Will downtown Palo Alto stay closed to cars?

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

Video Transcript

- Across the Bay Area, slow streets created a vehicle free space for people to shop, dine, and enjoy outdoor entertainment. But as the pandemic eases, cities are faced with whether to reopen the roads. Palo Alto is contemplating allowing cars back on two stretches, University and California Avenues. As ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena explains, it's a delicate balancing act to please both residents and business owners.

LUZ PENA: It's Friday night, and both University and California avenues in Palo Alto are bustling.

PATRICK BURT: The community loves it. People are coming from throughout the Bay Area to actually come and dine.

LUZ PENA: Friends Louise and Michelle did just that. They drove from San Jose to experience outdoor sitting in a traffic-free downtown area.

- We've made a point of coming to streets that are closed off like this.

LUZ PENA: But as the state is said to reopen on June 15, the city of Palo Alto announced a tentative plan that would reopen University Avenue to cars in July and California Avenue in September.

PATRICK BURT: At a minimum we really loved the idea of retaining the parklets. And at a maximum, maybe there's a way to keep some of the side streets closed.

LUZ PENA: Palo Alto officials are targeting the upcoming three weeks to survey businesses in these two downtown areas. What's playing a key factor in their decision is parking. Some businesses still need it.

PATRICK BURT: But a lot of the merchandise stores felt passed by, and they've been really suffering in part because the traffic and the pedestrians walk down the middle of the street, and now they can walk on the sidewalk.

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

- I think they should close the street for everybody's sake.

LUZ PENA: In University Avenue, this restaurant owner wants to keep the downtown closed.

- A lot of customers still feel a little bit uncomfortable to come back inside.

LUZ PENA: In California Avenue, the owner of this nail salon lost between 20 to 30 parking spots up front, but he says there's a solution.

ANDY NGUYEN: Our clients can park in the back. And this has actually helped all these businesses around here.

LUZ PENA: Palo Alto's City Manager is said to make a decision in three weeks. In Palo Alto, Luz Pena, ABC7 News.