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Guest Opinion: Open streets to save Palo Alto

Original post made on Jul 9, 2020

There is no V-shaped recovery. As we've seen in states with low cases and rapid opening, people only gradually return to in-person spending. If as a community we don't rapidly act to help retailers survive, they will not.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, July 9, 2020, 2:07 PM

Comments (20)

31 people like this
Posted by Richard
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 9, 2020 at 2:31 pm

Why extend just through year-end? Wouldn’t it be great to keep the program around indefinitely?

20 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 9, 2020 at 3:10 pm

With COVID surging again, I agree that we need to make longer term plans to help keep small businesses open and their workers employed. More open streets is the least that we can do.

23 people like this
Posted by Montgomery Burns
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2020 at 3:54 pm

Stop giving public property to wealthy commercial landlords. Restaurateurs do not own the property their restaurants occupy... they RENT it!

Several years ago two lanes of public property also known as California Ave were converted into sidewalk. As soon as the restaurateurs made plans to expanded seating onto the sidewalks, their landlords hit them with huge rent increases.

The operators of the Cal Ave Farmer's Market PAY the city to use the street (public property) every Sunday. The handful of landlords that own all of the commercial property along California Avenue rent out the sidewalks to restaurateurs but pay nothing for the use of this public property.

Everything involving land-use in Palo Alto is a real-estate scam.

Ross Mayfield's wikipedia: Web Link

10 people like this
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 9, 2020 at 10:23 pm

No thanks.

12 people like this
Posted by Zee Kay
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 10, 2020 at 12:01 am

It’s so nice to stroll on the vibrant streets of Cal Ave and Univ Ave. Good job of closing the streets and yes making it permanent is the best solution to save our retail.

2 people like this
Posted by On the move
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 10, 2020 at 12:41 am

I wasn’t prepared for MP’s street closures. Because many streets don’t cross Santa Cruz directly but a little offset, getting through town from one place to another was like weaving a tapestry. Some cross streets are set to only 1-way, so you have to go around a block or two to get where you want. I’m more likely to avoid the area than spend money there.

11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2020 at 7:12 am

There is a new ambience to dining outside, to walk to the restaurant and see all the people outside dining and if I have the imagination, it is like being on a Paris sidewalk cafe, people watching and being there to be seen. Hopefull we can do this forever - or at least until the rains start.

11 people like this
Posted by Carolyn
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 10, 2020 at 8:23 am

Close them both forever! My family loves it. We are on Cal Ave almost every night walking and shopping together. What a revelation, the Europeans certainly know how awesome it is and I am glad we are FINALLY putting community (and economy) over cars.

What we also need is safe biking routes and a lot more bike parking along University and Cal Ave. I have to usually lock my bike to a tree when I ride downtown for dinner because all the bike parking is mobbed.

1 person likes this
Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 10, 2020 at 8:55 am

I would help with traffic and parking if part of Hamilton (downtown in front of City Hall) wasn't closed to traffic, too. Coming from El Camino, it's very hard to navigate a detour that then has another detour. There needs to be actual planning for this to work.

5 people like this
Posted by Davina Floriano
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2020 at 9:10 am

Insane yet unsurprising that the Palo Alto City Council still priorities storing cars for $0 rather than allowing retailers to use that space to make money. This is the same car-obsessed city council that opted to spend $150,000 PER new car parking space (which will also be given away for $0 to store cars) in the form of a new car parking structure in the California Avenue area. I don’t understand what the end goal of all this car promotion is. More car traffic? I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what Palo Alto residents DON’T want more of.

7 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 10, 2020 at 9:13 am

One thing you can say about MP is that it has a parking lot that extends the length of Santa Cruz business district, plus more parking on the other side. We do not have that luxury. What is happening now is that traffic and parking is extending into residential districts. Our residential district comes right up to the main corridor.
That is poor planning on our part to drive traffic through residential areas throughout the city.
I do not see any mention of street painting on SU campus. I am sure that they have security cameras and re checking any non-approved activity. I know we have cameras and who ever is watching just sat there and did nothing.

Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 10, 2020 at 9:15 am

I’ve never heard of this guy or any of his companies although I noted his social media handle is @(first name) and he’s the 57th person on Linked In.
Is he running for Council or School Board?

