News

Downtown Mountain View's Castro Street to remain closed to traffic through the end of 2021

A car drives by outdoor dining areas on Castro Street in Mountain View on April 5, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Mountain View's bustling downtown has been car-free for one year now, cut off from vehicle traffic in order to make room for restaurants and other businesses to operate outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But with nearly all public health restrictions lifted last week, how long will it last? City officials are proposing that Castro Street remain mostly closed through the end of the year, and are leaving open the possibility of a permanent closure to vehicle traffic.

Mountain View City Council members are expected to vote Tuesday, June 22, to keep the first three blocks of Castro Street closed through Jan. 3, 2022. The plan means parking and driving along the downtown street could return some time between Jan. 4 and Jan. 18, with a timeline that is no longer bound to the city's emergency declaration.

The 400 block of Castro Street, stretching between California and Mercy streets, is excluded from the extension and will reopen to traffic at least by July 9 this year.

The split approach comes from the businesses themselves. When surveyed, a majority of those on the first three blocks of Castro Street supported the closure through the end of the year -- many of which have limited storefront space and will lose most of their outdoor dining space when traffic resumes. Customers also generally prefer outdoor dining, and it would take time and money to tear down tents and other outdoor dining setups.

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But things are different on the 400 block of Castro Street, where outdoor dining is both less popular and less available. City officials said the southbound lane of Castro Street had to remain clear of obstructions for fire access to the Mountain Bay Plaza building.

The reasons for the continued traffic closure of Castro Street are shifting. The original closure in June 2020 was tantamount to disaster relief, giving restaurants a lifeline to serve customers outdoors while indoor dining was prohibited. And while the measure didn't bring business back to pre-pandemic levels, it was a significant improvement.

Pedestrians walk by Ristorante Don Giovanni and St. Stephen's Green customers dining at outdoor tables placed on the street in downtown Mountain View. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Today those public health restrictions no longer exist, yet only a minority of businesses on the first three blocks of Castro Street want the street reopened to traffic this year. Some also raised the possibility that Castro be reopened at the Caltrain tracks to allow for travel across Central Expressway.

Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom weighed in on the debate surrounding outdoor dining and street closures, encouraging local governments to consider expanded outdoor operations through the end of 2021. To that end, Newsom is allowing restaurants across the state to continue selling alcohol in outdoor dining areas through Dec. 31, and will continue to allow restaurants to sell alcohol to go.

"This will both promote public health by encouraging outdoor dining and promote the economic recovery of the restaurant sectors by allowing restaurants and bars to benefit from the substantial investments that they have made in their outdoor operations," Newsom wrote in a June 3 statement.

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In the coming months, the city is planning to survey the public and businesses alike on the future of Castro Street. Though the feedback is ostensibly meant for the city's plans to permanently close Castro Street specifically at the Caltrain tracks, participants will also get a chance to weigh in on the permanent closure of the 200 and 300 blocks of Castro Street as well.

Thus far, closing Castro Street has not caused any noticeable traffic problems along Shoreline Boulevard and other roads that serve as alternative routes in the downtown corridor, but it's difficult to say whether that will continue. Many downtown employees have been working from home, and a return to the office over the next year could cause problems. Parking, though constrained in the "core" area of downtown Mountain View, remains available elsewhere during peak hours despite the loss of on-street parking along Castro.

The proposal to keep Castro Street closed through the end of the year is on the City Council's consent calendar for the Tuesday meeting, and is expected to pass.

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Downtown Mountain View's Castro Street to remain closed to traffic through the end of 2021

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Jun 22, 2021, 12:16 pm

Mountain View's bustling downtown has been car-free for one year now, cut off from vehicle traffic in order to make room for restaurants and other businesses to operate outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But with nearly all public health restrictions lifted last week, how long will it last? City officials are proposing that Castro Street remain mostly closed through the end of the year, and are leaving open the possibility of a permanent closure to vehicle traffic.

Mountain View City Council members are expected to vote Tuesday, June 22, to keep the first three blocks of Castro Street closed through Jan. 3, 2022. The plan means parking and driving along the downtown street could return some time between Jan. 4 and Jan. 18, with a timeline that is no longer bound to the city's emergency declaration.

The 400 block of Castro Street, stretching between California and Mercy streets, is excluded from the extension and will reopen to traffic at least by July 9 this year.

The split approach comes from the businesses themselves. When surveyed, a majority of those on the first three blocks of Castro Street supported the closure through the end of the year -- many of which have limited storefront space and will lose most of their outdoor dining space when traffic resumes. Customers also generally prefer outdoor dining, and it would take time and money to tear down tents and other outdoor dining setups.

But things are different on the 400 block of Castro Street, where outdoor dining is both less popular and less available. City officials said the southbound lane of Castro Street had to remain clear of obstructions for fire access to the Mountain Bay Plaza building.

The reasons for the continued traffic closure of Castro Street are shifting. The original closure in June 2020 was tantamount to disaster relief, giving restaurants a lifeline to serve customers outdoors while indoor dining was prohibited. And while the measure didn't bring business back to pre-pandemic levels, it was a significant improvement.

Today those public health restrictions no longer exist, yet only a minority of businesses on the first three blocks of Castro Street want the street reopened to traffic this year. Some also raised the possibility that Castro be reopened at the Caltrain tracks to allow for travel across Central Expressway.

Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom weighed in on the debate surrounding outdoor dining and street closures, encouraging local governments to consider expanded outdoor operations through the end of 2021. To that end, Newsom is allowing restaurants across the state to continue selling alcohol in outdoor dining areas through Dec. 31, and will continue to allow restaurants to sell alcohol to go.

"This will both promote public health by encouraging outdoor dining and promote the economic recovery of the restaurant sectors by allowing restaurants and bars to benefit from the substantial investments that they have made in their outdoor operations," Newsom wrote in a June 3 statement.

