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Menlo Park council OKs partial Santa Cruz Avenue closure for restaurants, shops

Three blocks of Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park will be shut down to allow outdoor dining and shopping in a pilot project to curb the spread of the coronavirus and support downtown businesses. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

As soon as next week, three blocks of Menlo Park's primary downtown thoroughfare, Santa Cruz Avenue, will be closed to allow restaurants and shops to spill onto the street.

The Menlo Park City Council signaled wide support Tuesday night, June 16, for a plan vetted by the city's Chamber of Commerce to close down several blocks of Santa Cruz Avenue — a cluster where a majority of the street's restaurants are located — to allow downtown restaurants greater opportunities to offer outdoor dining and shops the ability to showcase their wares outdoors to enable more social distancing among customers.

The council also voted to streamline the process for other restaurants across the city to offer dining in outdoor areas usually used for parking. Typically, it takes 90 days for businesses to receive an outdoor dining permit, according to city Management Analyst John Passmann.

The three blocks of Santa Cruz Avenue set for closure, running from University Drive to El Camino Real, are from Evelyn Street to southbound Crane Street, from northbound Crane Street to southbound Chestnut Street and from Curtis Street to Doyle Street.

The Chamber of Commerce developed the plan to allow for good vehicle, bike and pedestrian circulation, said chamber President and CEO Fran Dehn in an email to the city. Restaurants that already have outdoor dining space will be allowed to expand into adjoining spaces, and those without it can have the new opportunity to offer outdoor dining, she said.

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"It is so important we send this lifeline to our businesses," she added.

Other restaurants that may be downtown but aren't along Santa Cruz Avenue, such as The Refuge, Ristorante Carpaccio and Cafe Del Sol, would have to apply for encroachment permits to offer outdoor seating, but the process would be streamlined.

More than supporting downtown businesses, closing the street is a step for public health, argued Councilman Ray Mueller.

"We're still in a pandemic," he said. "We're looking for a way to make it safe for people to enjoy downtown."

Councilwoman Catherine Carlton proposed public health measures being utilized in Europe to accompany outdoor dining – requiring people to have their temperature taken and mandating restaurants collect a name and phone number for each party so that they can be contacted if someone they were in contact with tests positive for COVID-19.

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The measures could prompt greater confidence in the health and safety measures being taken and encourage more people to venture out, she suggested. "Everybody has a right to know that they're not sitting next to someone that has a very high fever that's potentially ill," she added.

Other council members pushed back, arguing that while those aren't bad or onerous public health ideas, they should come from the county public health department. Mandating that restaurants in Menlo Park enforce those policies could be a challenge for restaurant workers and result in unpleasant exchanges with customers, Vice Mayor Drew Combs said.

He added that Santa Cruz Avenue, unlike other areas where shutdowns are being contemplated, is a key transportation thoroughfare, and many people use it for utilitarian trips to the hardware store or pharmacy. For those users of the street, the closures could prove to be a nuisance. But he still supported the measure to support downtown businesses.

Mayor Cecilia Taylor suggested adding hand-washing stations and developing measures to help salons and barber shops offer social distancing.

The pilot program is expected to launch next week. After 45 days, the City Council plans to check in to see how the initiative is going and if any changes should be made.

There is not yet a dedicated budget for the proposal; the city is working on tracking down materials to close the street, and the plan is to make businesses cover material costs for expanding outdoors.

The idea was first publicly suggested months ago by Cafe Zoe owner Kathleen Daly, after which council members Betsy Nash and Mueller worked on a subcommittee to develop the idea.

Nash and Mueller said they'd initially favored closing down the length of Santa Cruz Avenue.

But not all downtown businesses were on board, and the Chamber of Commerce collected input and developed their proposed partial-shutdown compromise.

"We are all operating at 20%, 25%, maybe 35 or 50% if you're lucky," Daly said Tuesday night.

Allowing restaurants to be creative in offering outdoor seating in the coming months could help those restaurants stay alive, she said.

"I encourage the city and everyone to just get behind it for a little while so we can figure out and navigate in our industry how to move forward," she added.

The move follows in the footsteps of many other cities, including neighbors in Palo Alto and Redwood City who are adopting similar programs to support small businesses decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic and enhancing their ability to serve customers more safely.

"All the other cities around us are doing this," Mueller said. "We're not being mavericks. Candidly, we're last."

The council is set to review a resolution and finalize a few more of the initiative's details at its next meeting, tentatively scheduled for Friday, June 19.

