Town Square

Council supports new rules for outdoor dining spaces

Original post made on May 10, 2022

Parklets and car-free boulevards will remain a fixture of Palo Alto dining for the foreseeable future, though these areas will undergo a significant transformation in the coming months under rules that City Council endorsed Monday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 10, 2022, 9:52 AM


Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 10, 2022 at 10:52 am

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Outdoor dining is a no brainer in California. I'm still trying to understand why University was opened back up to traffic, given how much more lively and vibrant it was without cars and car storage.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2022 at 12:52 pm

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This sounds like a very expensive process for most small restaurants. Those that can afford to upgrade will do so, those who can't will suffer and possibly lose customers as a result which may cause their ultimate demise.

The shanty town look all over the Peninsula of dining streets, shows that this is not just a Palo Alto issue. Better design and a uniform look will undoubtedly be more attractive, but causing expensive upgrades is not sustainable for many of our favorites.

Posted by Carla
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 10, 2022 at 1:37 pm

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Operating a parklet outside is the similar in cost (or even less costly) as operating indoors. Why should we not expect restaurants to pay for that option, now that the indoors can be used.

It is not unreasonable to immediately 1) get rid of the dangerous and ugly plastic huts in lieu of large umbrellas 2) get rid of polluting propane heaters in lieu of blankets or nothing at all 3) pay a small fee to use a public space.

As Pat Burt said, our goal should be to dine "al fresco", which to me means not dining in a hut of any sort.

Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on May 10, 2022 at 4:25 pm

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@Carla, "to dine al fresco'" with no heat or shelter means "to freeze 'al fresco'" in many months of the year. That would drive away the intended customers and defeat the purpose of parklets altogether. Perhaps our Silicon Valley ingenuity can investigate a cleaner, greener outdoor heat source, but in the meantime we can indulge this imperfect solution.

Posted by tmp
a resident of Downtown North
on May 10, 2022 at 5:54 pm

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Those plastic huts are ugly and allowing them on public property is ridiculous. If restaurants want more space they should move to a bigger building. If they want outside space - rent that also. If we rent city space to them, it should be at market rates and no ugly tents should be allowed. When it is cold - eat inside if you want to go out for food. Or do the right thing for the environment and make and eat your food at home.

Posted by John Hackmann
a resident of Professorville
on May 10, 2022 at 8:11 pm

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Hard to take City Council majority seriously!!!?. On climate change and global warming and “ electrification” ( which basically is expensively and inefficiently moving fossil fuel consumption from reasonable and efficiently cooking dinner, keeping kids and elders and all warm, and with hot water for bathing, to INEFFICIENTLY moving to distant use of fossil to generate electricity and then loss much of the energy in hundreds or even thousands in some cases of TRANSMISSION LOSS) Since we are “heating the atmosphere” outdoors with unlimited propane! In 100-300 outdoor TOWERS OF FLAMES at fifty locations ....
I support all reasonable climate change policies, heating the atmosphere! and “electrification” are certainly not reasonable, cost effective, or helpful.
And not done with a CEQA review so far as I know.
Perhaps the new Stanford Sustainability School can help us here.

Posted by Carla
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 10, 2022 at 9:05 pm

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If you insist on eating outside while it's freezing, there are better solutions that even electric heaters above your head that waste away energy.

In the mountains in Spain (at restaurants), they use tiny heaters under the tables with long tablecloths to prevent the heat from escaping. In addition, you get blankets and everyone wears warm clothes.

We don't need much in terms of innovation to stop the wasteful, polluting, and indulgent imperfect solutions. We just need to copy what others are doing already.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 10, 2022 at 9:24 pm

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"We have yet to see a lot of compliance with our letters and requests to come into compliance," Tanner said.

This, sadly, is a takeaway message from this story. Palo Alto has earned a reputation for not enforcing its ordinances. As a result, they are not taken seriously.

Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on May 10, 2022 at 10:21 pm

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Carla, having lived in both Spain and Germany, I agree with you!

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2022 at 11:32 am

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The city doesn't read blogs and posts here. They don't read social media. (Do we want to pay them for the time it takes to read all of this crap? No. We do not.) They read letters you send to THEM. If you have a useful suggestion, send it to THEM. They have the power to make change. They are interested in your ideas.

Cut-and-paste your comments from these posts into an email and send it to [email protected] . Also, copy [email protected]

Thanks for being an active, helpful citizen. Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Posted by hkatrs
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 11, 2022 at 8:41 pm

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I hope the City of Palo Alto Council Members, City Manager and the Building Department seizes this opportunity, to work with all the commercial building owners to ‘help’ them resolve electrical upgrades and hvac needs that will plaque them when they will have to close down their outdoor dining in the parklets. Too many structures in most CA cities, including Palo Alto, do not meet code for electrical efficiency, and filtered clean air (ie with hepa-filters, which have been available for implementation in commercial and residential spaces for thirty years). $50,000 to upgrade an electrical panel will become more of an issue and more expensive. How will the City address business needs and building owners costs in order to keep profits rolling in for every bucket that wants a share?

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2022 at 12:30 pm

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There's a management problem that needs solving. We knew that before the audit.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 12, 2022 at 1:53 pm

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"Council members ultimately decided that property owners should not have the power to determine how public space in front of their properties will be used." You can't have it both ways. You can't deny private owners the right to determine how public property should be used. You also can't deny the public the right to demand that public property shouldn't be used AS PRIVATE PROPERTY, in the form of a restaurant that has made the street impassable to cars. My taxes paid for the street. Unless the City is planning on refunding all of the taxes that were paid to develop the street for the public's use, and making the parklet owners pay it retroactively, they will be stepping over a lot of toes. There was an article in this publication about a vexatious litigant who writes too many ADA petitions. But there's a lot of people who live in this city, who used to be able to freely pass on that street in their cars, and park in ADA-marked parking spaces, who have never filed a ADA lawsuit. So ... I've said this before, the City is courting an ADA lawsuit if they continue to violate the Unruh Act. And it will not be thrown out.

Posted by Another Bob
a resident of Community Center
on May 16, 2022 at 12:32 pm

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Eating in a tent is not eating outside.