News

Downtown Menlo Park road closures are here to stay — for now

Pedestrian-only areas on Santa Cruz Avenue have proved popular

People stroll through and hang out at Bon Marché, a French-inspired outdoor market, on Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park on Nov. 10, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The street closures that have, for many residents, made downtown Menlo Park more pedestrian friendly amid the threat of COVID-19 are set to continue for the time being, despite concerns raised by several downtown retailers.

The City Council voted unanimously Jan. 25 to continue the closure on the northbound lane of the 600 block of Santa Cruz Avenue, from Curtis Street to Doyle Street, and in both directions on Ryan's Lane between Crane Street and Escondido Lane. The previous closure was set to expire at the end of January, requiring the council to take action to keep it in place, according to staff.

Currently, the street segment that's closed on Santa Cruz Avenue is being used daily by the Bistro Vida and Left Bank restaurants, and on Wednesday afternoons and evenings by the new Bon Marché farmers market, while the Ryan's Lane closure is being used by Ristorante Carpaccio, an Italian restaurant.

Those closures can last as long as California's State of Emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic does, but when that ends, the city will have to do an environmental review to permanently maintain those closures, according to staff.

The program has generated many emails from residents who favor keeping the street closured to vehicles.

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"I haven't heard from any residents that don't want to keep it," said Vice Mayor Jen Wolosin.

For some Menlo Park businesses, particularly restaurants, the opportunity to expand outdoor dining has been a lifeline, according to Kathleen Daly, who with her daughter Zoe Sharkey, runs Cafe Zoë in the Willows neighborhood. "This program saved a lot of us from going completely under," she told the City Council Tuesday. "I'm actually hopefully that it will become permanent."

Fran Dehn, president and CEO of Menlo Park's Chamber of Commerce, said that continuing to offer outdoor dining and to make it easier for restaurants to do so was important for businesses as COVID-19 continues.

'We are not beyond COVID," she said. "Many patrons do not feel comfortable eating indoors. Outside dining will continue. No restaurateur will seek out space that does not include an outside extension."

In contrast, two people who are connected to retail businesses in downtown Menlo Park pushed back against the closures.

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Vasile Oros, who owns the building that houses Ace Hardware, said he felt that the street closure was negatively impacting the business community just to allow the participating restaurants to add a few more tables on the street. "Why should we shut off the whole downtown?" he asked. "It doesn't make any sense."

Alex Beltramo, whose mother owns a downtown retail business, said that the road closures have diverted vehicle traffic through parking lots and side streets, and argued that a revitalized downtown would come from making it easier for people to get in and out of downtown Menlo Park.

So far, the city has spent about $85,000 of $300,000 the council set aside for downtown streetscape improvements to pay for trees, barricades and concrete barriers, and staff plans to spend roughly $20,000 to $25,000 more to cover "unexpected expenses" related to the program, according to staff.

A future downtown

Council members were in agreement that overall, the street closure seems to have been a success and didn't want to end it.

"For many years, we have been thinking about how you reimagine and reinvigorate the downtown area," said Councilman Drew Combs. "Nothing has stuck. ... This is something that has been successful."

Councilman Ray Mueller said that he was interested in maintaining the existing street closures as long as he serves on the City Council.

The current setup has allowed people to gather as a community "at a time when there aren't a lot of places you can do that," he said. "I'm not ready, specifically at this time, to go ahead and reopen the street because of where we are in the pandemic."

He added that he is interested in extending street closures and building a parking garage downtown that has housing on top plus a small movie theater.

There are some downtown merchants who want the area become a destination for interior design stores, he said. "Downtown isn't just for merchants who want it to be a design ecosystem," Mueller said. "We need to design a downtown that serves us all."

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Downtown Menlo Park road closures are here to stay — for now

Pedestrian-only areas on Santa Cruz Avenue have proved popular

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Jan 27, 2022, 9:52 am

The street closures that have, for many residents, made downtown Menlo Park more pedestrian friendly amid the threat of COVID-19 are set to continue for the time being, despite concerns raised by several downtown retailers.

The City Council voted unanimously Jan. 25 to continue the closure on the northbound lane of the 600 block of Santa Cruz Avenue, from Curtis Street to Doyle Street, and in both directions on Ryan's Lane between Crane Street and Escondido Lane. The previous closure was set to expire at the end of January, requiring the council to take action to keep it in place, according to staff.

Currently, the street segment that's closed on Santa Cruz Avenue is being used daily by the Bistro Vida and Left Bank restaurants, and on Wednesday afternoons and evenings by the new Bon Marché farmers market, while the Ryan's Lane closure is being used by Ristorante Carpaccio, an Italian restaurant.

Those closures can last as long as California's State of Emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic does, but when that ends, the city will have to do an environmental review to permanently maintain those closures, according to staff.

The program has generated many emails from residents who favor keeping the street closured to vehicles.

"I haven't heard from any residents that don't want to keep it," said Vice Mayor Jen Wolosin.

For some Menlo Park businesses, particularly restaurants, the opportunity to expand outdoor dining has been a lifeline, according to Kathleen Daly, who with her daughter Zoe Sharkey, runs Cafe Zoë in the Willows neighborhood. "This program saved a lot of us from going completely under," she told the City Council Tuesday. "I'm actually hopefully that it will become permanent."

Fran Dehn, president and CEO of Menlo Park's Chamber of Commerce, said that continuing to offer outdoor dining and to make it easier for restaurants to do so was important for businesses as COVID-19 continues.

