News

New order allows a few retailers, service businesses to get back to work

Business owners hopeful but wary about reopening while pandemic continues

Owners and employees of Midpeninsula businesses that will be allowed to operate again under the modified shelter-at-home order that will take effect May 4 are expressing cautious optimism at the prospect of getting back to work.

Under the ordinance, "outdoor businesses" — such as plant nurseries and garden centers as well as service providers like landscapers and gardeners — plus construction firms and commercial real estate transactions can resume operations. All will need to abide by social-distancing and sanitation protocols that will keep customers and employees safe from the coronavirus, including requirements for face coverings and limits on the numbers of customers in a space at one time.

Israel Herrera, a gardener for his father's landscaping company in Mountain View for over 15 years, was surprised to hear the news Wednesday but said he's looking forward to starting to work again — and even to building the business.

Before the shelter-in-place order, Herrera said his company of five people was experiencing a labor shortage, citing expensive housing costs as one of the main factors it was hard to find people to hire. Oftentimes he couldn't take on as many clients as he wanted to due to being short staffed.

And the stay-at-home order didn't help. Since March, Herrera said most of the work came to halt.

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"We're fortunate enough that some clients were willing to still pay us even though we weren't showing up," he said.

With the new ease of restrictions, Herrera is looking to get right back to work and hopefully will be able to bring on additional staff.

"Maybe now there's an opportunity to hire new people," he said.

The shutdown didn't entirely stop business for retail nurseries, which have been fulfilling phone and online orders for plants and garden supplies through curbside pickup and delivery. The owner of Leafy, a nursery on Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto, said online revenue from deliveries of plants has helped keep his business afloat but not profitable.

Providing delivery services required the store to hire people to make those deliveries.

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"Those are all costs, and it's very time consuming," said Ken, who asked that his last name not be published.

With the new ease in restrictions, Ken said he wants to start offering curbside pickup. But he's erring on the side of caution when it comes to fully opening his doors of both of his storefronts in Palo Alto and San Jose.

His stores have limited space and won't accommodate customers at a 6-foot distance. And the current data for COVID-19 cases still aren't very reassuring, he said.

"I know some stores are opening up, but I just don't think the stats are telling me to open up," he said. "We're definitely more on the side of caution."

In any case, he doesn't think people will immediately be willing to go outside to shop as they've already been increasingly attuned to online shopping, even before the pandemic.

"I think people are still going to stay home and see how it goes instead of everyone just coming out and shopping," he said. "I don't think that's gonna happen for now."

Mark Pendleton, manager of Brookside Orchids in Portola Valley, said the store has continued operating its orchid boarding, the backbone of the business, and likewise relied on deliveries to keep revenue coming in.

While the boarding and deliveries have helped keep the business afloat, he still had to reduce workers' hours and pay.

"Many of us have landlords who don't take IOUs," he said.

Returning to walk-in trade will hopefully allow all staff to return to full-time work and wages, he said.

"And get back fully to what we do," he said.

"We'll be very glad — please put the emphasis on 'very' — to see our customers come back in," he said.

Realtors are also looking forward to better business under the revised order.

For the first two weeks of the shutdown, the entire market, including active listings and sold homes, dropped 40%, said Realtor Xin Jiang of Compass Realty, in Palo Alto. She didn't see any new listings during that time. Home prices also declined 20%, though the highest-value homes were not being put up for sale.

The market has slowly been opening up as people are gaining more confidence, Jiang said, and she expects the volume of available homes and activity at every level of the market will now increase.

Michael Repka, CEO, managing broker and general counsel for Palo Alto-based DeLeon Realty, said the revised order will give Realtors more latitude to get homes ready to show — a key component in sales.

"Normal preparation was held back," he said. Most homes require contractors and landscapers to build, repair, landscape or upgrade a residence. Neither type of business was allowed to work under the previous order.

"Now we can show all properties," he said. Before, agents could only take prospective buyers on a virtual tour of a property, unless no one was living in the home. The new rules allow agents to show occupied properties provided they follow certain protocols.

