News

Mountain View council expected to close Castro Street this summer to make room for outdoor dining

If approved, the Castro Street closure would begin June 22 and last through September, allowing downtown restaurants to use the empty roadway for outdoor dining. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

Update: The City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to close Castro Street to traffic through Sept. 30, using the sidewalk and roadway for outdoor dining space.

The Mountain View City Council is expected to approve a plan Tuesday to close off Castro Street to traffic through September, allowing struggling downtown restaurants to use the empty roadway to expand outdoor dining options during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The street closure, set to begin June 22, would come just weeks after Santa Clara County public health officials eased tight rules on restaurants that have been in place since March. Starting June 5, restaurants previously restricted to take-out service are now permitted to offer outdoor dining, provided that the tables are spread out and parties are limited to six people.

While the changes have been welcome news for restaurateurs and brought back some of the usual foot traffic and liveliness to downtown Mountain View, the loss of indoor dining still poses a challenge for many restaurants trying to claw back business lost during the pandemic. Densely packed businesses along Castro Street, in particular, have little room to expand outside while adhering to social distancing requirements, making it difficult to take advantage of the loosened rules.

Diners returned to Castro Street over the weekend, as Santa Clara County loosened restrictions to allow outdoor dining for small groups spread out according to social distancing protocols. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

In an effort to help restaurants that are short on space, Peninsula cities including Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos and Redwood City have sought to close down downtown thoroughfares to make more room for tables and chairs on sidewalks and in the roadway. Mountain View's plan specifically calls for street closures spanning from W. Evelyn Avenue to Mercy Street, aimed at helping the smaller restaurants with limited outdoor dining space.

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The street closure will remain in effect 24 hours a day, with a "central aisle" for bike and pedestrian travel along Castro Street. Vehicles will still be able to cross Castro at the intersections with California, Dana and Villa streets.

Downtown business owners largely support the idea, and are optimistic that it will attract customers and ease some of the financial straits that they have faced in recent months, said Sarah Astles, owner of the Opal nightclub and president of the city's Downtown Association. Though the closure isn't set to begin until June 22, business owners are eager to start right away, she said.

"The only complaint I have heard is that this plan isn't in place already," Astles said. "The county has allowed outdoor dining beginning (Friday), and many can't take advantage of that."

Each restaurant will still be subject to a laundry list of public safety requirements and must prove that they are disinfecting surfaces and spreading out parties by at least six feet. Astles said her plan, in reopening Opal's wine bar, is to provide QR codes to customers to allow for touchless menus and payment, and to disinfect tables for a full 10 minutes in between customers.

Mountain View city officials say it's unclear how much the street closure will cost, but that the city plans to buy or rent chairs, tables, portable restrooms and handwashing stations to create a full "food court style layout" along Castro Street. Live Nation, which would normally be running its concert season at Shoreline Aphitheatre, will be lending bollards and barricades to close off the street to traffic, according to city staff.

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The temporary closure could be seen as a test drive for permanent changes to come. Last year, the city approved a study to close Castro at the Caltrain tracks, cutting off the street from Moffett Boulevard and potentially blocking of a section of the road to traffic. Doing so could create a pedestrian plaza at the downtown transit center and a car-free promenade along the northern stretches of Castro Street.

The same firm hired to do the study, Gehl Studios, is helping city staff figure out the street layout and table placements for the temporary closure set to begin later this month.

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Mountain View council expected to close Castro Street this summer to make room for outdoor dining

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Jun 8, 2020, 1:34 pm

Update: The City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to close Castro Street to traffic through Sept. 30, using the sidewalk and roadway for outdoor dining space.

The Mountain View City Council is expected to approve a plan Tuesday to close off Castro Street to traffic through September, allowing struggling downtown restaurants to use the empty roadway to expand outdoor dining options during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The street closure, set to begin June 22, would come just weeks after Santa Clara County public health officials eased tight rules on restaurants that have been in place since March. Starting June 5, restaurants previously restricted to take-out service are now permitted to offer outdoor dining, provided that the tables are spread out and parties are limited to six people.

While the changes have been welcome news for restaurateurs and brought back some of the usual foot traffic and liveliness to downtown Mountain View, the loss of indoor dining still poses a challenge for many restaurants trying to claw back business lost during the pandemic. Densely packed businesses along Castro Street, in particular, have little room to expand outside while adhering to social distancing requirements, making it difficult to take advantage of the loosened rules.

In an effort to help restaurants that are short on space, Peninsula cities including Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos and Redwood City have sought to close down downtown thoroughfares to make more room for tables and chairs on sidewalks and in the roadway. Mountain View's plan specifically calls for street closures spanning from W. Evelyn Avenue to Mercy Street, aimed at helping the smaller restaurants with limited outdoor dining space.

