News

More outdoor dining likely for Menlo Park

 

By Jason McCormick

Special to the Almanac

More outdoor dining may pop up along downtown Santa Cruz Avenue this summer. The Menlo Park City Council on June 2 voted 5-0 to invest $253,000 from the capital improvement fund to create up to seven more "street cafes" like the one currently outside Left Bank.

Mario Vega -- the president of Vine Dining Enterprises Inc., the owner of both Left Bank and LB Steak -- told the council that his businesses love the project.

"We've had the pilot program at Left Bank for about a year and it's fantastic," said Mario Vega. "People love it."

Between June 12 and July 12, any downtown business may apply for a two-year lease of "street cafe" space ranging in size from 310 to 510 square feet. The city will cover 70 percent to 75 percent of the tab, up to $30,000, for construction. The business owner will cover the rest of the cost with either a one-time payment or via installments.

"Frankly, I don't have a problem with the cost-sharing," said Councilman Ray Mueller. "I look back at how much money we invested in a sprinkler system for hanging baskets of flowers. For that project, we got flowers. For this project, we get people outside: We get community."

In addition to approving a cost-sharing plan, the council selected designs created by Berkeley-based Ian Moore Design Inc. that use cement-based barriers and planters for safety and aesthetics.

"Because downtown has both parallel and angled parking configurations, it was necessary for Ian Moore Design to design two prototypes that could easily be adapted to specific locations," said Amanda Wallace, an economic development specialist with the city of Menlo Park.

"Utilizing feedback from the city council's meeting in January, IMD came up with two designs -- a base design and an enhanced design. Each of them features a concrete-slab deck over a plastic sheath, creating (a) semi-permanent and easily removable installation," she said.

Left Bank's owner noted that his restaurant group would like the ability to integrate its own designer or architect to incorporate custom design for a "street cafe."

The council also commented on the extent of design regulation.

"I don't think that there should be design guidelines," Mr. Mueller said. "I do think that there should be a baseline for safety. Then, we should let the market drive what that property owner thinks is going to bring people to its business."

Mayor Catherine Carlton, too, favored allowing more options. "The base design is cost-effective; and the enhanced design is beautiful," she said. "If someone wants to spend an extra $40,000 to make it look even prettier, I'd be OK with that, too."

The cafes will replace parallel and angled parking spaces downtown. The maximum number of parking spaces that may be replaced has not yet been decided, according to Public Works Director Jesse Quirion.

"As we get a feel for how many businesses are interested in the seating project and we get our parking consultant on board for the parking time changes requested by council, we should have a more definitive answer," he said, referring to the council's request to extend time limits on certain parking spaces downtown.

Should a business decide not to renew the lease, the space would revert to public space, the staff report said.

The council is expected to review the program after a year, and decide whether to further expand the number of outdoor dining sites.

Staff writer Sandy Brundage contributed to this report.

Comments

10 people like this
Posted by AME
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Sure, who wouldn't want to sit in the road with a dog and watch the cars come by....what a joke....There's a right way and the Menlo Park way..lots of luck...


6 people like this
Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:40 pm

I see sidewalk eating at Left Bank and Flea Street and Bistro Vida, with patronage. I think safety from vehicles accidentally driving up onto the sidewalk on Santa Cruz would have to include barriers at the curb edge.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Great program - good for the customers and good for the restuarants. Thanks.

For years Angelo Mia has spent its own money and time to create a mini cafe and this will now allow them to do it better and with city approval.


14 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Outdoor dining is a wonderful and inexpensive way to enhance our downtown, attract more people, and distinguish Menlo Park from nearby destinations. Look how well it works at Cafe Barrone and Town & Country. Plus, Palo Alto cannot easily do it. Those who do not wish to dine in the street can go elsewhere; I believe plenty will love it if it is attractive. Hopefully, someday the city will place the dining spaces on wider sidewalks but this is a great interim experiment/solution. Great decision,, City Council.


15 people like this
Posted by Lesley
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 7:01 pm

If Santa Cruz Avenue's sidewalks become any more congested, pedestrians will be forced to walk on the road. Santa Cruz already doesn't enough parking, what happens when it loses more spaces? For me, if I can't pull up near a shop to make a quick purchase, I'll just keep driving to the mall.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 7:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" For me, if I can't pull up near a shop to make a quick purchase, I'll just keep driving to the mall."

