Palo Alto

Palo Alto Residents, Business Owners Debate Whether to Reopen Car-Free Streets

NBC Universal, Inc.

Dining al fresco on two Palo Alto streets closed to cars may come to an end in just a few weeks.

On Monday, the Palo Alto City Council will decide whether to reopen California and University avenues to cars on September 30.

Sunday night on California Avenue in Palo Alto, people enjoyed dining outdoors sitting at tables where cars use to drive.

“I think eating outdoors is nice,” said Palo Alto resident Rob Danielson.

Maico Campilongo co-owns two restaurants on California Avenue. He told NBC Bay Area Sunday that he wants the street to remain closed to cars. Not just because of the ambiance, but also because of his customers concerns about COVID.

“Especially now with the delta variant, I would say 90% of my customers want to sit outdoors versus indoors. It’s much more appealing outdoors,” he said.

Tami Johnston agreed and she wants to have the streets remain closed to allow for more outdoor dining options.

“I would like to eat outdoors. Definitely,” she said.

But some retailers said the street closure is eating up parking and keeping customers away.

At the Patio off University Avenue, owner Megan Kawkab said she’s invested more than $60,000 in the restaurant's outdoor dining area.

But she added her businesses have taken a hit ever since University Avenue closed to cars because she said people head there instead.

“I think it’s time to get back to normal. It’s unfair to retail and restaurants on the side streets, who are not able to get ore seating and triple their occupancy,” she said.

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