'We are not beyond COVID," she said. "Many patrons do not feel comfortable eating indoors. Outside dining will continue. No restaurateur will seek out space that does not include an outside extension."

In contrast, two people who are connected to retail businesses in downtown Menlo Park pushed back against the closures.

Vasile Oros, who owns the building that houses Ace Hardware, said he felt that the street closure was negatively impacting the business community just to allow the participating restaurants to add a few more tables on the street. "Why should we shut off the whole downtown?" he asked. "It doesn't make any sense."

Alex Beltramo, whose mother owns a downtown retail business, said that the road closures have diverted vehicle traffic through parking lots and side streets, and argued that a revitalized downtown would come from making it easier for people to get in and out of downtown Menlo Park.

So far, the city has spent about $85,000 of $300,000 the council set aside for downtown streetscape improvements to pay for trees, barricades and concrete barriers, and staff plans to spend roughly $20,000 to $25,000 more to cover "unexpected expenses" related to the program, according to staff.

Council members were in agreement that overall, the street closure seems to have been a success and didn't want to end it.

"For many years, we have been thinking about how you reimagine and reinvigorate the downtown area," said Councilman Drew Combs. "Nothing has stuck. ... This is something that has been successful."

Councilman Ray Mueller said that he was interested in maintaining the existing street closures as long as he serves on the City Council.

The current setup has allowed people to gather as a community "at a time when there aren't a lot of places you can do that," he said. "I'm not ready, specifically at this time, to go ahead and reopen the street because of where we are in the pandemic."

He added that he is interested in extending street closures and building a parking garage downtown that has housing on top plus a small movie theater.

There are some downtown merchants who want the area become a destination for interior design stores, he said. "Downtown isn't just for merchants who want it to be a design ecosystem," Mueller said. "We need to design a downtown that serves us all."

Comments

dana hendrickson
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 27, 2022 at 10:33 am
dana hendrickson, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2022 at 10:33 am

Great decisions! I expect the popularity of the 600 block plaza and all outdoor dining will grow even a lot more with the onset of warm weather, and this will clearly demonstrate the value of these wonderful community assets for BOTH residents and merchants. Thank you, city council members!


Enough
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jan 27, 2022 at 11:46 am
Enough, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2022 at 11:46 am

I disagree, it was nice during the pandemic when traffic was low and restaurants needed the help because indoor dining was not allowed. As the pandemic gradually winds down it is time to return the streets to the the residents of Menlo Park and reopen them for traffic. Before the pandemic and after, restaurants were allowed to expand outdoor dining in parklets like Left Bank did. I recall several restaurants took advantage of that option which also left the street open for traffic. Why not go back to that? At the very least follow the example of other cities and charge for the street space until the pandemic winds down further then when indoor dining is back to normal reopen the streets.

I am a little surprised that Wolosin says she has not heard from anyone wanting to reopen the streets. There were emails to the city council in support of re-opening Santa Cruz to vehicle traffic. There are also merchants who have said the closure has hurt their business.


Dawn1234
Registered user
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 27, 2022 at 12:17 pm
Dawn1234, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2022 at 12:17 pm

Hooray!!!! Make the whole stretch of Santa Cruz be a walkable plaza and make parking behind the buildings better. Let's put more surface area towards safe walking/biking and less surface area towards convenient parking.


Happy Resident
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 27, 2022 at 1:13 pm
Happy Resident, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2022 at 1:13 pm

YES! Keep and increase outdoor dining and retail options. The hardware store spills onto the sidewalk - that's great. Make Santa Cruz more walkable and make parking behind the buildings better.


Robert Cronin
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 27, 2022 at 1:28 pm
Robert Cronin, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2022 at 1:28 pm

I would like to just say Yay!, but the rules disallow short comments for some reason, so yippee! hurrah! super! goody! Is this long enough?


Frozen
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 27, 2022 at 3:37 pm
Frozen, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2022 at 3:37 pm

Walkability adds to the vibrancy and community feel of our downtown area.

The streets aren't staying closed just to benefit restaurants -- offering outdoor dining benefits all of us. And the pandemic isn't over, not by a long shot, even if we wish it were.


Happy MP Neighbor
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 28, 2022 at 2:37 pm
Happy MP Neighbor, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Jan 28, 2022 at 2:37 pm

I agree with Frozen! Downtown MP has never felt so vibrant and it's only because of the street closures with outside dining spilling over. If we open up the streets and take this away, we go back to the sleepy 'boring' MP reputation we had. I'm in favor of expanding parking to allow these spillovers to keep working their magic! Don't let specific retailers determine what our downtown needs just to increase their revenue... it's much more than just saying we are giving restaurants a few more tables of income!


Ronen
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 28, 2022 at 7:59 pm
Ronen, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Jan 28, 2022 at 7:59 pm

Fantastic decision!

Let’s go even farther. Santa Cruz Avenue should become a permanent pedestrian mall. Let’s make this town more walkable and human friendly. We got plenty of roads for cars, but not enough community space for people.

Mueller’s plan sounds like a great place to start.


Samuel Y
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 1, 2022 at 9:12 am
Samuel Y, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Feb 1, 2022 at 9:12 am

Left Bank and Bistro Vida both benefit from the street closure, but Harvest Furniture, which is sandwiched between them, has seen their sales decline and not just because of the pandemic. Their other locations are faring well. Perhaps the city can help Harvest to move to another location on Santa Cruz Ave.


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