And then you will need to walk five times as far as if you had parked in one of the many Menlo Park lots - doesn't seem very smart.


8 people like this
Posted by Lesley
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 7:39 pm

peter C: A real plus about parking at the mall is that there are plenty of spaces. I've never had to walk far to get to the store of my choice, nor have I had to drive in circles to find a space. But if you want to inhale exhaust fumes while you eat, please do.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I've never had to walk far to get to the store of my choice,"

I find that very hard o believe given that there are no legal curbside parking spaces at the mall.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Please be respectful and truthful in your postings"


15 people like this
Posted by Cam
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:19 am

Downtown Menlo Park is a joke compared to its neighbors Palo Alto, Redwood City or San Carlos. It doesn't even have a pub or dedicated bar. It's full of second hand clothes shops and dingy cafes and restaurants fit to take grandma but bland. It's also full of vacant shopfronts signifying it's tough to so do business here. I'm only here for schools for my kids and proximity to work. it pains me there's nothing good to eat or drink here.


7 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 10, 2015 at 8:34 am

really? is a registered user.

So here's the bigger picture of urbanization in the Bay Area and world as a whole (if it needs re-stating):

More density in town centers to make more car-free options possible or at least very short trips the norm,

More attractive street life is part of this strategy,

Consolidation of shopping franchises means that no matter where you go, it will always be the same offerings of shops and restaurants. As sad as this is from a variety and cultural point of view, it certainly means that there is really no good reason to drive to Santana Row, Walnut Creek, Emeryville, etc. This means that when Lesley goes to the Mall, their habits should now preclude going anywhere further since it's all the same anyway.

So lets ensure full congestion on El Camino and 101, which will make a stroll down your local street a better option, and then shops and restaurants will be supported and evolve into something better.

Or just go out and support them now!


6 people like this
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Cam,

The Refuge is a downtown "pub" and theter are several restaurants with nice bars.

How many empty storefronts have you counted on Santa Cruz Avenue recently? ( I bet very few)

There are several fine restaurants downtown, e.g., Left Bank, BFD, LB Steak and one with rooftop dining will open in

The old British Bankers Club at year end. But perhaps you will not like any of them.

I personally do not want Menlo Park to become like Palo Alto, Redwood City nor the Stanford Shopping Center.

And it does not have to to become more enjoyable. The City Council is experimenting. Why not support their efforts???

Outdoor dining will attract many more people downtown and that makes it more appealing to new businesses.






8 people like this
Posted by Myrna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 10:17 pm

Bad idea. There simply is not enough room on the sidewalks for outdoor seating. It's really difficult to navigate the sidewalks walking past Left Bank, Bistro Vida, and the Middle Eastern restaurant that starts with a G. I don't know how a handicapped person in a wheel chair can make it through the gauntlet of tables, chairs, sandwich board advertising sign, outdoor umbrellas - sometimes right in the middle of the sidewalk, etc. Pedestrian maneuverability and safety do not seem to be important to the powers that be at city hall.

Spruce up downtown Santa Santa Cruz, close it to traffic and turn it in to a pedestrian zone with outdoor cafe seating in the middle of the road. Build parking structures on the side streets. Downtown Menlo could be great...


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 11, 2015 at 6:51 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Spruce up downtown Santa Santa Cruz, close it to traffic and turn it in to a pedestrian zone with outdoor cafe seating in the middle of the road"

Great idea but first the City has to see if smaller experiment can begin to generate more customers - the current experiment in an essential first step for any alternative.


Like this comment
Posted by what plan?
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 11, 2015 at 8:53 am

This trial is a good start to revitalizing downtown. I find it ironic, however, that this idea was not part of the multi-million Downtown Specific Plan. Now people are also talking about closing Santa Cruz for an even better downtown (I favor it). That WAS discussed and discarded during the Plan's creation, though. So did we taxpayers fund a very expensive Plan that is now being ignored in favor of the latest ideas of a few? Think about it.

It's also very sad and alarming that other improvements touted in the Plan are not part of the City's budget and plans. With developer projects on the largest properties coming forward soon, there are no city plans for the improvements and how to pay for them. Taxpayers lose again.


7 people like this
Posted by Incorrect Information
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 11, 2015 at 9:40 am

"what plan?" from Allied Arts is wrong. The outdoor seating pilot has been made possible by the Specific Plan. That's why it is able to proceed without any zoning amendments or new studies.




