News

Menlo Park pays up for downtown street cafes

 

As soon as July, 12 downtown parking spots in front of six restaurants – Left Bank, Bistro Vida, Mademoiselle Colette, LB Steak, Angelo Mio and Galata Bistro – and one furniture store – Harvest Furniture – are planned to be converted into outdoor cafe spaces on Santa Cruz Avenue.

The Menlo Park City Council on May 24 voted 4-0, with council member Kirsten Keith absent and council member Ray Mueller phoning in, in favor of boosting the city's cost-sharing commitment to a maximum amount of $45,000 per street cafe location – up from a previously approved $30,000 maximum.

"I feel like this is an investment in our city," said council member Catherine Carlton. "(We want) something that looks fantastic."

To convert the parking spaces into "parklets" that will be available to diners, the city will pay most of the cost to install platforms and concrete planter boxes around the perimeter of the platforms. Each would be disability-accessible.

In exchange for the added funding, Ms. Carlton said, businesses should be contractually obligated to increase their commitment to making sure the parklets are attractive and unique.

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.

Mario Vega, president of Vine Dining Enterprises, Inc., the owner of Left Bank and LB Steak, said he is considering changing the name of LB Steak to LB Station when the new parklet is built as part of a process to blend with Menlo Park's downtown. "We can now make the best version of what we would have done there."

Results of a resident survey in Menlo Park showed that downtown dining opportunities are a strong interest among locals, according to Jim Cogan, the city's housing and economic development manager.

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

The seven participating businesses applied between June and July last year. As more detailed designs developed, however, newer cost estimates indicated the price could be too high for some businesses, even with city's help.

For instance, the projected costs for the parklet installations for LB Steak and Left Bank were about $64,000. Providing more funding to the businesses, the staff report said, will enable more small businesses to participate.

The city will have to pay the upfront construction costs, estimated to be $524,000 for all seven parklets. In committing to the project, the council agreed to increase the budget allocated to streetscape improvements in the next fiscal year's budget by $355,000.

The implementation of the street cafes could come with a crackdown on unauthorized street seating, a step called for by staff in their report to the council.

Another outdoor dining opportunity to complement the street parklets is the promised rooftop dining experience at the still-under-renovation British Banker's Club across El Camino Real, said council member Ray Mueller.

"People can go out with their kids, bring their dog (and) be outside," he said. "I think it'll add a tremendous amount of excitement to our downtown."

During the trial, he said, cars seemed to slow down, and there were no complaints from bicyclists about the project.

Mayor Rich Cline questioned how the loss of 10 parking spots would affect city drivers. (The two spots used for the Left Bank parklet trial are still in use.) City Transportation Manager Nikki Nagaya said that the city is evaluating downtown parking occupancy and will bring data to the council in June.

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

Comments

8 people like this
Posted by Elsie
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 26, 2016 at 12:25 pm

Good on 'ya, Council members. A wonderful Old-World concept that makes a city a village--cozy and welcoming.

Elsie Floriani


8 people like this
Posted by David Petrovay
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 26, 2016 at 12:28 pm

While I think that the concept of al fresco dining is a good one having enjoyed this in Europe, my only concern with dining along a busy street is that you are consuming exhaust fumes along with your meal. What considerations have been taken to address this?


6 people like this
Posted by WowJustWow
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 26, 2016 at 12:40 pm

"To convert the parking spaces into "parklets" that will be available to diners, the city will pay most of the cost to install platforms and concrete planter boxes around the perimeter of the platforms. Each would be disability-accessible...The city will have to pay the upfront construction costs, estimated to be $524,000 for all seven parklets."

Almost $75K each for a platform, some planters and a disability ramp!!!

Those must be some SWEEEEET concrete planter boxes.


13 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 26, 2016 at 1:34 pm

while i love this idea it would seem that mini parks paid for by the city should be available for public use and not exclusively that of the restaurant. does the city council have a statement for that?