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Menlo Park council OKs partial Santa Cruz Avenue closure for restaurants, shops

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Wed, Jun 17, 2020, 11:45 am

As soon as next week, three blocks of Menlo Park's primary downtown thoroughfare, Santa Cruz Avenue, will be closed to allow restaurants and shops to spill onto the street.

The Menlo Park City Council signaled wide support Tuesday night, June 16, for a plan vetted by the city's Chamber of Commerce to close down several blocks of Santa Cruz Avenue — a cluster where a majority of the street's restaurants are located — to allow downtown restaurants greater opportunities to offer outdoor dining and shops the ability to showcase their wares outdoors to enable more social distancing among customers.

The council also voted to streamline the process for other restaurants across the city to offer dining in outdoor areas usually used for parking. Typically, it takes 90 days for businesses to receive an outdoor dining permit, according to city Management Analyst John Passmann.

The three blocks of Santa Cruz Avenue set for closure, running from University Drive to El Camino Real, are from Evelyn Street to southbound Crane Street, from northbound Crane Street to southbound Chestnut Street and from Curtis Street to Doyle Street.

The Chamber of Commerce developed the plan to allow for good vehicle, bike and pedestrian circulation, said chamber President and CEO Fran Dehn in an email to the city. Restaurants that already have outdoor dining space will be allowed to expand into adjoining spaces, and those without it can have the new opportunity to offer outdoor dining, she said.

"It is so important we send this lifeline to our businesses," she added.

Other restaurants that may be downtown but aren't along Santa Cruz Avenue, such as The Refuge, Ristorante Carpaccio and Cafe Del Sol, would have to apply for encroachment permits to offer outdoor seating, but the process would be streamlined.

More than supporting downtown businesses, closing the street is a step for public health, argued Councilman Ray Mueller.

"We're still in a pandemic," he said. "We're looking for a way to make it safe for people to enjoy downtown."

Councilwoman Catherine Carlton proposed public health measures being utilized in Europe to accompany outdoor dining – requiring people to have their temperature taken and mandating restaurants collect a name and phone number for each party so that they can be contacted if someone they were in contact with tests positive for COVID-19.

The measures could prompt greater confidence in the health and safety measures being taken and encourage more people to venture out, she suggested. "Everybody has a right to know that they're not sitting next to someone that has a very high fever that's potentially ill," she added.

Other council members pushed back, arguing that while those aren't bad or onerous public health ideas, they should come from the county public health department. Mandating that restaurants in Menlo Park enforce those policies could be a challenge for restaurant workers and result in unpleasant exchanges with customers, Vice Mayor Drew Combs said.

He added that Santa Cruz Avenue, unlike other areas where shutdowns are being contemplated, is a key transportation thoroughfare, and many people use it for utilitarian trips to the hardware store or pharmacy. For those users of the street, the closures could prove to be a nuisance. But he still supported the measure to support downtown businesses.

Mayor Cecilia Taylor suggested adding hand-washing stations and developing measures to help salons and barber shops offer social distancing.

The pilot program is expected to launch next week. After 45 days, the City Council plans to check in to see how the initiative is going and if any changes should be made.

There is not yet a dedicated budget for the proposal; the city is working on tracking down materials to close the street, and the plan is to make businesses cover material costs for expanding outdoors.

The idea was first publicly suggested months ago by Cafe Zoe owner Kathleen Daly, after which council members Betsy Nash and Mueller worked on a subcommittee to develop the idea.

Nash and Mueller said they'd initially favored closing down the length of Santa Cruz Avenue.

But not all downtown businesses were on board, and the Chamber of Commerce collected input and developed their proposed partial-shutdown compromise.

"We are all operating at 20%, 25%, maybe 35 or 50% if you're lucky," Daly said Tuesday night.

Allowing restaurants to be creative in offering outdoor seating in the coming months could help those restaurants stay alive, she said.

"I encourage the city and everyone to just get behind it for a little while so we can figure out and navigate in our industry how to move forward," she added.

The move follows in the footsteps of many other cities, including neighbors in Palo Alto and Redwood City who are adopting similar programs to support small businesses decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic and enhancing their ability to serve customers more safely.

"All the other cities around us are doing this," Mueller said. "We're not being mavericks. Candidly, we're last."

The council is set to review a resolution and finalize a few more of the initiative's details at its next meeting, tentatively scheduled for Friday, June 19.

