Should Santa Cruz Avenue remain partially closed to give restaurants outdoor seating?

Santa Cruz Avenue looking west. Google photo.

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

Menlo Park City Council tonight (Feb. 23) will decide whether to keep portions of Santa Cruz Avenue downtown closed to cars to allow restaurants to continue to have tables outdoors.

Over the weekend, more than 100 people wrote emails to council primarily in support of keeping parts of the street closed so restaurants can serve customers outside. Some were in favor of closing down the entire street, while a small handful wanted to see all, or at least one particular block reopened.

Currently, the street is slated to completely re-open on March 1, unless the council extends the closure, according to a memo from Deputy City Manager Justin Murphy.

Bistro Vida and Left Bank have dining on the street on the 600 block, while Galata Bistro and Fleet Feet sometimes set up on the 800 block. Carpaccio restaurant on Ryan’s Lane, just off Santa Cruz, is also asking to keep the lane closed from Crane Street to Escondido Lane.

The council will be able to decide when to reopen the street to cars, but Murphy suggests reopening in September.

Many of the emails were in support of street dining, saying it has revitalized Menlo Park’s sleepy downtown.

“The restaurants bring people to downtown Menlo Park. While there, they frequent other businesses,” wrote resident Janet Robbins. “We do not have to have the street open to make it easier on the commuters. Other cities around us are closing off streets for restaurants. We need to do the same.”

“In our view (both my family and my employees), the creative and charming outdoor dining locations have been a godsend, adding vibrancy to an area that easily could have become a ghost town in light of the serious health concerns from Covid. I genuinely believe the new structures and dining locations have created a dramatic (positive) improvement to the quality of life and attractiveness of Menlo Park,” wrote Peter Hebert, a managing partner at Lux Capital, 1600 El Camino Real. The parenthesis are his.

Some residents want to see the entire street closed to cars.

“Close Santa Cruz Avenue forever so we can begin to inject some energy and appeal into our downtown. It’s only a start but one step in the right direction,” wrote Sharon Heights resident Kiersten Mahon.

But there are some detractors.

Resident Kurt Ugur wrote that there is always a shortage of parking downtown and “since the pandemic is almost over” due to vaccines, he doesn’t see any reason to use public space for private benefit.

Teresa Beltramo, who owns Teresa’s Antiques at 842 Santa Cruz, has been calling for the reopening of at least the 800 block of the street, which is between Crane and Chestnut.

She argues in an email to the council that since Galata Bistro has a parklet set up, it does not need street dining as well.

She says that the closure has been harmful for a few reasons, including people cutting through parking lots, children riding bikes against traffic to get around the barriers and the barriers and tents are “ugly and reflect badly on Menlo Park.” She instead suggests the city helping businesses set up their own parklets to put tables on.

Council meets at 5 tonight.

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