13 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2020 at 9:40 am

Ross Mayfield makes a number of good observations, but, beware that good intentions are not enough. If you want to save restaurants and other small businesses, you *can't* make it a permanent part of the property value, otherwise, you get this:

>> As soon as the restaurateurs made plans to expanded seating onto the sidewalks, their landlords hit them with huge rent increases.

The goal is to save small businesses and help their employees, not -grant- an unearned benefit to landlords and property owners, which is what will happen if you unthinkingly make this "permanent". It actually will require a lot of subtlety to make sure small business owners and employees benefit. They may end up being harmed.

19 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 10, 2020 at 10:26 am

What is Palo Alto and Menlo Park doing about the unsustainable rents charged by landlords? In Menlo Park, the poor PetPlace (in business for 28 years) was paying $15,000 for a single-wide storefront, Oriental Carpet was paying $25,000 a month and Village Stationers $20,000 for double-wides. They've now closed/are closing along with Sole Desire etc etc.

Pre-covid, the PetPlace had to close several different times while its landlord delayed fixing leaks from upstairs that damaged stock etc. The city could/would do nothing because "Private Property blah blah..."

Pre-covid, the owner of a largish nail salon was repeatedly harassed because the landlord wanted them out because office space is more profitable. They too are closing/

When is enough landlord greed enough?

So long as our "leaders" keep pushing for more profitable offices and hotels, we're going to see the demise of all resident-serving businesses and downtowns.

11 people like this
Posted by Interesting article
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2020 at 1:30 pm

Mr. Mayfield is not currently running for Council. I checked. Let's be little nicer to each other, please.

I think he presents some thoughtful comments. I like the open streets. I agree with the person who posted above that much more bike parking is needed between the parklets. I bike to downtown from south Palo Alto (it takes me about 19-21 minutes--the same amount of time it took to drive there pre-Covid, depending on the day. I ride lovely flat, shady and quiet Bryant bike boulevard, a VERY nice ride.).

However, when I get there, I frequently have trouble finding a convenient place to lock my bike up safely. This is less of a problem when I drive. Please fix this. I prefer to bike there. We have a shortage of bike parking throughout the city--at parks, shopping centers, restaurants-libraries, community centers, especially in south PA. It's pretty frustrating...and Comp Plan policies direct staff to address this. Please do so.

I would like the city city to stop spending many tens of millions on building structured, free auto parking. Bike racks are WAY less expensive.

Before people pile on about how hard it is to bike, I am a senior with arthritis and a bad hip. It's just not that hard.

7 people like this
Posted by JC
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 10, 2020 at 1:32 pm

Eating on the street is not going to be very popular come late fall through early spring!

3 people like this
Posted by Paul Roberts
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 10, 2020 at 1:51 pm

Boycott all Palo Alto restaurants! Palo Alto has a mural with a cop killer glorified. Until the city corrects that situation, I am encouraging everyone I know not to eat at a Palo Alto restaurant!!!

3 people like this
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 12, 2020 at 12:11 pm

Under normal conditions in Palo Alto, residents comprise less than 30% of downtown foot traffic. The retail economic engine fails without workers in offices.

So it's great that The City is supporting our restaurants, but there is also the important challenge of how to safely return office workers to their offices - as part of helping local merchants.

Like this comment
Posted by Deb
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 14, 2020 at 11:30 am

Excellent article! I couldn't agree more. Fifty years ago, as a young child, I thought University should be closed to cars. Besides the obvious relief it provides to present economic stress, Down Town Palo Alto has always been painfully ugly; really dreadful. In my perfect world, Hamilton and Lytton would be one ways and University closed. Pleased as punch that a few other residents are now getting on board with this idea.

2 people like this
Posted by Restaurants should be paying rent to the CITY, not their landlord, for for sidewalk space.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2020 at 3:31 pm

Restaurants should be paying rent to the CITY, not their landlord, for for sidewalk space. is a registered user.

Restaurants should pay the CITY, not their landlord for use of sidewalk space. That could be a nice revenue source, funding better street amenities, like parking guidance systems, bike racks, better street furniture and landscaping. Let's get on it, Council and city staff. Public space is owned by the taxpayers. That money is OURS.

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