Repka also believes that people are feeling more hopeful about the pandemic. Before, they saw their world becoming increasingly constricted: the shelter order, a concern over food shortages, and the lack of a treatment or cure for COVID-19.

But good news on all of those fronts this week, from the lessening restrictions to protecting the food supply chain and news of possible treatments for the disease are all helping to increase optimism, he said.

"People are feeling there are more options. We're getting past this," he said. "I'm already hearing from buyers. It's going to have a very positive impact. Inventory will increase in a few weeks."

Businesses catering to outdoor activities are also exploring the possibility of launching at least parts of their operations. At Shoreline Lake Boathouse in Mountain View, where everything had closed down, the business is considering renting its paddle boats, which can be wiped down with disinfectant, and offering a selection of foods in picnic baskets for people to enjoy around the lake, spokesman Evan Berglund said.

The business is dependent on a decision by the city of Mountain View, which owns Shoreline Park, he said.

"Everything is vague right now and it will take until Monday to get things figured out," he said.

The new policy also permits use of shared outdoor spaces so long as people can maintain social distance.

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District preserves in San Mateo County will reopen on weekends starting May 9 and 10, spokeswoman Leigh Ann Gessner said. The county's public health officer, Scott Morrow, had previously asked the district to close the preserves on the weekends, she said.

Midpen's preserves span Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties and the district is closely following directives in all three.

"We have worked really hard to keep the public preserves open as much as possible. We are doing all we can to have needed physical and mental health outlets" for people, Gessner said.

Most parking lots at the preserves are open to the public, but there are some limitations. Rancho San Antonio has two lots that are closed to reduce the number of visitors and some loop trails have been made one way only to increase physical distance.

"We are definitely getting an uptick in visitation," she said, adding that it is creating some challenges as some people are new to the preserves and aren't familiar with trail etiquette.

Two popular preserves will continue to remain closed: Windy Hill will stay closed at the request of the town of Portola Valley and Teague Hill is also currently closed because its one short public trail ties in with adjacent Huddart County Park, which is closed. It will reopen when San Mateo County parks can welcome back visitors, Gessner said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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New order allows a few retailers, service businesses to get back to work

Business owners hopeful but wary about reopening while pandemic continues

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 30, 2020, 9:49 am

Owners and employees of Midpeninsula businesses that will be allowed to operate again under the modified shelter-at-home order that will take effect May 4 are expressing cautious optimism at the prospect of getting back to work.

Under the ordinance, "outdoor businesses" — such as plant nurseries and garden centers as well as service providers like landscapers and gardeners — plus construction firms and commercial real estate transactions can resume operations. All will need to abide by social-distancing and sanitation protocols that will keep customers and employees safe from the coronavirus, including requirements for face coverings and limits on the numbers of customers in a space at one time.

Israel Herrera, a gardener for his father's landscaping company in Mountain View for over 15 years, was surprised to hear the news Wednesday but said he's looking forward to starting to work again — and even to building the business.

Before the shelter-in-place order, Herrera said his company of five people was experiencing a labor shortage, citing expensive housing costs as one of the main factors it was hard to find people to hire. Oftentimes he couldn't take on as many clients as he wanted to due to being short staffed.

And the stay-at-home order didn't help. Since March, Herrera said most of the work came to halt.

"We're fortunate enough that some clients were willing to still pay us even though we weren't showing up," he said.

With the new ease of restrictions, Herrera is looking to get right back to work and hopefully will be able to bring on additional staff.

"Maybe now there's an opportunity to hire new people," he said.

The shutdown didn't entirely stop business for retail nurseries, which have been fulfilling phone and online orders for plants and garden supplies through curbside pickup and delivery. The owner of Leafy, a nursery on Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto, said online revenue from deliveries of plants has helped keep his business afloat but not profitable.

Providing delivery services required the store to hire people to make those deliveries.

"Those are all costs, and it's very time consuming," said Ken, who asked that his last name not be published.

With the new ease in restrictions, Ken said he wants to start offering curbside pickup. But he's erring on the side of caution when it comes to fully opening his doors of both of his storefronts in Palo Alto and San Jose.

