In an attempt to spice up the relatively staid California Avenue scene, the City of Palo Alto has approved a project known as the “California Avenue Streetscape Project” that expands bike paths, creates more parking, and widens the sidewalk. However, the project also involves reducing the number of lanes from 4 to 2, which many merchants complain will harm business.
City Council voted unanimously to approve the project on July 23. Proponents of the project included Councilmembers Pat Burt and Greg Schmid, who are both seeking re-election.
According to Burt, many of the concerns that business owners expressed are unfounded and are a result of misinformation.
“This is a wonderful improvement for neighborhood businesses,” said Burt, pointing out that making the street more pedestrian friendly will draw more patrons to restaurants and shops.
Councilmember Schmid echoed this view.
“The project makes shopping, strolling and dining much more attractive.”
Financial Consultant Timothy Gray stressed that the city needs to make innovations such as this one, given the improving downtowns of surrounding cities.
“In the 25 years I’ve lived in Palo Alto, I’ve seen Castro Street come alive, Redwood City come alive and we’ve been resting on our laurels,” said Gray of the need to draw more shopping traffic to California Avenue.
Attorney Marc Berman also supports the project’s goals but voiced concern that the city did not communicate effectively with business owners.
“I would have an open door policy with merchants,” he said.
Supervisor Liz Kniss expressed her support of the intentions of the project.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to make a more user-friendly street,” she said, noting that this approach had worked in other cities such as Santa Monica.
Music Promoter Mark Weiss declined to discuss the California Avenue issue in detail, merely stating that it was “flabbergastuous.”
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