18 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2016 at 1:54 pm

@David Petrovay:

It's no different than sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Paris or Palo Alto, San Francisco or Sao Paolo. You sit at an outdoor table in an urban setting and exhaust fumes, vehicle noise, police sirens, insects, birds, etc. are part of the experience.

Do the cars in Paris not emit exhaust? Yes, they certainly do and probably more than the vehicles here. California has particularly strict smog regulations, even our gasoline is formulated differently.

It's *YOUR* choice whether or not you want to sit outside, but if the restaurant windows are open, you're essentially breathing the same air.

Note that this is not a groundbreaking change. Many of the restaurants on the 100 block of Castro Street in Mountain View have also been allowed to convert street parking spaces into outdoor dining areas.

If you don't like it, don't sit there and don't expect the city to route traffic a hundred yards away. They don't in Paris or Palo Alto, they aren't going to do it in Menlo Park.


9 people like this
Posted by Hanna Lawson
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 26, 2016 at 2:36 pm

@David Petrovay: Just use the same gas mask you currently use every day to protect you from the dense smog, when shopping in Menlo Park :-)

Great to see the council members do something to make Menlo Park more desirable, despite the naysayers.


7 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 26, 2016 at 2:55 pm

This is wonderful news as this program will have the most immediate POSITIVE impact on the vitality of our Downtown.

However, I am disappointed that no real cafe is participating; we need welcoming places that attract and serve residents during the entire day and in the evening, not just at lunch and dinner.

We need a Cafe Baronne-type cafe Downtown and perhaps a pub; not more restaurants with limited hours.

How about creating a small parklet on Curtis between Santa Cruz and the south-side parking lots so all visitors can sit, enjoy a cup of coffee, read, people watch etc. Add some seats, benches, tables and a few "potted" trees, and flowers.

That said, this program is a great start.

Thanks, MP.C.C.


4 people like this
Posted by Kris
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 26, 2016 at 4:24 pm

As I drive around and around Menlo Park looking for a parking space, I will be sure to admire the parklets.


10 people like this
Posted by Elsie
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 26, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Oh, puleasssse! There never are any on Santa Cruz Avenue anyway. But there are always spots behind the various places of business. Be patient! Enjoy the search! Besides, the walk will do you good. How about a little positivity, Mr. (or Mrs.) Cranky Pants. :-) C'mom. Be of good cheer.
Elsie


8 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 26, 2016 at 6:04 pm

I drive to Downtown Menlo Park at least 5to 7 times a week during the day and it's NEVER taken more than 5 minutes to find a parking space within 2 blocks of my destination, and it usually takes less than 2 min. So from my perspective our existing free parking is adequate.

If that is too inconvenient then I recommend complainers take 10 to 15 minutes to drive and park somewhere else.
Some people complain about our weather and can never be satisfied with any changes. I do wonder sometimes why they have not found a more agreeable place to live.


5 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 27, 2016 at 11:04 am

I agree with Dana

Never had to spend more than 5 minutes looking for parking downtown. So the parking complainers can just stop.

I do think that these parks should be open to the public and not just restaurant patrons. We are paying for it after all.


Like this comment
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 27, 2016 at 12:59 pm

If this were truly authentic to Paris street cafes expect special (I mean higher) menu prices outdoors.


4 people like this
Posted by jmir
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 27, 2016 at 3:34 pm

I'm a big fan of outdoor dining areas and I think this could be a nice improvement. But this should be revenue for the city. The article mentions isn't clear on the terms of these agreements. Are the restaurants getting the space rent free?


3 people like this
Posted by Kris
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 27, 2016 at 4:17 pm

Elsie, did you ever pause to think that not everyone is as physically able as you. Sarcasm about walking a 'mere' block or two may resonate with you and your ilk, but for me, it serves to emphasize the current negativity toward the disabled and less-abled. I have to shop quite frequently at Walgreens and do find that parking close to that store is often unavailable, due, not only to the loss of 2.5 parking spaces (i.e.3), but to the long term parking for restaurant diners, who might indeed benefit from parking at a distance and walking off their meals. Apart from Walgreens, I'm increasingly taking my shopping to the Mall. Now, I suppose I should take purchasing prescriptions and other sundries to CVS.