The street closure will remain in effect 24 hours a day, with a "central aisle" for bike and pedestrian travel along Castro Street. Vehicles will still be able to cross Castro at the intersections with California, Dana and Villa streets.

Downtown business owners largely support the idea, and are optimistic that it will attract customers and ease some of the financial straits that they have faced in recent months, said Sarah Astles, owner of the Opal nightclub and president of the city's Downtown Association. Though the closure isn't set to begin until June 22, business owners are eager to start right away, she said.

"The only complaint I have heard is that this plan isn't in place already," Astles said. "The county has allowed outdoor dining beginning (Friday), and many can't take advantage of that."

Each restaurant will still be subject to a laundry list of public safety requirements and must prove that they are disinfecting surfaces and spreading out parties by at least six feet. Astles said her plan, in reopening Opal's wine bar, is to provide QR codes to customers to allow for touchless menus and payment, and to disinfect tables for a full 10 minutes in between customers.

Mountain View city officials say it's unclear how much the street closure will cost, but that the city plans to buy or rent chairs, tables, portable restrooms and handwashing stations to create a full "food court style layout" along Castro Street. Live Nation, which would normally be running its concert season at Shoreline Aphitheatre, will be lending bollards and barricades to close off the street to traffic, according to city staff.

The temporary closure could be seen as a test drive for permanent changes to come. Last year, the city approved a study to close Castro at the Caltrain tracks, cutting off the street from Moffett Boulevard and potentially blocking of a section of the road to traffic. Doing so could create a pedestrian plaza at the downtown transit center and a car-free promenade along the northern stretches of Castro Street.

The same firm hired to do the study, Gehl Studios, is helping city staff figure out the street layout and table placements for the temporary closure set to begin later this month.

Comments

A Talking Cat
Old Mountain View
on Jun 8, 2020 at 3:09 pm
A Talking Cat, Old Mountain View
on Jun 8, 2020 at 3:09 pm
28 people like this

Let's do it today, and make it permanent.


Martin Omander
Rex Manor
on Jun 8, 2020 at 5:29 pm
Martin Omander, Rex Manor
on Jun 8, 2020 at 5:29 pm
13 people like this

This sounds like a great idea! I'm looking forward to having an outdoor lunch or dinner at one of these restaurants.


Jes' Sayin'
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2020 at 9:47 pm
Jes' Sayin', Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2020 at 9:47 pm
10 people like this

Congratulations on finding a way to really irk a lot of people.


Dave
Rengstorff Park
on Jun 9, 2020 at 9:18 am
Dave, Rengstorff Park
on Jun 9, 2020 at 9:18 am
4 people like this

Something will need to be done about shading the entire street or it will be a miserable dining experience. Parking will also be an issue if shading is solved, not sure I see a benefit overall to businesses. It will impact traffic quite badly, personally I view it as a negative more than a positive and will likely eat elsewhere.


Darin
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2020 at 2:28 pm
Darin, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2020 at 2:28 pm
6 people like this

And don't forget that everyone in your party must live in the same household. I don't know about you, but that eliminates most of my restaurant visits.


The Business Man
Castro City
on Jun 9, 2020 at 2:56 pm
The Business Man, Castro City
on Jun 9, 2020 at 2:56 pm
7 people like this

[Post removed due to repetitive post by same poster]


Please Be Safe
Cuernavaca
on Jun 9, 2020 at 3:12 pm
Please Be Safe, Cuernavaca
on Jun 9, 2020 at 3:12 pm
6 people like this

I sincerely hope restaurants follow the stipulation of the County Order that states diners must be from the same family or household:

"Outdoor seating arrangements shall limit the number of patrons at a single table to no more than six (6) 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."

With outdoor seating, it seems that MVPD should be able to stroll the street and warn/sanction obvious violators.

We want to get things back, but for the good of the community (and for these re-openings to be long-lasting), we need to follow the distancing regulations.

Thank you all!


Police profiling
Cuesta Park
on Jun 9, 2020 at 3:47 pm
Police profiling, Cuesta Park
on Jun 9, 2020 at 3:47 pm
3 people like this

Please be safe- you mean you want the MVPD to profile people sitting at tables??? Yeah. That has worked out well.


YES!
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2020 at 4:08 pm
YES!, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2020 at 4:08 pm
6 people like this

This is great...maybe permanent??? Lot's of smiling faces in our house right now.


Duane
another community
on Jun 9, 2020 at 7:16 pm
Duane, another community
on Jun 9, 2020 at 7:16 pm
4 people like this

Its either close Castro or pay a Billion $++++??? for a grade separation at the tracks,with the coming electrification of Cal-train and more trains per hour, one can just sit in their car an watch the train's go by ,I'll just go over to the Shoreline over pass.
With the money not spent on building the grade separation,spend it on more parking structures.