Comments

Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 17, 2020 at 12:11 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 17, 2020 at 12:11 pm
26 people like this

I applaud this decision but urge the city to make the Santa Cruz venue a model of public health safety. Add washing stations at every entry point, enforce County mandated separation between tables and customers, consider one way pedestrian routing.

Be creative, be bold, be a leader


Camille Kennedy
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 17, 2020 at 1:01 pm
Camille Kennedy, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 17, 2020 at 1:01 pm
9 people like this

Glad to see we are starting with this small measure to support our classic downtown businesses. For those concerned about traffic, both Oak Grove and Menlo Avenue are more suited for traffic given the many stop signs, bulb-outs and angled parking — essentially narrowing the the entire strip from University to El Camino — make for a disjointed trip up and down the thoroughfare.


Atherton Resident
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 17, 2020 at 1:48 pm
Atherton Resident, Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 17, 2020 at 1:48 pm
3 people like this

A great first step. For those worried most about social distancing, it has to be a good thing to get pedestrians off the crowded sidewalks (that usually aren't 6 feet wide to begin with) and that now also include restaurant diners and workers.

If you're sick, please stay home. But if not, I hope this encourages people to get out and support local businesses.


Enough
Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2020 at 6:46 pm
Enough, Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2020 at 6:46 pm
10 people like this

This is a huge mistake that will have a negative impact on residents and further cut off east and west Menlo Park. If restaurants needed more space why not block off parts ot the parking lots running behine the buildings while allowing use of Santa Cruz for people visiting other businesses like the Hardware store, Bagel shops, running store, etc. At the very least only close the street in the evening when restaurants are doing business and the other stores are not.


Menlo Voter.
Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2020 at 7:31 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2020 at 7:31 pm
18 people like this

City Council:

Great job! Way to lead! Way to try something new.

Enough:

Yes, enough. Enough of you and the rest of the no birds in this city. Fleet feet and the hardware store are accessible from the parking plazas as are most of the businesses on Santa Cruz. This is a positive step forward toward revitalizing the down town.


Praise & Concern
Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2020 at 10:34 pm
Praise & Concern, Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2020 at 10:34 pm
Like this comment

[Post removed due to trolling]


Peninsula Reader
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 18, 2020 at 6:23 am
Peninsula Reader, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 18, 2020 at 6:23 am
9 people like this

What businesses? Downtown Menlo Park has more empty store fronts than restaurants. Desolate. Sole Desire is vacant, Pet Place is closing, rug store is closing. Flegals, Village Stationary, yoga place, men’s clothing, etc gone and empty. Some of these places are very large spaces. Pitiful. I’ll stay home safe.


Good News
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 18, 2020 at 6:49 am
Good News, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 18, 2020 at 6:49 am
4 people like this

Good that the plan passed.

Good that the rest of the City Council pushed back on Cat Carlton's desire to have businesses take temperature and collect personal details.


Great for biking!
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 7:56 am
Great for biking!, Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 7:56 am
15 people like this

It's such a nice experience, on a mild summer evening, to ride your bike to a "Plaza" type area, dine al fresco, then have a leisurely ride home through the back roads.
This would be a great idea even w/o COVID :)


Billy Bragg
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 18, 2020 at 10:41 am
Billy Bragg, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 18, 2020 at 10:41 am
17 people like this

Virtually all of those businesses complaining have entries from the parking lots behind them What are we losing actually, maybe a few dozen parking spaces at most? Close the entire strip from El Camino to University and engineer some really great public spaces, similar to the walking areas at Stanford Mall. We lose nothing and gain a new and maybe revitalized downtown that might attract new businesses.


Robert Cronin
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 18, 2020 at 12:10 pm
Robert Cronin, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 18, 2020 at 12:10 pm
8 people like this

Great! Make it permanent!


Santa Cruz in decline
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 18, 2020 at 4:14 pm
Santa Cruz in decline, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 18, 2020 at 4:14 pm
17 people like this

The most telling statement in this article: "All the other cities around us are doing this," Mueller said. "We're not being mavericks. Candidly, we're last."

For sure. Up and down the Peninsula, ALL cities have revitalized their downtown areas. Menlo Park is by far the furthest behind and the most dowdy block. You name it, it's way better than MP: Burlingame, San Mateo, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale.

Unfortunately, there are too many obstructionist citizens opposed to any reasonable development. Now we have a city council that doesn't get it either. We're dead last, ugly, uninteresting and soon to be filled with many abandoned store fronts.

Citizens and council members need to wake up and work to develop Santa Cruz Ave before the next calamity strikes.


