BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
City councils in Menlo Park and San Carlos are considering the idea of closing prime downtown streets to cars to allow restaurants to have outside dining as those businesses are slowly allowed to reopen with social distancing.
Menlo Park is looking at closing Santa Cruz Avenue from El Camino Real to University Drive, according to Councilman Ray Mueller, who along with councilwoman Betsy Nash, has prepared a memo for the rest of the city council to consider. The closure of Santa Cruz Avenue would look similar to when the city closes down that stretch for its summer block party or art festivals.
Under the same proposal, the council will discuss letting businesses operate in the parking spaces along Menalto Avenue, where Cafe Zoe is, according to Mueller.
At council’s April 7 meeting, Cafe Zoe owner Kathleen Daly urged the council to also think about ways to help businesses once society restarts, such as closing off some parking spots in front of businesses to allow seating for cafes or restaurants so they can follow social distancing and still serve enough customers.
Mueller working on plan for West Menlo
Mueller said he is working with County Supervisor Don Horsley on a similar closure along the commercial strip of Alameda de las Pulgas in unincorporated West Menlo Park.
Mueller said that there is no concrete end date in the proposal that will be presented to council.
“We can keep it as long as it is working and if it becomes an issue we can pull it back right away,” Mueller said.
Since the beginning of the month, the council has received about 20 emails about the idea. Nearly all appear to be in favor, with some writers, such as Maria Decker proposing that the street is closed only at specific times.
But others, such as Barb and Pete Zivkov, said they could imagine permanently turning the downtown stretch of Santa Cruz Avenue into a pedestrian-only promenade. But they said that decision could be made at a later date.
So far it appears that only one resident, Lynn Smolik, has written against the proposal, saying that not all businesses would benefi t from it and the loss of parking along Santa Cruz would keep “any potential restaurant customers who do not wish to bicycle to dinner” from doing so.
“The people all excited about closing Santa Cruz don’t live near it (and wouldn’t) know the effect it would have on those of us close in,” Smolik wrote. “The ‘let’s all bicycle’ crowd must not even have parents or grandparents for whom that is not possible, let alone disabled or mobility challenged citizens. This may serve the 35,000 millennials Facebook would like to bring in but it does not serve your current residents and taxpayers very well.”
Laurel Street in San Carlos
Meanwhile, San Carlos City Council tonight (May 11) will talk about closing the northern blocks of Laurel Street, between San Carlos Avenue and Arroyo Street, to vehicular traffic.
The idea was floated by Councilman Mark Olbert, along with the proposal to widen the city’s neighborhood block party rules to let them set up barricades when they want the street closed off in order for people to exercise.
Public Works Director Steven Machida and Community Development Director Al Savay say in a report to council that only a partial closure of Laurel Street during the evening could work. The two officials also raise concern about parking, saying that the downtown merchants would have to start a parking or valet program.
There could also be problems with deliveries if the street is completely shut down.
Instead of closing Laurel Street, Machida and Savay suggest using one or more of the city’s parking plazas.
The San Carlos City Council will meet tonight (May 11) at 7 p.m., and the Menlo Park City Council will meet on Tuesday (May 12) at 7 p.m.