In the coming months, the city is planning to survey the public and businesses alike on the future of Castro Street. Though the feedback is ostensibly meant for the city's plans to permanently close Castro Street specifically at the Caltrain tracks, participants will also get a chance to weigh in on the permanent closure of the 200 and 300 blocks of Castro Street as well.

Thus far, closing Castro Street has not caused any noticeable traffic problems along Shoreline Boulevard and other roads that serve as alternative routes in the downtown corridor, but it's difficult to say whether that will continue. Many downtown employees have been working from home, and a return to the office over the next year could cause problems. Parking, though constrained in the "core" area of downtown Mountain View, remains available elsewhere during peak hours despite the loss of on-street parking along Castro.

The proposal to keep Castro Street closed through the end of the year is on the City Council's consent calendar for the Tuesday meeting, and is expected to pass.

Comments

USA
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jun 22, 2021 at 12:47 pm
USA, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jun 22, 2021 at 12:47 pm

This is great news. It will great to have these open areas to meet and socialize as we come out of lockdown.


Jeff
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2021 at 4:06 pm
Jeff, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Jun 22, 2021 at 4:06 pm

Not a big fan of the closure but so it goes. But I HATE that we can't make a left onto Central Expwy from Castro. Foolish reason was danger to crossing pedestrians. If that's the case the change the light timing so the pedestrians get green crossing AFTER the cars are allowed to turn left.

If it's still a problem, then why isn't left turn from Moffett onto Center Expwy prohibited too? Certainly when train comes there are a lot of pedestrians crossings.

Seems not at all logical to me and very disruptive to we that live across Central to the north.


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2021 at 7:43 pm
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Jun 22, 2021 at 7:43 pm

Jeff, you misunderstand the logic behind blocking the left turn. When the crossing gates close, the light turns green so that any cars that may be on the tracks can get out. When the left turn was allowed, those cars would go into the crosswalk, which might have people in it. I'm not aware of anyone actually being hit by a car for this reason, but it could happen.


Dave Smith
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jun 22, 2021 at 9:44 pm
Dave Smith, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jun 22, 2021 at 9:44 pm

Yet another progressive grab to force cars off the streets! I’m ok to close for outdoor dining. But come winter rain season no one will use it so why not open it back up? Why do we all have to suffer for a few idealists and their version of utopia? Next requirement on Castro will be Vegan only restaurants what use electric ranges during the day!


RA
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jun 22, 2021 at 11:09 pm
RA, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jun 22, 2021 at 11:09 pm

Any time I used to turn on to Castro in the evening, I immediately regretted it... a bunch of lost people looking for non-existent parking. I don't miss it at all.


John
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2021 at 2:44 am
John, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Jun 23, 2021 at 2:44 am

I'm fine with the continued Castro Street closure, but can we turn the regular traffic signals back on at Villa and at California intersections? I'm sick and tired of pedestrians walking up to the corner and stopping to look around like its the first time they've ever crossed a street. The regular signals would work fine to regulate pedestrian and automotive traffic.


frisbee
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Jun 23, 2021 at 9:36 am
frisbee, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Jun 23, 2021 at 9:36 am

I support the continued closure and hope it becomes permanent. We enjoyed eating and walking around the area, even during winter.


chewie
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Jun 23, 2021 at 12:13 pm
chewie, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Jun 23, 2021 at 12:13 pm

Closing the streets will only make getting around worse. I do not like the traffic closure. The tents are ugly and I only buy now from restaurants on open streets.


Jeremy Hoffman
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Jun 23, 2021 at 8:44 pm
Jeremy Hoffman, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Jun 23, 2021 at 8:44 pm

I'm all for closing Castro St to car traffic, but I do wish we could find room to open it for bike traffic, which takes a lot less space and is quiet and relatively safe.


Ramone
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jun 23, 2021 at 10:51 pm
Ramone, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jun 23, 2021 at 10:51 pm

Keep it closed forever. Let the restaurants build more attractive outdoor facilities and get rid of the ugly tents.


Yonatan
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jun 27, 2021 at 12:29 pm
Yonatan, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jun 27, 2021 at 12:29 pm

So glad to see this. It really makes Castro street an even more welcoming place than it already was.
I am glad that it is not open for bike traffic. Hope and Bryant streets are still open for people to bike down. I would rather not be dodging people speeding down the street while out for a walk.


Dave Smith
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jun 28, 2021 at 11:14 am
Dave Smith, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jun 28, 2021 at 11:14 am

Why do we vote for city council members without a clue?

Dining in the streets will end in Nov when it starts raining and getting cold!

Castro street will be empty during Dec when it rains and the umbrellas are blown over and chairs and tables stacked to prevent blown away since no one will eat outside when it is code and rainy!

I say we close the streets around the homes of the people who voted for this!


A
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Jun 28, 2021 at 6:52 pm
A, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Jun 28, 2021 at 6:52 pm

I can see both sides of this issue, but overall I think the street closure adds to the experience of dining/shopping downtown. Because of it, I have biked over to downtown more often -- getting take-out, buying gifts in the bookstore, getting groceries, etc. It feels more charming, more like a community now. I also agree with the comments about removing the tents and allowing the businesses to build more attractive, permanent settings in the downtown corridor.


jethrotsquirrel
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2021 at 5:21 pm
jethrotsquirrel, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jun 30, 2021 at 5:21 pm

Upvote for keeping Castro St. closed to vehicles.
The closure has caused more traffic on my street (Hope St), but it's well worth it. Lots of outdoor dining, less crowding on the sidewalks, fewer concerns about cars doing stupid things in the presence of pedestrians. As a daily driver, I haven't felt the closure of Castro has been an issue.


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