seem like California Ave would be a good option for responders if it were open - the public safety building isn't even on California, and California would be full of pedestrians, cyclists, and (likely) stopped car traffic. Besides, most police officers would be out on beats in the city, rather than responding to calls directly from the public safety building.

Motorists relentlessly speed, blow stop signs, and otherwise flaunt the law. There've been numerous examples of drivers crashing into restaurant parklets, seriously injuring or killing diners. Cars and public spaces don't mix.

Posted by Jeff Grafton, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Jul 21, 2023 at 2:37 pm

Jeff Grafton is a registered user.

California Ave had a total of 53 car parking spaces that are now blocked off. There are still 3 garages + several lots, all conveniently located a short walk away from shops and restaurants. It doesn't seem like a lack of parking in close proximity is to blame for the decline in retail.

Indeed, if you look at Google Street View from January 2020, you can already see numerous "for lease" signs, including some that have been vacant back to 2019, well before the street closure.

The public safety building has easy access to El Camino via Sherman and Cambridge and Oregon via Birch and Park. It doesn't seem like California Ave would be a good option for responders if it were open - the public safety building isn't even on California, and California would be full of pedestrians, cyclists, and (likely) stopped car traffic. Besides, most police officers would be out on beats in the city, rather than responding to calls directly from the public safety building.

Motorists relentlessly speed, blow stop signs, and otherwise flaunt the law. There've been numerous examples of drivers crashing into restaurant parklets, seriously injuring or killing diners. Cars and public spaces don't mix.

Posted by Sheryl , a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Jul 21, 2023 at 2:43 pm

Sheryl is a registered user.

Please restore automobile access to California Avenue. I don't go there because the street is closed and the neighborhood can be a pain to navigate if you don't walk very well. I miss Izzie's bagels. But that's it. I'm one of those locals who doesn't own a house, lives in subsidized housing and can't afford to eat in restaurants unless it's an exceptionally special treat. So the neighborhood as it stands has nothing to offer me. I am old enough to remember Printer's Inc bookstore. That was a great place. California Avenue could use more businesses like that. Great places to shop. Even the Village Stationers that replaced it was a very nice place to shop. And since I live in Mountain View, I go to the farmers market on Bryant on California Street in Mountain View. And you can park right on the street all around the farmers market so it is very convenient for someone who doesn't walk very well. I hope the powers that be will reconsider. For me, it's just a wasteland the way it is right now.

Posted by Bill Bucy, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jul 22, 2023 at 9:29 am

Bill Bucy is a registered user.

Think back to the time when Cal Ave was open to traffic.

Did you cruise down the street visually browsing store windows? No. If you wanted to check out what the area had to offer you parked your car and walked up and down. And if you had a specific reason to go there you parked your car somewhere nearby and walked a block or two. Same as now.

Did you ever become so frustrated at the lack of easy parking around Cal Ave and drive somewhere else to run your errand? Possibly. But there's more parking available now than before.

Retailers, service businesses and casual food outlets don't need car traffic, they need foot traffic. Much of that on Cal Ave came from nearby tech and law firms, all the kinds of companies that now employ more people working remotely.

Changes to Cal Ave should focus on finding out what will draw consumers from other areas. I doubt the ability to drive up and down the street will be a major factor.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 22, 2023 at 12:13 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

I don't remember the time when Cal Ave was open to vehicles crossing the tracks. I can't say I know the reason why it was closed but probably about the time of the tunnel for Oregon Expressway. Since then it has always been problematic for drivers to find their way until the advent of GPS.

As for parking in the past, I can remember trying to run errands at lunch time needing to go to a business on Cal Ave and not being able to find parking for my 10 minute errand. There was sadly no 30 minute parking spots which made it difficult for me. Even meeting someone for lunch meant arriving at 11.30 to find a spot.

Posted by Old And In The Way (to some), a resident of Southgate,
on Jul 22, 2023 at 1:50 pm

Old And In The Way (to some) is a registered user.

@Bystander: At one time there was a traffic crossing at both Alma and California and at Alma and Page Mill.

You are correct. The Oregon Expressway underpass negated the need for the two former crossings.

Years later, the municipal traffic engineers put barriers on Park Boulevard near Peers Park to slow down drivers taking a shortcut from Page Mill and California to ECR. While this did reduce speeds and traffic flow, it was an encumbrance to those who resided in Evergreen and Southgate.

And at one time, Bayshore Freeway (101) even had traffic signals.

Life was slower in those days and at 95, I am looking forward to leaving the modern world behind.

