Residents Need to Weigh-in Now.
UPDATE:(Feb 23, 2021) - Last night the Council unanimously agreed to extend the existing trial of Santa Cruz lane closures until at least January 22, 2022. That's great news. Restaurants now have a better opportunity to recoup investments in temporary outdoor facilities, and residents and businesses have a wonderful opportunity to create a vibrant community plaza filled with appealing activities and events. A big thank you to everyone who either sent emails or made comments to the Council. And to the Council for supporting the closures. In March, I will try to organize a team of volunteers and business owners who want to make downtown a destination for interesting and fun experiences.
On a recent Friday night I stopped by the Left Bank, and on Saturday night I visited Bistro Vida. Although the evenings were chilly, customers were not discouraged. Both restaurants were lively and full of diners enjoying meals, conversations and live music. New outdoor dining areas clearly have injected new life into downtown Menlo Park, far beyond anything I have witnessed during my 35 years living here.
The Left Bank, Bistro Vida, ROMA and others have collectively invested tens of thousands of dollars of their own money on new facilities, all without a guarantee the City of Menlo Park will allow continued use of public spaces beyond September. These are big bets given their year-long financial struggles with COVID-19 restrictions, they should be applauded for their investments in downtown, and the owners and employees deserve strong community support.
Outdoor Lunch (ROMA)
Evening Entertainment (Bistro Vida)
Last September, the Menlo Park City Council agreed to keep single eastbound lanes closed on two sections of Santa Cruz. The closure between Doyle and Curtis was already popular for outside dining, and the Council decided the closure between Chestnut and Crane would set aside downtown public space for future community events and activities.
On February 23, the Council will decide whether to re-open both lanes in early March. (Staff Report)
I recommend the following actions:
1. Re-open the eastbound lane between Chestnut and Crane.
2. Keep the eastbound lane closed between Curtis and Doyle and designate it as a community plaza.
3. Let residents and businesses organize events and activities that popularize the downtown community plaza. Use 2021 as a trial period.
4. Create a program that funds resident and business-managed events and activities in the community plaza. Designate at least $50,000 for the execution of events and activities and exclude spending for advertising. Assign city coordination responsibility to the economic development manager.
I encourage residents and businesses to support these actions by sending emails to the City Council before the council meeting and by making comments in the online meeting. Otherwise, our community will lose something special it already has and forgo a wonderful opportunity to create a special new place downtown for special events, socializing, reading, people-watching, relaxing and other suitable activities. Themed evenings could feature Menlo Park restaurants, e.g., wine tastings, dessert tastings, beer tastings, appetizer tastings, etc. Exhibits could display sculpture, paintings, collectibles, and other “interesting” things. And events could include small-scale plays, readings, music, cooking classes, etc. These attractions would appeal to residents of all ages AND help downtown businesses by generating lots more visits and foot traffic. I bet our community would be amazed by what by residents and business owners would accomplish IF our City supported a field trial for the plaza during the rest of 2021.
(Here are instructions on how you can participate in the February 22 online meeting)
Evaluation of Existing Santa Cruz Closures
Eastbound Lane Between Chestnut-Crane
1. This lane closure was not well-thought out. It was decided “on-the-fly” at the September meeting and planning for how to actually use this space appears non-existent.
2. This lane closure severely impacts traffic flow as it is located close to the middle of downtown Santa Cruz. Most eastbound motorists must detour around it to reach parking plazas and downtown destinations. Bicyclists traveling downtown are unsure about how to bypass this closure and often take the westbound lane - a dangerous action. A few vehicles have also been observed doing this.
Eastbound Lane Between Curtis – Doyle
1. This area has become the most vibrant section of Downtown at lunch and in the afternoon and evenings because of the appealing outdoor dining.
2. The open space in front of Walgreen’s and Starbuck’s is a wonderful spot for a community public plaza where events and activities can take place.
3. A central plaza on Santa Cruz and a paseo on Chestnut are two major improvements residents voted for during the development of the $1M+ Specific Plan approved in 2012, and neither has been implemented.
4. The combination of street dining and a vibrant public plaza would be a powerful attraction for residents.
5. This lane closure has minimal negative flow on Santa Cruz traffic. Most traffic enters from the west and can easily reach all other blocks and plaza parking without dealing with this closure.
Time to order food?
Family Lunch (Left Bank)
Also...Checkout the new Online Menlo Park Restaurant Directory
And try a new place for an outdoor lunch and dinner.