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Menlo Park council opts to end one downtown street closure, while keeping another

Original post made on Sep 7, 2023

The Menlo Park City Council decided to keep one lane of downtown Santa Cruz Avenue closed to traffic between Curtis and Doyle streets, but will reopen Ryan's Lane near longtime Italian restaurant Carpaccio.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 7, 2023, 11:39 AM

Comments (18)

Posted by TR
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 7, 2023 at 12:37 pm

TR is a registered user.

Can we please talk seriously about rethinking cars in downtown Menlo Park. What Drew refers to as 'lightning in a bottle' during the pandemic should have been our wakeup call. Relying on a 50s era mindset of drive up parking right in front of stores is no longer the right answer. It encourages environmentally bad transportation, is poor land use and degrades the human experience in the space.

Instead, how about if we simply close Santa Cruz to cars from El Camino to University. I know. Shocking! The world will end! How will people get to the stores! But please keep reading. It's not really actually that radical in the end.

1) Close Santa Cruz all the way from ECR to University (maybe only Evelyn). Continue to allow cars to cross at Chestnut and Crane (with slight use of SC).

"Negative": This will take away the drive up parking in FRONT of stores. But seriously. Do you get those often? And most businesses either have rear entrances anyway from the parking plazas or are an easy walk around the block to do so. Net loss of some parking in downtown

Positive: Santa Cruz becomes a human space. Walkers, cyclists (who still can roll up in front), more outdoor space for businesses. Overall a more appealing space to visit and spend time. So many examples around the world of how well this kind of space works for local businesses.

2) Change the downtown car flow. Make Menlo and Oak Grove one way streets. As one way streets with appropriate redesign they could support traffic moving smoothly past downtown (as most traffic is doing) while simultaneously not really hurting driver access to the parking plazas and merchants. Cross streets being open would make it simple to access any particular place without having to orbit. Without having to handle crossing left turns, traffic can move with fewer stops. Similarly, the space from the previously opposing lane can be allocated differently. In some blocks it could be a second lane to queue cars like at ECR. ...

Posted by TR
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 7, 2023 at 12:42 pm

TR is a registered user.


In others it could be used to complete bike lanes or even provide additional street parking.

This should be paired with street design to keep vehicle speeds reasonable. Things like visual design that encourages slower driving (narrowing etc) and speed tables (look it up) and roundabouts that allow drivers to proceed non-stop at slow (sub 25 mph) speeds which end up being faster overall.

3) Do things on the space on Santa Cruz to activate the space. We've already seen the demand for outdoor dining that is constrained today. If we remove cars, there is LOTS of room. Add benches, pavement games (street chess anyone?) etc and it will have appeal to DRAW people to come and stay. It need not cost much. For the initial phases existing landscaping and trees and pavement can serve. If it works, we might consider optimizing the landscaping.

We've seen the appeal. Let's DO something about it.

Posted by been there
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 7, 2023 at 2:14 pm

been there is a registered user.

I believe we need to open the streets for parking. I bet business will remain strong and activity will remain the same.
These few businesses are eager for it to remain outdoor tables. It is good for them. Free dining space at the expense of the customers who use the parking all day and into the evening. These restaurants are only open for outdoor seating during lunch and dinner while taking parking 24/7.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 7, 2023 at 6:00 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


totally agree. Been saying this for years. They could transform the space into something along the lines of Boulder's Pearl St. Mall. All it requires is some courage on the part of council.

Posted by Ronen
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 10, 2023 at 12:38 pm

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I'm 100% with TR. Santa Cruz should be closed to car traffic. The fact we can now eat outside in Menlo Park restaurants has vastly improved the experience of visiting downtown. Imagine if the street was permanently closed to car traffic.

There's plenty of parking in the lots and cars have easy street access on the streets on both sides of Santa Cruz. As a driver, driving on Santa Cruz is the worst option anyway.

How about we make some room for pedestrians and watch our town come to life.

Posted by Ivan
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 10, 2023 at 9:05 pm

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How much is this closure going to cost the city? Negative externalities include the rerouting of the SamTrans buses on dangerous turns around the closure. As the primary beneficiaries are (and profits are going to) Bistro Vida and Left Bank, are they going to cover the costs?

Posted by Ronen
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 10, 2023 at 9:46 pm

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The primary beneficiaries are we, the residents of Menlo Park, who get a much more lively and pleasant down town experience, and our town that will get the benefits of a stronger tax base as more of us stay to eat and shop in our own community.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 11, 2023 at 2:20 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


Do Samtrans busses even go down Santa Cruz Ave? I don't recall ever seeing one downtown in the last 30 years. If they don't, I don't understand your point as it doesn't seem you have one.

As to the cost, if closing Santa Cruz Ave helped revitalize a dead downtown and fill the vacant storefronts there, then increased sales taxes will pay for it.

Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 12, 2023 at 1:25 pm

Joseph E. Davis is a registered user.

What if closing Santa Cruz Ave has the opposite effect of dooming even more downtown merchants and increasing vacancies? Only a couple of restaurants benefit from this.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 12, 2023 at 8:13 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Mr. Davis:

We already have a situation where most of Santa Cruz Ave is open to traffic, yet we have a ridiculous number of vacant store fronts. Closing Santa Cruz Ave. can't make it worse than it already is and could make it better. Why not try it. Making a walkable mall and doing things to promote the mall with activities and other things to attract foot traffic could be what's needed to create demand for businesses to open and create a more vibrant downtown. It benefits far more than a couple restaurants.

Posted by tb
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 13, 2023 at 2:00 pm

tb is a registered user.