Posted by MyFeelz, a resident of another community,
on Jul 22, 2023 at 4:45 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Cal Ave is violating so many ADA civil rights, and Unruh laws, I'm going to make it my pet project after I get finished with my current pet project. The City is enabling those civil rights violations by refusing to acknowledge that the violations are occurring. The state and federal government are very interested in this, and in fact, are already studying it thanks to a tipster who notified those who are responsible for righting civil wrongs.

Can't wait to see what happens next!

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jul 22, 2023 at 5:33 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I wonder how the City worded the assignment to the consultant.

I also wonder why outdoor dining has to be so extensive that it dominates Cal Ave rather than shares the space with retail? I like the Third Thursday event and try to support both our favorite restaurant (Pro Bono) and at least one retail establishment (Leaf & Petal this week). I'd hate to see that store close, but retail needs customers. To save a store, shop that store.

I have friends who absolutely love having Cal Ave closed. I do not share their enthusiasm for that, but mostly think some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement should be achievable.

Agree with all comments that say the barricades are ugly. Cal Ave is pretty much an eyesore. Also think there are some issues that need to be addressed - like are the merchants paying the City for the extra space? How are streets cleaned and who pays for that?

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 22, 2023 at 7:55 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Annette makes some good points.

I particularly would like to know about city codes and what would happen if say a cyclist and a wait person carrying hot food collided? We know that ADA lawyers are now involved in these street parklets or whatever they are called.

Presumably restaurants have to have insurance for diners but what would happen to a claim for someone dining in the street?

Investigative journalists could do a much better job of researching these issues and finding out from the various establishments what they have done about these various issues.

Posted by Carole Templeton, a resident of Woodside,
on Jul 23, 2023 at 10:02 am

Carole Templeton is a registered user.

Another option would be to offer a park and shuttle service into California Avenue.

Posted by Francine Baker, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Jul 23, 2023 at 1:44 pm

Francine Baker is a registered user.

> Cal Ave is pretty much an eyesore.

Then why do so many people frequent California Avenue? If retail stores are on its way out, are these visitors simply preoccupied with eating? Sad.

Posted by MyFeelz, a resident of another community,
on Jul 23, 2023 at 3:46 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Moving Gryphon to Cal Ave would be a fatal mistake. Where they are now is perfect. They have a following of loyal, long time customers who are in the music biz. I, for one, would not shop anywhere else. And if they move to some locale where people who have no experience in music but want to manhandle instruments ... please. Try "Guitar Center".

Posted by Hillary Roberts, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Jul 24, 2023 at 7:58 am

Hillary Roberts is a registered user.

Considering their higher than average prices, Gryphon Stringed Instruments should be located at Stanford Shopping Center.

California Avenue used to have a music store called Draper's.

Posted by Laura Bevins, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Jul 25, 2023 at 8:59 am

Laura Bevins is a registered user.

There used to be several music stores in Palo Alto among them Dana Morgan & Son and Swain's House of Music in downtown Palo Alto + Draper's on California Avenue, Guitars Unlimited on ECR near Stanford Avenue, and the current Gryphon Stringed Instruments on Lambert Avenue (which used to be situated on El Camino Way in Barron Park).

Gryphon is kind of overpriced but they have a very good service department for guitar repairs and adjustments.

Dana Morgan & Son was my favorite music store. Back in the late sixties, it was very common to see artists such as Jerry Garcia, David Crosby, and Ron McKernan (Pigpen) hanging out in back and chatting with the owner (Dana Jr ) while he worked. Jerry Garcia would also stop by Draper's from time to time.

I've never seen anyone equally as famous at Gryphon...mostly well-heeled patrons who can easily afford to pay $10K for an acoustic guitar aling with noodlers who cannot.

Stanford Shopping Center would offer additional exposure since Gryphon has become a more expensive place to shop.

And chances are, prospective high-end looters would find the merchandise way too cumbersome to make-off with.

Posted by Alexis Goodwin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 25, 2023 at 12:29 pm

Alexis Goodwin is a registered user.

I grew up in Evergreen and have seen the changes along California Avenue.

There was once a lumberyard near the Alma/California RR track crossing, several grocery stores (Purity, Farmer's Market, Co-op, Pool Brothers and United Meat Market), Bishop's Pharmacy, Monette's Pet Store, the Five & Dime store, Jake's Shoe Repair, Mac the Barber, the Bank of America, First National Bank, Harryman's clothing store, Keeble & Shucat [sic] camera store, Draper's Music, Village Stationers, Harlan's Bakery etc.