The Business Man
Castro City
on Jun 9, 2020 at 9:22 pm
The Business Man, Castro City
on Jun 9, 2020 at 9:22 pm
2 people like this

Downtown is dealing with a serious structural change.

The street needs WIDENING in order to accommodate future traffic.

The parking allocation needs SERIOUS upgrading.

The Station is going to see a MAJOR refit.

The REALITY is that most existing structures may need to be razed for new plans and arrangements.

Has anyone played SIMCITY?

It forced major demolition and re-planning as you play the game.

It is overdue in Mountain View this street has not been touched in more than 30-40 years.


Max Hauser
Old Mountain View
on Jun 9, 2020 at 11:15 pm
Max Hauser, Old Mountain View
on Jun 9, 2020 at 11:15 pm
3 people like this

City Council approved the proposal in tonight's meeting, unanimously, about an hour ago. Closing four blocks of Castro to allow expanded outdoor restaurant dining.

Many supportive comments were received (or expressed by Council members) and very little opposition.


JustSayin
Rengstorff Park
on Jun 10, 2020 at 9:25 am
JustSayin, Rengstorff Park
on Jun 10, 2020 at 9:25 am
8 people like this

Some how eating outside in the summer heat on a dark asfault road does not seem inviting. Not to mention parking... Like where.

Also, rumor has it the #BLM protesters might target Castro street's outdoor dining venue. CHECK PLEASE!!!


Love this
Old Mountain View
on Jun 10, 2020 at 10:55 am
Love this, Old Mountain View
on Jun 10, 2020 at 10:55 am
22 people like this

Riding bikes downtown on a shady evening for dinner? Yes please. HELL YES PLEASE. I bet I'll be able to bring my dog too :) :) :)


40 yrs in MV
Slater
on Jun 10, 2020 at 11:50 am
40 yrs in MV, Slater
on Jun 10, 2020 at 11:50 am
2 people like this

Well then I will no longer spend money in that part of town, until this is over. Sure I am one person but I'm told that's is all I need to make a difference. That being said something tells me that I will not be alone.


Then it's settled
Bailey Park
on Jun 10, 2020 at 12:39 pm
Then it's settled, Bailey Park
on Jun 10, 2020 at 12:39 pm
3 people like this

Sounds like some will flock to it and some will not.
Sounds like everyone has a plan that will work for them.
Good.


Amy
Old Mountain View
on Jun 10, 2020 at 12:49 pm
Amy, Old Mountain View
on Jun 10, 2020 at 12:49 pm
12 people like this

This is a super idea. It will be so pleasant to eat outside without traffic just one foot away on the other side of a potted plant. I’m also looking forward to more room to walk and bike in the center of the street.
Thanks Mountain View!


Hurry Please
Cuesta Park
on Jun 10, 2020 at 1:53 pm
Hurry Please, Cuesta Park
on Jun 10, 2020 at 1:53 pm
Like this comment

My kid's have already put in their requests, and I reeeeally hope Eureka! is one that will open in the street because otherwise I'm hosed. Haha.
So looking forward to being out again. The restrictions create more ease of mind.


Tina
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2020 at 2:56 pm
Tina, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2020 at 2:56 pm
8 people like this

ITS ABOUT TIME!!! The restaurants won't make it without these changes.I hope the city will provide bike racks on every block. Since Covid, many more people have gotten bikes for their families.
Also, its inevitable that the street will have to close because of the electrification of Caltrain. This is the perfect time to test out the closure and provide alternate ways for folks to drive in and park. I suggest we add more underground parking in any new developments and 1 more multistory garage.I am not crazy about garages but its not fair to the neighborhoods near downtown. The city will probably give property owners stickers to park in front of their own house at some point. Like any changes in life there are good and bad outcomes and you cannot please everyone.


Kevin Fogarty
another community
on Jun 24, 2020 at 11:47 am
Kevin Fogarty, another community
on Jun 24, 2020 at 11:47 am
2 people like this

The closure of the street to allow restaurants to use the additional space for outside seating, if they are to remain open under the loosing of the restrictions, is badly required from a public safety point of view. I recently drove down Castro and there was absolutely now social distancing being carried out by the open restaurants expect for 1. People were dining outside crammed side by side and back to back with other people in strict violation of the guidelines. No social distancing measures had been put in place at all. With the virus still a very real threat, and given the recent spike in infected numbers, its disgraceful that all these restaurants were allowed to open without following such precautions and endangering its customer's. However, all those customer's do have a part to play here and are not without blame. We as consumers should be demanding they put in place sufficient distancing between tables for our own safety. Personally I will not be visiting any restaurant any time soon but, if I do, I would not eat anywhere that did not follow the guidance and have sufficient safe guards in place.


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