Tonight: Menlo Park may OK new 'mini-park' cafes spaces downtown


The Menlo Park City Council could vote Tuesday, May 24, to move forward with plans to create street cafe spaces on Santa Cruz Avenue.

The spaces would be considered "parklets," or mini outdoor spaces that would occupy the parking spots of participating businesses along Santa Cruz Avenue.

To convert the parking spaces to mini-parks, the city would pay most of the cost to install platforms and place concrete planter boxes around the perimeter of the platforms. Each would be disability-accessible.

Participating businesses would provide all of the furnishings of the space, such as tables and chairs, and would be responsible for creating a "unique" setting compared with the other street cafe spaces, according to city staff. Custom features, such as wood panels, paint, plants, lighting and furniture, would be paid for by the business.

The project started in May 2014 as a pilot at Left Bank. In January 2015, the council gave directions for the program to be expanded.

Between June and July 2015, six restaurants – Left Bank, Bistro Vida, Mademoiselle Colette, LB Steak, Angelo Mio and Galata Bistro – and one other business – Harvest Furniture – on Santa Cruz Avenue applied to participate.

In previous meetings, two options for cost-sharing between the city and private businesses were approved. If the business pays costs upfront, then the city could cover 70 percent of costs at angled parking spaces and 75 percent for parallel parking spots. If the business were to pay costs over a two-year period, then the city could pay 60 percent to convert angled parking spots and 70 percent for parallel spots, setting $30,000 as the maximum the city would pay for each site.

After detailed drawings for each of the street cafes were completed and cost estimates gathered, estimated costs could be too high for some businesses, even with city's help. For instance, the projected costs for LB Steak and Left Bank were about $64,000.

City staff plan to ask council members if they'll consider increasing the city's maximum contribution by $10,000 or $15,000 per business. Providing more funding to the businesses, the staff report says, will enable more small businesses to participate.

If the council approves the project, construction could begin as soon as July.

In any case, according to the staff report, the city would have to pay the upfront construction costs, estimated to be $524,000 for all seven parklets. That would require the council to increase the budget allocated to streetscape improvements in the next fiscal year's budget by between $336,000 and $355,000.

Go to the staff report to see the designs for the different locations.

Other items on the agenda:

Caltrain electrification

The city manager could get council approval to sign on to an agreement as part of the Peninsula Joint Powers Board that is working to switch Caltrain to an electrified system, according to the staff report.

Caltrain plans to put into writing that it will cover city costs to review and inspect the project, make city improvements, discuss anticipated work hours and encroachment, and iron out other policies.

Secondary dwelling units

The council could extend a provision that allows some accessory buildings to be converted into secondary dwelling units if they meet certain criteria. The extension would last until June 13, 2017.


The city is also considering allowing a study that would explore the possibility of annexing roughly 14 acres of unincorporated county land, spanning from 2111 to 2121 Sand Hill Road.

Currently on the site is a residence owned by Stanford University and a two-story office building, where the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is located. The site is located in unincorporated San Mateo County. Planned for the site at 2121 Sand Hill Road, west of the Hewlett Foundation office, is a new, two-story, 39,000-square-foot building.

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19 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 24, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Parking is scarce enough on Santa Cruz.
Sidewalks are already to narrow and difficult for handicapped to traverse. This will also make it more dangerous bicycle riders and our children.

Another bad idea from the city which loves to give all to businesses while taking from the residents.

19 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 24, 2016 at 1:12 pm

This is a great way to ad some vibrancy to downtown.

Contrary to whatevers comment, it sounds like these space will allow for outdoor seating without blocking the side walk as several currently do.

I would also add that adding features makes our downtown nicer, which I see as a much needed benefit in our dilapidated downtown.

Finally, MP has plenty of parking. If there is not a space available on SCA there certainly is in one of the lots on menlo or oak grove. I've never had to spend more than 5 minutes find an parking space downtown, no mater the time of day rain or shine.

3 people like this
Posted by @whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 24, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Did you just read the headline and form an opinion? Your issues are not issues at all. You made up stuff and never bothered to check if you were correct in your assumptions. Sounds like Menlo has all the bases covered on this one. Lets do it!

15 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 24, 2016 at 4:06 pm

I was not happy that Left Bank could take over 2 parking spaces. I frequently shop at Walgreen's for prescriptions and too often find it hard to find parking close to the store. although I'm disabled, I try to avoid disabled parking spaces because there are others worse off than I am. The loss of those 2 spaces is already a problem and the idea that Menlo Park would add to that problem is outrageous. I'm still puzzled as to how Left Bank was able to finagle taking over those 2 valuable parking spaces just to provide more seating for its patrons!

2 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 24, 2016 at 4:22 pm


What did I make up? My observations are mine, as is my opinion.
I didn't bring up any issues, just support for the project.

