Downtown Menlo Park Is Not Simply Recovering. It’s Emerging with Greater Vibrancy. Here Is How to Enjoy it! | Creating A More Vibrant Menlo Park | Dana Hendrickson | Almanac Online |

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Creating A More Vibrant Menlo Park

By Dana Hendrickson

E-mail Dana Hendrickson

About this blog: My wife and I moved to central Menlo Park in 1985 where we have raised two sons. A retired high-tech executive, I now actively participate in local and national community service programs. I am the founder and director of Rebuil...  (More)

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Downtown Menlo Park Is Not Simply Recovering. It’s Emerging with Greater Vibrancy. Here Is How to Enjoy it!

Uploaded: Jun 22, 2021

Beer Garden BBQ

The positive signs are impossible to ignore. Downtown Menlo Park is now re-opening in ways that offer residents and visitors many more reasons to enjoy it than existed BEFORE COVID-19 virtually shut it down.

This trend represents what I hope is just the start of a major transformation of downtown Santa Cruz. While it would remain important for running errands, for grocery and specialty shopping and for personal services, downtown could also offer a whole lot more. Ideally, it would become a hub for outdoor dining, regular small-scale entertainment, and frequent social activities.

MAHS Jazz Band (Every Sunday Afternoon)


• During the pandemic, many restaurants, e.g., Left Bank, Bistro Vida, Roma, Galata Bistro, and Camper, built beautiful new outdoor dining areas. These places are already popular and are now attracting even more customers. Some restaurants have also enhanced the outdoor dining experience by introducing regular live music.

• The new temporary community plaza in front of Walgreen’s is becoming a popular destination for people to socialize, relax, work, and enjoy new events. Starting this month, I will publish a monthly calendar of the growing number of downtown events planned for this summer, e.g., holiday celebrations, BBQs, wine tastings, live music, small screen movies, and a lot more. (Note: View calendar at bottom of this post)

• New businesses have opened downtown, e.g., Pedago Electric Bikes, the 360 Fitness Superstore, the Main Gallery, and the Mandarin and Farmhouse Kitchen restaurants; and others are expected this summer. These will significantly reduce the blight from vacant storefronts and offer residents many more appealing options to eat and to shop. (Note: View the status of downtown vacancies at bottom of this post)

None of this could have happened without strong support from our city and substantial investments by local restaurant owners - at a time that both were experiencing extreme financial hardships. The closure of a single lane of Santa Cruz between Doyle and Curtis and limited access to a small number of street parking spaces and sidewalks allowed restaurants to create wonderful European-style outdoor dining areas. All have injected tremendous positive energy into our downtown.

The owner of Bistro Vida, Ali El Safay, deserves special praise, as once again he has demonstrated his extraordinary love of Menlo Park and personal desire to make our downtown more appealing. He donated the picnic tables that enable everyone to relax, socialize, eat, drink a morning coffee, and enjoy special events in the temporary community plaza. Ali has sponsored BBQ’s, a beer garden, and live music, and he is planning many more events for this summer. His staff also regularly cleans the plaza. The Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce recently recognized Ali’s outstanding community service with its annual Golden Acorn Award.


Downtown Street Closures – One Great & One Bad

Two lanes of Santa Cruz Avenue are currently closed to vehicle traffic. The closure of the eastbound lane between Doyle and Curtis is a blessing, as it permits outdoor street dining and creates safe space for the temporary community plaza. This closure has only modest negative impact on downtown eastbound traffic because of its location near El Camino. On the other hand, the closure of the eastbound lane between Evelyn and Crane provides minimal benefits for the community but has two big negative impacts. First, vehicle traffic attempting to enter downtown both from the west end of Santa Cruz and from University (next to Fremont Park) is immediately blocked at Evelyn and redirected to Menlo Avenue. This closure surprises, inconveniences and irritates motorists. Also, after school, Hillview students regularly bypass the street barrier and ride bikes against vehicle traffic using the opposite westbound lane. While this unsafe behavior has been repeatedly reported to the city, nothing has been done to stop it. This situation creates bicyclist and motorist safety and city liability exposures.

Hillview Students (Riding To Starbuck's)


Bistro Vida

Monthly Special Events Calendar - July 2021

Status of Downtown Retail Vacancies

Left Bank

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What is it worth to you?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Samuel Y, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Jun 23, 2021 at 11:49 am

Samuel Y is a registered user.

The eastbound street closure between Evelyn and Crane should be reopened. The restaurants there are only using their parklets and not the street itself. Bicyclists need to be able to ride on the street too. There is a sign directing bikes to be walked on the sidewalk, but that is not a good solution. Reopen that section of Santa Cruz! The merchants downstream from that section would also benefit from the reopening.

 +   4 people like this
Posted by sheryl nonnenberg, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights,
on Jun 24, 2021 at 12:32 pm

sheryl nonnenberg is a registered user.

The entire Santa Cruz Ave. should be reopened. Driving into town, trying to get to retail shops, etc. is a nightmare. Now that the virus is almost over, let's get back to eating inside where it is clean and easier for restaurant staff to take care of people.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Alex Beltramo, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Jun 24, 2021 at 3:37 pm

Alex Beltramo is a registered user.

Yes, the block between Evelyn and Crane should be opened ASAP. As the article shows, it's serving no purpose, and it's flat out dangerous. It's true, kids on bikes are constantly riding up the wrong side of the road against traffic. The closure in front of Left Bank and Vida is at least being used to some extent, but overall it is just helping two restaurants and hurting everyone else - so it's not a good long term situation. By the way, the downtown parking lots are already starting to fill up, despite all the vacancies on Santa Cruz Ave. In order for the downtown to fill the vacancies and achieve the vibrancy everyone wants, a parking structure is needed.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Jun 25, 2021 at 6:30 pm

Joseph E. Davis is a registered user.

Just passed through the block from El Camino by the Left Bank. There was a bicyclist going the wrong way down the street. I can understand why they do it, but it's dangerous.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by morsegarrett, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights,
on Jun 25, 2021 at 11:23 pm

morsegarrett is a registered user.

Your article is very good! I love it! Thanks very much!

 +   2 people like this
Posted by JR, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Jul 2, 2021 at 4:34 pm

JR is a registered user.

Yes, the increased vibrancy is great and noticed. But it's important to note that some is away from Santa Cruz, esp restaurants, and the bike and fitness stores are not huge vibrancy contributors, but nice that they are there. We should expect more movement on nearby streets, as often rents are a bit lower. That is a good trend. In terms of Evelyn. I don't think the answer is moving the turn further up. We should continue to find ways to expand the closure and evolve to adapt, including allowing for bikes even if cars are not permitted. It's just the way to go so better to put efforts toward supporting the best future state vs. living with a hybrid options that may keep changing. . For sure, a parking garage is needed to provide more convenience and allow for easier back door access for customers no longer able to park in front on Santa Cruz.. Accessible garage and a more robust, pedestrian and bike driven downtown will add to long term vibrancy.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 1:02 pm

Dana Hendrickson is a registered user.

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