His stores have limited space and won't accommodate customers at a 6-foot distance. And the current data for COVID-19 cases still aren't very reassuring, he said.

"I know some stores are opening up, but I just don't think the stats are telling me to open up," he said. "We're definitely more on the side of caution."

In any case, he doesn't think people will immediately be willing to go outside to shop as they've already been increasingly attuned to online shopping, even before the pandemic.

"I think people are still going to stay home and see how it goes instead of everyone just coming out and shopping," he said. "I don't think that's gonna happen for now."

Mark Pendleton, manager of Brookside Orchids in Portola Valley, said the store has continued operating its orchid boarding, the backbone of the business, and likewise relied on deliveries to keep revenue coming in.

While the boarding and deliveries have helped keep the business afloat, he still had to reduce workers' hours and pay.

"Many of us have landlords who don't take IOUs," he said.

Returning to walk-in trade will hopefully allow all staff to return to full-time work and wages, he said.

"And get back fully to what we do," he said.

"We'll be very glad — please put the emphasis on 'very' — to see our customers come back in," he said.

Realtors are also looking forward to better business under the revised order.

For the first two weeks of the shutdown, the entire market, including active listings and sold homes, dropped 40%, said Realtor Xin Jiang of Compass Realty, in Palo Alto. She didn't see any new listings during that time. Home prices also declined 20%, though the highest-value homes were not being put up for sale.

The market has slowly been opening up as people are gaining more confidence, Jiang said, and she expects the volume of available homes and activity at every level of the market will now increase.

Michael Repka, CEO, managing broker and general counsel for Palo Alto-based DeLeon Realty, said the revised order will give Realtors more latitude to get homes ready to show — a key component in sales.

"Normal preparation was held back," he said. Most homes require contractors and landscapers to build, repair, landscape or upgrade a residence. Neither type of business was allowed to work under the previous order.

"Now we can show all properties," he said. Before, agents could only take prospective buyers on a virtual tour of a property, unless no one was living in the home. The new rules allow agents to show occupied properties provided they follow certain protocols.

Repka also believes that people are feeling more hopeful about the pandemic. Before, they saw their world becoming increasingly constricted: the shelter order, a concern over food shortages, and the lack of a treatment or cure for COVID-19.

But good news on all of those fronts this week, from the lessening restrictions to protecting the food supply chain and news of possible treatments for the disease are all helping to increase optimism, he said.

"People are feeling there are more options. We're getting past this," he said. "I'm already hearing from buyers. It's going to have a very positive impact. Inventory will increase in a few weeks."

Businesses catering to outdoor activities are also exploring the possibility of launching at least parts of their operations. At Shoreline Lake Boathouse in Mountain View, where everything had closed down, the business is considering renting its paddle boats, which can be wiped down with disinfectant, and offering a selection of foods in picnic baskets for people to enjoy around the lake, spokesman Evan Berglund said.

The business is dependent on a decision by the city of Mountain View, which owns Shoreline Park, he said.

"Everything is vague right now and it will take until Monday to get things figured out," he said.

The new policy also permits use of shared outdoor spaces so long as people can maintain social distance.

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District preserves in San Mateo County will reopen on weekends starting May 9 and 10, spokeswoman Leigh Ann Gessner said. The county's public health officer, Scott Morrow, had previously asked the district to close the preserves on the weekends, she said.

Midpen's preserves span Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties and the district is closely following directives in all three.

"We have worked really hard to keep the public preserves open as much as possible. We are doing all we can to have needed physical and mental health outlets" for people, Gessner said.

Most parking lots at the preserves are open to the public, but there are some limitations. Rancho San Antonio has two lots that are closed to reduce the number of visitors and some loop trails have been made one way only to increase physical distance.

"We are definitely getting an uptick in visitation," she said, adding that it is creating some challenges as some people are new to the preserves and aren't familiar with trail etiquette.

