The city of Palo Alto is seeking community feedback on the Summer Streets program it launched in June to support local businesses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the community can attend a teleconference through Zoom today, Aug. 4, at 5:30 p.m. to share comments on the program. They can also fill out an online survey here.
The Summer Streets program is a temporary measure to support outdoor dining and retail services as business operations continue to be limited by state and local shelter-in-place orders.
Through the program, the city prohibited traffic on California Avenue and University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto to allow businesses in these two major thoroughfares to offer outdoor dining and shopping. The streets are only open to pedestrians and cyclists.
The street closure of California Avenue, from El Camino Real to Birch Street, began June 11 and is set to end on Sept. 7. The daily closure of University Avenue, from Cowper Street to High Street, began on July 3 and was recently extended to Aug. 16. Based on feedback from the community, the City Council will decide on Monday, Aug. 10, whether to extend those dates of the program to Dec. 31.
The council also will decide whether to extend the expiration date of the temporary parklet program to Sept. 7, 2021, which allows business owners to turn parking spaces outside their business into a more formal seating area.
"We've held two community check-in meetings so far as an informal way to share updates and gain community input on the program," Meghan Horrigan-Taylor, the city's chief communications officer, said in an email. "This is one approach of many to gain input including engaging the community through an online survey, receiving regular email communications from community members and hearing from the community via social media as well.
The program has been met with overwhelming support from local residents and business owners. One University Avenue restaurant reported a 400% increase in revenue when the city closed the street during a test run on June 26-28, according to an independent survey conducted by Ross Mayfield, co-founder of Frontline Foods' Silicon Valley chapter.
Not all business owners have been satisfied by the program. In a new survey by Mayfield released July 21, results showed that while businesses on the major streets do largely benefit from the street closures, some businesses on side streets near California and University avenues reported declined activity.
"This is not a zero-sum game," Mayfield wrote. "Some side street restaurants perceive a decline relative to closed street restaurants, especially ones who have not expanded outdoor seating."
The city has already tried to adjust the program based on the feedback from the community and business owners. According to Horrigan-Taylor, there's a "partial closure" of Ramona Street on University Avenue — by Pizza My Heart and Edge Hair Salon — as of this Friday based on input from businesses.
"Depending on the business focus and details such as business locations, staff has worked creatively to provide businesses an opportunity to reopen as soon as the County’s health orders allow," Horrigan-Taylor said. "Some of the positive outcomes have been businesses helping businesses, and an example of that are Cal Ave. restaurants working closely with fitness owners to have classes offered during non-restaurant hours and Ramona businesses working together to participate in the partial closure to bring more visitors to downtown."
To attend today's community check-in meeting, go to zoom.us and enter the meeting ID: 99536028186. You can also call in by phone at 669-900-6833.