@John, why not just use the disabled spaces, that is why they are there. You could also try parking behind Walgreens, I never had an issue parking in that lot.

Does anyone in Menlo Park want to make it a nicer place to live? Or is SCA just a place to park.

5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 24, 2016 at 4:49 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

And the usual push back from the "no birds" begins.

11 people like this
Posted by Mini-parks
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 24, 2016 at 11:46 pm

Adding outdoor dining space to restaurants will benefit diners and of course the restaurants,essentially expanding their square footage and presumably their revenues. Great idea. Poor execution.

Menlo Park's only involvement should be to provide permits to these businesses. Not to subsidize them. The restaurants, not the public, should bear the costs since the benefits also accrue to them. If the restaurants don't consider the additional dining space a viable investment, then why is the city underwriting it?

"Mini-park" has got to be the euphemism of the year.

9 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 25, 2016 at 7:43 am

I just wonder if people really like being in those spaces with all the cars driving by so closely. It's not for me!

8 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 25, 2016 at 10:07 am

If the city is paying for the spaces they should be for public use. not just that of the restaurant. That is how they do it in SF. Patrons can sit there but so can others. if that is not the case, the restaurant should be footing the bill.

1 person likes this
Posted by Frivolous Claims
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on May 25, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Why not make Santa Cruz and Menlo Ave. one way in opposite directions. Santa Cruz could be westbound and Menlo could be Eastbound. This would provide plenty of room for one lane of car traffic,one or two lanes of bikes and plenty of room for the outdoor dining. Let's stimulate downtown Menlo Park.... Give the residents a reason to go out at night time and stimulate the downtown business.

For the parking neysayers.. a little walk won't kill you..

3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 25, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


a better idea would be to close Santa Cruz Ave. entirely and make it a pedestrian mall a la Boulder's Pearl Street Mall. If you count the lost parking spaces there really not that many in the big picture. Of course, it might push the need for a parking garage. "God forbid!"

1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 25, 2016 at 6:32 pm

1. This is a great program!
2. My only complaint is that it has taken way too long - over 2 years - to actually make it happen - and it still hasn't happened!
3. All applicants should have outdoor dining in-place BEFORE mid-summer.
3. The City should financially assist the small businesses with public infrastructure because it is a wonderful investment in downtown and more than a small business can be expected to make.Every resident will either directly or indirectly benefit.
4. I recommend that the City Council ensure that "narrow-minded and selfish" opponents cannot take advantage of the outdoor dining once it's in-place. Perhaps, it could proactively identify them and then provide photos to the businesses so they can refuse to serve them outside. Violators would be harshly punished. Any ideas?
5. Those who bemoan the loss of a few parking spaces are entitled to their own opinion but also have the opportunity to opt out by moving to a less progressive community at anytime.Please contact me if you need assistance.

1 person likes this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 25, 2016 at 8:45 pm

The parklet's would be a great addition to downtown. MP is ripe for a refresh to better reflect the cultured demographic of our community. Because options are dismal, we spend our money in neighboring downtown communities.

5 people like this
Posted by Michael L
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 25, 2016 at 8:57 pm

Yes, more of this please! What a great idea, to have more outdoor seating, more vibrancy, and fewer cars on Santa Cruz Ave. Let's get this approved!

3 people like this
Posted by Kat
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 25, 2016 at 11:01 pm

Outdoor seating is a great idea - a more vibrant downtown is just what Menlo Park needs!

1 person likes this
Posted by Kai
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 26, 2016 at 6:38 am

We should do this to make MP more fun and vibrant for everyone. Better in the long run than just a sleepy town with little foot traffic downtown.

1 person likes this
Posted by downtownperson
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 26, 2016 at 6:22 pm

What about pedestrians in this scenario? Have we forgotten them? A walk down Santa Cruz from El Camino to University Ave., may require edging around tables, umbrellas, and restaurant staff.

Like this comment
Posted by Amy
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 26, 2016 at 7:00 pm

I don't mind the idea of the outdoor seating. I do think of safety with cars coming close or actually colliding into the businesses like they have in the past. I think it just happened one time, or was it in Palo Alto, but it could happen again. I also think about the limited parking. I prefer on the street parking because the lots are so run down (potholes, crumbled asphalt) and cramped. I have a compact car and always feel it could get hit by these ginormous cars that pass. If the city works on parking spots, lots, garage I wouldn't mind.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 26, 2016 at 7:23 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


I think what you are thinking of is when an elderly driver who was parked on Santa Cruz Ave. mixed up drive and reverse and ran into pedestrians on the sidewalk. Completely different from a scenario that would involve a car colliding with someone in a park-let as cars would not be parked adjacent to the park-let so that they could run into them. The danger of a car on Santa Cruz colliding with a park-let is no higher than someone colliding with a parked car on Santa Cruz. It's a non-issue.

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

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