Two popular preserves will continue to remain closed: Windy Hill will stay closed at the request of the town of Portola Valley and Teague Hill is also currently closed because its one short public trail ties in with adjacent Huddart County Park, which is closed. It will reopen when San Mateo County parks can welcome back visitors, Gessner said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

Onrosewood
Midtown
on Apr 30, 2020 at 1:03 pm
Onrosewood, Midtown
on Apr 30, 2020 at 1:03 pm

What the heck is orchid boarding?


Pam
Charleston Gardens
on Apr 30, 2020 at 1:13 pm
Pam, Charleston Gardens
on Apr 30, 2020 at 1:13 pm

Why the heck are BOTH of these folks in the photo NOT WEARING MASKS?????


nat
Midtown
on Apr 30, 2020 at 1:15 pm
nat, Midtown
on Apr 30, 2020 at 1:15 pm

What about dental offices? You don't mention the change there. I read parts of the new SC County order, and it includes "unlimited" use of health facilities including dentists, as of May 4. Up to now, dental offices have been closed.


captain o
Palo Verde
on Apr 30, 2020 at 1:32 pm
captain o, Palo Verde
on Apr 30, 2020 at 1:32 pm

"Why the heck are BOTH of these folks in the photo NOT WEARING MASKS?????"

Check the caption. The photo is from 2019.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2020 at 3:36 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2020 at 3:36 pm

Posted by captain o, a resident of Palo Verde

>> > "Why the heck are BOTH of these folks in the photo NOT WEARING MASKS?????"

>> Check the caption. The photo is from 2019.

Weekly: How about taking some photos with people who have clearly -temporarily- pulled their masks down for a photo so that people can recognize them, but, still have the masks on to pull up as soon as the picture is done? What else could we do to -normalize- wearing masks? Many people clearly feel that wearing a mask is either rude or undignified. We need to normalize it.


Kenny
University South
on Apr 30, 2020 at 5:52 pm
Kenny, University South
on Apr 30, 2020 at 5:52 pm

"What the heck is orchid boarding?"

Something for people with way too much money.


Resident
Crescent Park
on Apr 30, 2020 at 6:40 pm
Resident , Crescent Park
on Apr 30, 2020 at 6:40 pm

So if I am a 60+ senior requiring cleaning services in my home, and I can social distance from the cleaners/cleaning process, is this allowed on May 4? And if not, what stage is it allowed?


Wake up
Mountain View
on Apr 30, 2020 at 10:25 pm
Wake up, Mountain View
on Apr 30, 2020 at 10:25 pm

Normalize mask wearing. That is honestly the most frightening thing I have read in years.


musical
Palo Verde
on Apr 30, 2020 at 11:17 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Apr 30, 2020 at 11:17 pm

^ A new religious practice when outside the home. Or maybe not so new.


resident
Midtown
on May 1, 2020 at 1:03 am
resident, Midtown
on May 1, 2020 at 1:03 am

From CDPH: resuming our existing health care system for non-emergent and non-COVID-19 health care, which has been deferred during this time. ...... Whenever appropriate for patient and condition, visits should maximize the use of telehealth/telephonic modality.
With caution medical,dental,optometry can open for non-emergent - hope everyone stays safe


Midpenisula Priorities
Community Center
on May 1, 2020 at 10:07 am
Midpenisula Priorities, Community Center
on May 1, 2020 at 10:07 am

> "What the heck is orchid boarding?"

^^^ During the winter months, many orchid aficionados have their prized & exotic orchids housed at this Portola Valley greenhouse to protect the plants from seasonal cold weather & potential frost.

[Portion removed.]


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2020 at 12:59 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2020 at 12:59 pm

Posted by Wake up, a resident of Mountain View

>> Normalize mask wearing. That is honestly the most frightening thing I have read in years.

Newcomers from Japan, China and Korea have been wearing masks here outdoors/when in large crowds/whenever they have a respiratory illness, or, fear to acquire one during flu season, or, to guard against air pollution. Plenty of people here wear masks during bad air quality periods when smoke from wildfires is bad. I expect to frequently be wearing a mask under the same circumstances myself from here on. Get used to it.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2020 at 1:32 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2020 at 1:32 pm

No, I don't think we should think of normalize the wearing of masks. Don't get me wrong, I see the reason now, I see the reason when we have had smoke, but those are abnormal situations and should in no way become the norm.

