Palo Alto officials must decide whether or not to keep downtown closed to cars

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Sunday, June 6, 2021
Will downtown Palo Alto stay closed to cars?
Officials in Palo Alto must decide whether or to reopen downtown streets being used for outdoor dining.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- With California reopening on June 15, Palo Alto city officials are struggling with what to do regarding their downtown areas. Both University and California avenues are currently closed to car traffic.

"The community loves it," said Palo Alto's Vice Mayor Patrick Burt. "People are coming from throughout the Bay Area to come and dine."

Louise Wauforg and Michelle Myjer did just that. They drove from San Jose to experience outdoor seating in a traffic free downtown area.

"We've made it a point to come to streets that are closed off like this," said Wauforg.

"I think you can see how comfortable everybody is," said Myjer.

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As California is set to reopen in a little over a week, the city of Palo Alto announced a tentative plan that would reopen University Avenue to cars in July and California Avenue in September.

"At a minimum we really love the idea of retaining the parklets; at a maximum maybe there is a way to have some of the side streets closed," said Vice Mayor Burt.

Palo Alto officials are targeting the upcoming three weeks to survey business owners. A key factor that will be considered is parking.

"A lot of the merchandise stores felt passed, and they are really suffering," said Vice-Mayor Burt. "In part, because the traffic and the pedestrians walked down the middle of the street and now they can walk in the sidewalk."

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We did our own quick survey to hear from business owners.

"I think they should close this street for everyone's sake," said Mah Mood, owner of Moods Wine Bar on California Avenue.

On University Avenue, Pho Banh Mi's owner Tracey Tran wants to keep the downtown closed as well.

"A lot of the customers still feel a little bit uncomfortable to come back inside, especially because it is tight together," said Tran.

RELATED: Parklets forever? Proposed California law could make outdoor dining easier post-pandemic

In California Avenue, Andy Nguyen owner of La Jolie Nail Spa lost 20-30 parking spots up front, but says there's a solution.

"Our clients can park in the back and this actually helps these businesses around here," said Nguyen.

Palo Alto's city manager is set to make a decision in three weeks.