2 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardi�a
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 27, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardi�a is a registered user.

One can always take Uber if the parking really annoys you...

Roy


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 27, 2016 at 5:58 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Kris:

there's always the Safeway pharmacy. Plenty of parking and great disabled access.


3 people like this
Posted by Kris
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 27, 2016 at 6:16 pm

Sure, Uber is great if you have the income that Roy and other high-tech high-riders have. As for Safeway, why should I be forced out of Walgreens where they know me and are personable and helpful just so that diners can eat curbside. I'm really hoping for a cold, very wet winter. Heaven forbid that you spare a thought for others. Your turn will come; you don't know what the future has in store for you, be it an auto accident or unexpected illness. Over and out; you're not worth talking to.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 27, 2016 at 6:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I do almost all of my shopping on Santa Cruz plus Draeger's and Trader Joe's and I cannot remember once that I was not able to find a parking spot within the same block that I was shopping in.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 27, 2016 at 6:37 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Kris:

you sound bitter. I was offering a viable alternative. Sorry you didn't take it that way. And sorry for whatever disability has befallen you.


1 person likes this
Posted by Patty
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 27, 2016 at 7:44 pm

I would also suggest we do away with the parking ticket people. I actually got a ticket recently for parking on one of the white lines on the space. There was tons of parking in the lot too. The parking stripes are nearly impossible to hit correctly and I see most cars cannot park evenly within the lines as they are striped now. I never see any full lots lately, why are we ticketing people and making them mad so they don't want to come to Menlo Park? I think this is something the City Council should review, make the free parking all year now.


3 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 27, 2016 at 9:40 pm

Anything is better than nothing. Menlo Park is a running joke among our neighbors. Palo Alto is super hip and vibrant, Redwood City is much more preferable to visit, even San Carlos has a better choice of Restaurants! All we've got are a few lousy pizza places on ECR and some memorable mildewing awnings.

Let's do everything we can to make Menlo Park a destination and quit this nit-picking!


6 people like this
Posted by Lemonade Stand
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 28, 2016 at 10:18 am

I like the idea of the "parklets" but...
1. Will the restaurants pay rent for the public area that they use as a means to reimburse taxpayers for the startup costs of the parklets since the restaurants potentially are expanding BOTH their businesses and profit margins at the cost to taxpayers ("The city will have to pay the upfront construction costs, estimated to be $524,000 for all seven parklets.")?
2. If not, how does this differ from other corporate entitlement/welfare programs?
3. Trellis also has "rooftop outdoor dining experience" except they have to pay rent for it.
4. Will the City pay for a "parklet" for me so I can sell something - like maybe a lemonade stand - while minimizing my overhead costs by unloading (uploading?) it to City taxpayers? I promise to keep it clean too. :-)
4. Is this unfair competition for other restaurants in Menlo Park? Will they get taxpayer parklets too?
5. Why does a furniture store need a parklet for restaurants?
6. Is taxpayer money helping to fund the new up-coming roof top dining experience at the British Banker's Club given it is included in the article about parklets?
Just saying....


2 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 28, 2016 at 10:42 am

It sounds to me both the business and the city are putting up the money to make this happen. The goal is that both will benefit. The restaurant will have room for more customers. The city will get more sales and property tax revenue. The city's long term goal is a vibrant downtown that will bring more patrons and their spending.

It's typical for cities to invest in infrastructure to make their downtown areas more appealing for businesses to expand and patrons to visit. This particular infrastructure more directly helps the adjoining business, but that's why the business also needs to pony up too.


6 people like this
Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 28, 2016 at 10:51 am

Folks complaining about the use of public dollars on this project need to consider the City could have just widened the sidewalks downtown. But the City would have paid the entire bill for that project. However resident polling indicated residents wanted improved vibrancy and dining downtown. So the City, in a public private partnership,convinced the businesses to pay for 30% of the project, adding aesthetics, heating and lighting.

Sounds like a great deal for residents and the City to me.


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

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