Rvengosh
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jun 19, 2020 at 12:06 am
Rvengosh, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jun 19, 2020 at 12:06 am
5 people like this

Completely support the decision.

Regardless of COVID this should be a permanent move that would breathe new life into downtown MP.


wonderful!
another community
on Jun 24, 2020 at 5:43 pm
wonderful!, another community
on Jun 24, 2020 at 5:43 pm
4 people like this

I hope this is successful,

I live on Stanford campus and I was downtown Menlo Park the other day and saw many teens without masks on, not social distancing. I understand it's particularly hard for kids of this developmental age to fully absorb the consequences of their actions. Having said that, what should we as a broader community do about this? I see some kids with masks on their wrists or dangling from their pockets, so it's not a matter of them not having masks. I would like to see downtown thrive and be a model for other communities. I don't feel comfortable speaking to these kids, I'm older and not always steady on my feet, they don't want to hear an old fart like me telling them what to do, but it would help us all if we could get buy in from the teens.

ideas?


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 24, 2020 at 6:33 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 24, 2020 at 6:33 pm
6 people like this

I hope the city install wash stations, signs, one way pedestrian traffic and finds a way to monitor mask usage.

Yesterday 40% of the people I saw on Santa Cruz were not wearing masks including groups of teenagers riding their bike on the sidewalk. Where in the world is some city presence?


Sara T
Menlo Park: other
on Jun 24, 2020 at 6:38 pm
Sara T, Menlo Park: other
on Jun 24, 2020 at 6:38 pm
3 people like this

I was also on Santa Cruz Avenue Tuesday noontime. I would say a good (good?) third of the people were not wearing masks. Not just youngsters either. I wish there were some way to get greater compliance. Suggestions, anyone?


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 24, 2020 at 7:12 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 24, 2020 at 7:12 pm
6 people like this

If the city does not ensure that the new Santa Cruz Plaza is truly a safe place then potential customers will vote with their feet and stay home or go to a safer place.


JR
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2020 at 3:40 pm
JR, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2020 at 3:40 pm
Like this comment

I think this is a great idea for a pilot/test and applaud the council for being decisive. Perhaps this is part of the existing pilot plan but it seems very worthwhile to actively measure impacts while this is in motion -- number of visitors; meals/customers served; parking space occupied; complaint volume. etc. Also, regular surveys of residents in the closed-off zone will be useful feedback. We'd all benefit from the key learnings, especially if we are actively measuring. I am sure we can find some high school or college students willing to assist. Let's test and learn as much as possible. My only other thought was on the businesses and restaurants on the relevant side streets. I was in favor of including them from the start since side streets can be key to the vibrancy of a downtown "main street" location, but perhaps the opt-in element will help. We've had business people step up and establish businesses on these streets (vs going to another community) so lets consider making them a more direct part of the conversation.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 28, 2020 at 7:17 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 28, 2020 at 7:17 am
6 people like this

Redwood City is doing this right with sanitation stations and enforcement of distancing.

People will choose the safer place.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 28, 2020 at 9:31 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 28, 2020 at 9:31 am
6 people like this

Sadly many of these regulations are be ignored on Santa Cruz Ave and people will chose safer places. The City seems to be saying is not our problem but just wait until the revenue stream dries up because people do not consider Santa Cruz Ave to be the safest outdoor venue.