2 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2015 at 10:00 am

Good for Menlo Park in exploring this.

A similar program has worked quite well for downtown Mountain View.


7 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 11, 2015 at 10:06 am

really? is a registered user.

MV Resident:

Thanks for pointing out the blatently obvious that MP seems to miss. Which is why a Friday night out on Castro street is far preferable to anything on offer in Menlo Park.


9 people like this
Posted by Bob McGrew
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 11, 2015 at 11:41 am

This is a great idea - letting restaurants expand seating onto the outdoor space has worked really well in Mountain View, and Menlo Park desperately needs some new ways to help our downtown become more vibrant.

The big win will be putting apartments or offices above the restaurants so we can get more foot traffic downtown like every other downtown in the Peninsula.


Like this comment
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 11, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Myrna: The experimental outdoor dining areas will LOT be on existing sidewalks - see the current one at the Left Bank. They are in the street. More permanent dining areas would require wider sidewalks - also a great way to make Santa Cruz more people friendly.


Like this comment
Posted by what plan?
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 11, 2015 at 3:11 pm

@ incorrect information - where in the Specific Plan were these outdoor dining areas described? What page number, please? I may have missed it, but I recall no such illustrations or text to that effect.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 11, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Try page A-11:

"Santa Cruz Avenue Sidewalks
The Specific Plan calls for improving the pedestrian
realm on Santa Cruz Avenue, increasing street activity
and enhancing the image of downtown by widening
sidewalks, providing ample space for informal gathering,
sitting and outdoor dining and introducing new streetscape
improvements. The plan establishes sidewalk functional
zones, ensuring a pedestrian clear zone and more pleasant
and functional sidewalks. It redistributes the right-of-way
between traffic lanes, on-street parking and sidewalks in
order to focus on an enhanced pedestrian experience while
still accommodating vehicular circulation and on-street
parking."


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 11, 2015 at 4:40 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And "Sidewalk improvements on Santa Cruz Avenue should
include the following:
D.2.13 Optimize flexibility and space for outdoor seating."


5 people like this
Posted by Dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 12, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Peter, thanks for pointing out - again and again - the misinformation that opponents of ideas for improving Menlo Park present in the Townsquare and for clearly presenting facts and your sources. I note that opponents seldom provide facts and rarely acknowledge their mistakes. Hmmm. I have seen this pattern many times before and am sure this obvious spreading of misinformation does not sit well with the majority of residents who want to become better informed.


Like this comment
Posted by what plan?
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 12, 2015 at 3:58 pm

@ DH I also like the ideas of allowing more outdoor dining. I also like the idea of closing off Santa Cruz. Please don't lump my comments with those of opponents of those ideas.
Thanks to PC for providing reference. I do not read the Plan text the way Peter does, however. It speaks about improving sidewalks, not about taking away parking and putting dining in the street where the parking was. It speaks of preserving on-street parking.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 12, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I do not read the Plan text the way Peter does, however."

What is not clear about "providing ample space for informal gathering,
sitting and outdoor dining" and ""Sidewalk improvements on Santa Cruz Avenue should
include the following:
D.2.13 Optimize flexibility and space for outdoor seating."??

Did you even read the Specific Plan before you posted "@ incorrect information - where in the Specific Plan were these outdoor dining areas described?


Like this comment
Posted by Dave Thompson
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:41 pm

I think it is great that there are going to be more options for eating outside at the park now. For the longest time it has only been that one lone street cafe. Can't wait till the out door eating spaces are done, so I can get out to the park more, and get lunch on a great day. Thanks for the awesome post. Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Alaska?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 23, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Dave Thompson: Your web link directs to a restaurant in Juneau Alaska.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 24, 2015 at 2:22 pm

After researching the experiences of other cities that have completely closed their downtowns to traffic with bad results I think we should NOT go down this path. Retailers need motorists to drive by even if it's simply to remind them they should park somewhere and shop. The sidewalks in MP can be widened a great deal to support dining and many other amenities and vehicle traffic kept to a maximum of 15 mph. (See my article about pedestrian-friendly main streets at Web Link) We should do this for at least between Doyle and Crane for a start. But first we will need more parking to replace whatever is removed from Santa Cruz. That's the biggest obstacle.


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

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