As a business owner with multiple locations in several neighborhoods, I fear this would cause a slowdown in customer traffic to businesses. Convenience is key for shoppers of fashion or luxury goods. Whenever Santa Cruz is shut down for a fair, business plummets because the regulars do not want to be bothered to have to avoid Santa Cruz Avenue. We've operated a successful downtown business for many years and my gut tells me this would be detrimental to shopping. The few great businesses that are successful on Santa Cruz Avenue will suffer. Just ask the business owners. There are still a lot of gems on Santa Cruz Avenue we need to protect.

The article comments that the pop up park was successful but I would was disgustingly unhygienic and poorly executed. If we want downtown Menlo Park to be revitalized, go find businesses for Menlo Park and give landlords incentives for renting their spaces at a reasonable rent. Maybe the city can give grants to existing small businesses who want to refresh their facades. We have to find ways to attract small businesses to Santa Cruz Avenue and closing the street is not the answer. Let's update the street decor with beautiful more current day planter boxes and lighting. And how about emptying the trash regularly and power washing the sidewalks and trash cans so our downtown looks cleaner? I could go on and on.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 13, 2023 at 3:27 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


I'm sorry, but somehow the Pearl St. Mall in Boulder manages to have shops that are fashion and luxury and they're doing fine. Here's a directory of what's there: Web Link

As to the fairs that close Santa Cruz causing business to plummet, of course it does. But, trying to compare that to Santa Cruz Ave as a pedestrian mall is apples and oranges. Business plummets during the fairs because people are coming for the fair, not for shopping. Anyone that wants to shop at that time isn't going to come because of the traffic and parking problems. This would not be the case if Santa Cruz was a pedestrian mall. No fair, no huge crowds, no bad traffic, and available parking.

There is easy access to virtually every store along Santa Cruz from the parking plazas. There's no inconvenience not having parking directly in front because there isn't that much street parking any way.

Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 14, 2023 at 7:02 am

Joseph E. Davis is a registered user.

Menlo Voter states, "closing Santa Cruz Ave. can't make it worse than it already is". There is no reason to believe this. Closing the street could absolutely make it worse than it already is.

There was a furniture store in the center of the now-closed block which was open when the street was, and is now dead. If closing the street is a boost for retail / non-restaurant businesses, why is that store dead now?

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 14, 2023 at 10:09 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Mr Davis:

The store, Flegel's, is now closed because, according to them, "they lost their lease". When they vacated the building was completely renovated and new tenants moved in the ground floor. Is there another furniture store you are referring to? Because the former Flegel's space has been reoccupied.

Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 14, 2023 at 10:39 am

kbehroozi is a registered user.

He's talking about Harvest, which was sandwiched between two restaurants on the closed block of Santa Cruz. The owners were unhappy about the street closure and pulled up stakes. Bistro Vida owner Ali El Safy is taking over the lease and putting in another food/beverages venue with a cool theme.

I guess some people are into downtown being the regional furniture hub. Speaking as one who lives here and doesn't shop for furniture on a weekly basis, I'm happy to see Harvest replaced by an establishment that I might patronize more frequently than once/decade.

Posted by PH
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 14, 2023 at 11:58 am

PH is a registered user.

@kbehroozi "I guess some people are into downtown being the regional furniture hub"

Old-timey fun story even before my time, therefore double hearsay from me. When the Stanford Shopping center first opened it hurt local retail in PA and MP. MP then commissioned a downtown study that recommended a market niche, furniture, that would (then) avoid direct competition with the mall and might prosper in downtown Menlo Park. I don't know whether or not policies and actions were put in place to support that, and whether that created a legacy momentum for furniture downtown.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 14, 2023 at 6:15 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


I'm with you. Another restaurant will help revitalize the downtown. We need more.

I suspect Harvest didn't go out of business because there was no parking in front of the store, there's plenty in the plaza out back. My wife is a designer and what is happening in the retail furniture market is it is bifurcating. One group of customers, those who are older and have a lot of money buy expensive furniture, which they buy from the showrooms in SF, not in MP. The other group is younger and even if they have good income, don't want to spend money on expensive furniture. They buy cheap stuff and they don't care if it doesn't last as its so cheap they'll just replace it with more.

So stores like Harvest and Flegel's are selling to a shrinking, if not shrunk, market. Do we really need multiple rug stores? That space would be better used by restaurants, bars or high end/luxury retail.

Posted by tb
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 15, 2023 at 3:01 pm

tb is a registered user.

Menlo Voter,
I am not saying the inconvenience of not having street parking is what will affect business. I'm saying the inconvenience of having to maneuver streets for shopping will impact sales. I also would not expect the attendees of the fair to shop luxury's a different demographic. I'm saying the regular clients don't come in. In all my business locations, convenience and ease helps drive sales. Street closures for whatever reason decreases sales. I'm curious if you are a business owner and if so have you ever owned a brick and mortar location? I think the current closure near Left Bank & Bistro Vida is perfect. They still allow movement on Santa Cruz Avenue. Other restaurants also have outdoor seating without closing the streets near them. Additional street closures are not needed. It's new businesses that will revitalize the downtown area, not closing the streets. Pedestrians have sidewalks to walk on. Beautify Santa Cruz Avenue and incent or help business owners start businesses and lessen the risk of either opening a business or making improvements. Close the streets and retail will go away. Speaking as an experienced business person, I would not renew my lease knowing the streets would be closed. Just make the street pretty. Encourage business. Keep it clean and tidy. Invest in the neighborhood in a meaningful way.

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