"b. Description and Conditions. Restaurants and other food facilities that were previously permitted to
provide dine-in food service, may provide outdoor sit-down meals, subject to the following
requirements and limitations in addition to those required elsewhere in the Order:
i. Outdoor seating arrangements must limit the number of patrons at a single table to no more
than six individuals, all of whom must be from the same household or living unit. Members
of separate households or living units are not allowed to dine at the same table;
ii. Tables must be arranged to ensure six feet distance between each table, such that no customer
is sitting within six feet of any other customer at a separate table;
iii. Lounge areas, like fire pits, can be occupied by multiple households or living units, as long
as six-foot distancing between households can be maintained at all times;
iv. Entertainment events are not allowed at this time;
v. Outdoor dining, placement of outdoor seating arrangements, and food service must be in
compliance with local laws, regulations, and permitting requirements, including:
1. For restaurants and other food facilities reopening after having been completely
closed for a month or longer, the operator will ensure prior to opening that:
a. All equipment, plumbing, and ventilation systems are operational;
b. All food stored on-site during closure has been maintained at proper
temperatures and is not contaminated (if in doubt, food shall be discarded);
c. All expired food shall be discarded;
d. Any insect or rodent infestation is abated;
e. The facility is thoroughly cleaned; and
f. Staff are up-to-date on food handler training or certification.
2. For all restaurants and other food facilities regardless of whether they were ever
closed:
a. If not previously performed, clean and sanitize dining areas and all other areas
that have not been in use;
b. Review the guidance provided in the State of California “COVID-19 Industry
Guidance: Dine-In Restaurants” found at Web Link. Implement the guidance criteria applicable to the
specific restaurant operation as required by this Order. This includes
employee training, employee health monitoring, use of physical separation
methods or barriers, use of personal protective equipment (“PPE”) such as
face coverings in customer areas, increased cleaning and sanitation, and other
applicable guidance criteria;
c. Post near each entrance door(s) in a manner readily visible to the public and
employees both the written health and safety plan and the Social Distancing
Protocol required by this Order. Food facilities may use the “Cal/OSHA
COVID-19 General Checklist for Dine-in Restaurants” (“General Checklist”)
found at Web Link as
the framework for the written health and safety plan, checking the applicable
boxes. The Social Distancing Protocol (Appendix A) can be found at
Web Link
_social_distancing_protocol_unlocked_0_0.pdf; and
d. Designate COVID-19 supervisor/person(s) in charge to ensure the
implementation of the food facilities’ health and safety plan and Social
Distancing Protocol. The designated COVID-19 supervisor/person(s) in
charge shall always be present on-site during business hours.
vi. Facilities that open for outdoor dining must offer curbside pickup, takeaway, and/or delivery
service alternatives. Lines for pickup or takeaway must be in a separate area other than the
outdoor dining area to prohibit patrons from unnecessarily accessing the outdoor dining area;
vii. The host stand must be located at the entry of the outdoor dining area so as to prohibit
patrons from unnecessarily walking through the outdoor dining area;
viii. If dogs are allowed to be in the outdoor dining area, owners must ensurre the dog remains on
a leash and at least six feet from customers who are not members of the same household;
ix. Guardians of children twelve or younger are required to ensure their children adhere to social
distancing guidelines at all times;
x. Alcohol may be sold to patrons in conjunction with a meal, but it may not be sold
independently;
xi. Bar areas must remain closed to customers;
xii. Bathrooms should be sanitized frequently;
xiii. Hand sanitizer or hand washing stations should be made available in the outdoor dining area;
and
xiv. Patrons are required to wear a face covering except when sitting at a dining table.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 28, 2020 at 9:57 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 28, 2020 at 9:57 am
8 people like this

Here is what the City requires but sadly the City has chosen not to enforce these requirements - why?:


All outdoor business spaces will be required to do the following:
Receive a temporary outdoor use permit
Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Follow all applicable local, County and State health orders
Provide all the materials and equipment needed for the use
Keep materials and equipment in the approved area
Maintain a clear path at least 4 feet wide on the sidewalk


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 29, 2020 at 12:52 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 29, 2020 at 12:52 pm
8 people like this

'It was not responsible to put our staff in jeopardy.' Flea St. Cafe halts outdoor dining in Menlo Park.

Web Link

*********
This is a correct and brave decision - Thank you Jesse.

I predict the same will start to happen on the Santa Cruz Plaza unless the City starts enforcing the rules that were a condition of the new permits that the City issued. It is irresponsible to issue permits with conditions and then not enforce those conditions.

The tables on Santa Cruz are much closer than the rules allow and pickups are being directed to the same entrance as diners in disregard for the rules.

If the Santa Cruz Plaza is not managed to be the safest outdoor dining experience patrons will go elsewhere or stay home. And the takeout business will fall way off if we are forced to mingle with others to make our pickups.

Is anybody listening????


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 3, 2020 at 11:49 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 3, 2020 at 11:49 am
2 people like this

Go to Palo Alto's University Ave - it is being properly managed by the city. Signage, proper distancing etc.

A much safer place to dine:
Web Link


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 9, 2020 at 1:04 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 9, 2020 at 1:04 pm
2 people like this

Things are looking much better!

Just had a lovely breakfast at Ann's Cafe.
Tables well spaced.
Excellent food and service as usual.

Two MP Parking Enforcement people clearly reviewing the situation.

Very nice to see.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 12, 2020 at 12:37 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 12, 2020 at 12:37 pm
Like this comment

Note that the Redwood City street dining program includes several signs and hand sanitizing stations along the way, reminding people to be safe.


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