Social behavior involves reading facial expressions. Is someone smiling? Is someone angry? Is someone joking? Is someone being friendly? Is someone upset? Is someone threatening? Is someone scared? All these things are important when we interact with someone, a person we pass by on the street, a customer we are serving in a store, or the person serving us. Misreading a comment is easily done when a facial expression can't be seen. As with making eye contact, it sends the message to those we are interacting with. I have worn a mask into a bank in the past month, I feel sure if I had done the same thing a year ago, the bank teller would have pushed an alarm button.

Masks being worn in public look intimidating and justly so.

On another side, they are not designed for activities that involve heavy breathing, exercising or those who work having to use muscle power. Getting plenty of air into the lungs is very necessary for healthy cardio activities. Breathing in the carbon dioxide you have just breathed out is not a good idea for prolonged periods of time.

On yet another side, most masks are not designed for those who wear glasses, the glasses fog up, and they are not comfortable on the ears, the back of the head or the bridge of the nose. They can also cause chaffing on the cheeks, the chin and wherever the elastic touches.

Yes, wearing the masks now will be required. But they should never be considered a normal thing to do.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2020 at 1:35 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2020 at 1:35 pm

Furthermore to my last comment above. Masks are particularly difficult for the deaf community. Deaf people need to see people's faces and in particular their mouths to lip read. Wearing a mask could be limiting how the deaf can take part in normal life.


Reader
another community
on May 2, 2020 at 12:08 pm
Reader, another community
on May 2, 2020 at 12:08 pm

^ Lipreading is grossly overrated. Still, you have a good point.

But the main problem with masks is that they muffle and distort the clarity of a speaker’s voice. As a result, your speech can be unintelligible to a deaf person when you wear a mask.


parent
Downtown North
on May 2, 2020 at 1:25 pm
parent, Downtown North
on May 2, 2020 at 1:25 pm

We are for normalizing masks at least until an effective COVID-19 vaccine is easily available.


musical
Palo Verde
on May 2, 2020 at 10:34 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on May 2, 2020 at 10:34 pm

Sadly normalizing a world without smiles.


parent
Downtown North
on May 4, 2020 at 9:57 am
parent, Downtown North
on May 4, 2020 at 9:57 am

Better to be masked and healthy than spreading the virus through your smiles.


parent
Downtown North
on May 4, 2020 at 9:59 am
parent, Downtown North
on May 4, 2020 at 9:59 am

Even Mike Pence is saying everyone should be wearing masks


Hold da Mayo
Downtown North
on May 4, 2020 at 10:51 am
Hold da Mayo, Downtown North
on May 4, 2020 at 10:51 am
Joaquin
another community
on May 4, 2020 at 11:12 am
Joaquin, another community
on May 4, 2020 at 11:12 am
annoying cell alerts for non-emergency
Midtown
on May 4, 2020 at 11:27 am
annoying cell alerts for non-emergency, Midtown
on May 4, 2020 at 11:27 am

It's probably just me but I find the Santa Clara county's use
(misuse/abuse) of the emergency alert systems to inform (informational)
stay-at-home order extension is very annoying and an abuse of the
emergency system. It endangers people, especially in Bay Area,
who will probably start tuning these fake emergency alerts, and miss
the one for earthquake.
Is stay-at-home order an emergency alert, interrupting work-from-home
and other activities?


Wake up
Mountain View
on May 4, 2020 at 11:29 am
Wake up, Mountain View
on May 4, 2020 at 11:29 am

It is another way to instill a sense of fear and unease.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2020 at 11:45 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2020 at 11:45 am

@Annoying cell phone alerts for non-emergency,

Hear Hear


asksolutions01
Charleston Gardens
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:39 pm
asksolutions01, Charleston Gardens
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:39 pm

A swamp cooler utilizes moisture to cool air. A swamp cooler is called an evaporative air conditioner, which works by taking warm outside air through wet evaporative cool pads, productively cooling the air. The cold air is blown into a home through a vent. How Does a Swamp Cooler Work. Web Link


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