Times have changed and California Avenue has gone down the tubes. Not worth visiting anymore unless one has nothing better to do than parks blocks away to dine on overpriced and overated menu offerings.

Only dullards go to California Avenue these days.

Posted by Seer, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jul 25, 2023 at 1:57 pm

Seer is a registered user.

Most of the small items I order from Amazon come in 24 hrs or less. Yeah, I'm not driving to the old CA ave, certainly not trying to park on that street anyway to pick up an organizer. We're an expensive city, a mom & pop knick knack store is not going to be able to pay rent. Sorry, that boat has sailed.

Also, I think emergency vehicles would be a little silly trying to run up and down CA ave when the two side aves are much more clear.

But, the restaurant business is vibrant. You could zone for more services such as dental, tutoring. It's my go-to place for simply not having to deal with cars. Time to instead think about closing ALL downtown areas to anything but pedestrians and small electric vehicles/bikes.

Posted by David, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Jul 25, 2023 at 2:37 pm

David is a registered user.

I agree with the author that there are some layout challenges with downtown pedestrian corridors and restaurants seem to be the winners of the current approach. Bringing back cars isn't the answer, but compare to areas that were pedestrian-only from the start, like Stanford mall (on the interior anyway). Pedestrians corridors are centrally located, not weaving through each restaurant's indoor and outdoor seating. Restaurant seating doesn't expand past the frontage. Corridors are narrower and human-scale. Some of these can't be fixed, some can. It would take commitment and money to reconfigure these areas, and may not be worth it if retail will die out anyway. Just an observation.

Posted by Cindy, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 25, 2023 at 3:16 pm

Cindy is a registered user.

I have friends come from surrounding towns JUST to stroll and dine on California Ave. It's the center of our community and people love meeting up there, eating, walking, and listening to music. It's ALIVE!

There is live music on Mondays and Thursdays at Terun and Italico, and now live music in Moods wine bar in the evenings. There are musicians on the street; often very good ones. And now we have Third Thursdays, which brings hundreds to dine and shop and enjoy the community spirit., I've lived within a mile since 1983, when it was all blight and closed retail. These are some of the best and busiest times the street has known. (Weekday daytimes ARE rather quiet, but then folks are working so I'm not sure what people expect?)

The best parts of many European cities are the walking areas, where people can see and greet each other, without having to try to see around cars, who have so many close places to park within 100 yards. California Ave has that feel now, with no small thanks to the European-originated, local owned restaurants! This area just feels homey and real. We do not need another high-end shopping area.

Like every other retail and restaurant row in America, business closed during the pandemic and only the new concepts are going to make it. Traditional retail has to offer an experience that is not available online. I'm not sure what it is, but I hope Gamelandia, the hardware store, and the fitness and bike stores make it. They are needed as local businesses!

If we want to keep Cal Ave fun, cool, creative and delicious, we just need to patronize the businesses and remind the city that we want places to gather.

Posted by History Buff, a resident of Los Altos,
on Aug 10, 2023 at 9:25 pm

History Buff is a registered user.

> "...are the merchants paying the City for the extra space?

Restaurants have not paid one cent in all the years they've set up outdoor dining parklets on a public street.

The city wanted to help them when COVID hit, but the pandemic has been (mostly) over for at least a year. Yet the restaurants will continue to pay nothing at least until the end of the year.

Meanwhile, what has the city done for the struggling businesses on Cal Ave? Nothing!

Restaurant owners and their fans are saying COVID drove out retail. COVID would have driven out restaurants if the city hadn't bailed them out by letting them take over public property for free. Now they've got a sense of entitlement and want more. They got theirs. Who cares about struggling retailers and service providers?

Meanwhile, snarky supporters tell “non-dining businesses along California Avenue, it is time to move out" and blame mom & pop stores for failing because they sell “knick-knacks."

European Cobblery sells great shoes and socks and handbags and hats �" and repairs things. There's a dry cleaners and two grocery stores �" Country Sun and Molly Stones. Essential services you can't get on Amazon. I don't know if Cal Paint is still there, but I don't recall them selling “knick-knacks."

Cal Ave used to have a friendly low-key vibe and a sense of community. How sad the city has enabled entitled restaurateurs to kill that in the guise of "looking forward."

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



Post a comment

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

Stay informed.

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

Which homes should lose gas service first?
By Sherry Listgarten | 4 comments | 5,374 views

Boichik Bagels is opening its newest – and largest – location in Santa Clara this week
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 2,637 views

I Do I Don't: How to build a better marriage Page 15
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,314 views

By Laura Stec | 14 comments | 1,145 views


Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 30 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away almost $10 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.