A pilot program launched this summer to close some areas of Santa Cruz Avenue and allow restaurants and retailers to spread onto the sidewalks and parking areas has been extended through the end of February, per a Sept. 8 City Council decision.
The council opted to reopen the north side of Santa Cruz Avenue and continue the existing closures on the sections of the road heading toward El Camino Real that are already shut down.
The downtown street closures have received mixed support since they started, and the council already modified the original proposal once to allow more vehicle access in some sections. While some restaurateurs have reported that the closures have helped enable more outdoor seating with indoor dining shut down, a number of retailers have been less enthusiastic about the program, saying that the closures have reduced the number of visitors who come into their shops.
"We have four locations in the Bay Area, three of which are recovering from the business impact of the pandemic with revenues around 85% of normal, while our Menlo Park location is generating less than half the usual revenue. I attribute this loss of revenue to the street closure," said Karsten Iwers, owner of Harvest Furniture on Santa Cruz Avenue in a Sept. 15 email.
The city has so far spent about $30,000 to install barricades and trees. The Menlo Park Fire Protection District and Facebook also provided some materials, according to a staff report.
At least two people wrote to the council in support of leaving the downtown street closures intact. Resident Petrice Espinosa noted that September through November usually has good weather to enable outdoor dining. "Let's give these businesses a chance to continue to coax people downtown to enjoy a meal out and (shop)," she wrote.
With some restaurants expanded into the street, the council decided to permit bikes to pass through the barricades, but only on weekdays. On weekends, cyclists are expected to follow marked detours.