BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
San Carlos City Council decided tonight (May 11) to move forward with the idea to close down the first three blocks of Laurel Street by polling business owners to see if they want it.
The polling will be done by a subset of council members, Adam Rak and Mayor Ron Collins. They’ll look at cities that are blocking off residential streets to give pedestrians more room to walk. Those cities include Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Mateo, San Francisco and Oakland.
Both Public Works Director Steve Machida and Police Chief Mark Duri said the “slow streets” program in those cities is dangerous because they give pedestrians a false sense of security that there are no cars around. In fact, cars are allowed to travel to and from homes, and deliveries are permitted.
Duri said will be hard for deputies in San Carlos to police the partially closed roads in order to make sure people are not congregating in the street or acting dangerously.
However, all eight residents who spoke during last night’s meeting disagreed with Duri and Machida.
“In regards to the safety issue, we’re looking at this upside down,” said resident Mark Bauhaus, saying that it would be good to give drivers and others a “fair warning” that people are using the street.
Others, such as Sonya Elks, suggested making loops in neighborhoods where people can walk or ride their bikes, as she thinks it is less likely that people will just walk from one end of the street to the other over and over.
The speakers primarily commented on the slow streets program, with some, such as Bauhaus, throwing their support behind the closure of Laurel as well.
The council seemed more interested in the idea of closing Laurel, and want Rak and Collins to check in with business owners downtown before shutting the street down. Councilman Mark Olbert suggested that non-restaurants downtown can have booths outside of their businesses if Laurel is shut down to create more of a bazaar type of atmosphere along the street.
The subcommittee composed of Rak and Collins will also be exploring the idea of a short term street closure or slow streets sort of program in the residential areas of town.
Rak and Collins will come back to council with their recommendations sometime next month.
In Menlo Park, council members Betsy Nash and Ray Mueller will be presenting their recommendations to council regarding closing Santa Cruz Avenue between El Camino and Evelyn Street or University Drive.
The closure would enable businesses in the city’s downtown to operate in the street or sidewalk, similar to what Rak and Collins will be exploring with merchants on Laurel Street in San Carlos.
The council will also be looking at creating a permit process for businesses to operate on the sidewalk in front of their business, and to close the parking spaces in front of their business to operate.
The entire Menlo Park council will vote on the matter at its meeting that begins at 5 p.m. tomorrow (May 12).