The Menlo Park City Council decided to keep one lane of downtown Santa Cruz Avenue closed to traffic between Curtis and Doyle streets, but will reopen Ryan's Lane near longtime Italian restaurant Carpaccio.
The council voted to continue the closure of the eastbound side of one block of Santa Cruz Avenue on a 4-1 vote, with Drew Combs dissenting, at an Aug. 29 City Council meeting. Currently, the closed section is used daily by Bistro Vida and Left Bank restaurants, and on Wednesday afternoons and evenings by the Bon Marché farmers market.
Combs and Vice Mayor Cecilia Taylor both said that they were struggling to see the long-term strategy in continuing the partial closure and revitalizing downtown.
"I need to see that vision to understand what we're doing downtown," Taylor said. "...I do struggle with the piecemeal projects here, especially if they're impacting our businesses. ... We have struggling retail. We want to attract businesses to Menlo Park, not discourage them."
Combs said that the city had unsuccessfully attempted to create a community gathering place around the corner from the current closure, referring to the city's pop-up park on a section of Curtis Street at Santa Cruz Avenue. The council decided to shut it down in 2017, following complaints that its artificial turf was harboring high bacteria levels, including E. coli.
But the Santa Cruz Avenue partial closure had worked well, with Combs describing it as “lightning in a bottle." However, he said didn't see an overall plan for the street closures.
"I don't see the larger vision," Combs said. "... It has to be tied to that for me to say that, 'Yes, we're just going to keep it closed.'"
Council member Maria Doerr suggested putting a temporary stop sign slightly farther into the bike lane on the closed section of Santa Cruz Avenue to indicate to cyclists that they still need to stop. The council approved it and directed city staff to do so.
Ryan's Lane, a small street off Santa Cruz Avenue, was closed during the pandemic, but at the meeting, the council voted to reopen it to traffic.
The Ryan's Lane closure area is being used by Ristorante Carpaccio. Representatives of a new restaurant called Clark’s, which is moving into the old Ann’s Coffee Shop, want the lane to reopen, according to Sandra Ferer, manager of Ristorante Carpaccio.