News

Mountain View considers transforming downtown Castro Street into a pedestrian mall

The first block of Castro Street could be permanently closed to traffic, making room for outdoor dining. Customers dine at tables placed on the street in downtown Mountain View on July 2, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

As Mountain View prepares to close off Castro Street at the Caltrain tracks, city officials are asking the public to chime in on the future vision for downtown and whether it ought to have cars at all.

At an open-house event Tuesday evening, residents were invited to consider three options for changes to the first block of Castro Street, all of which call for eliminating parking and expanding space for bicyclists and pedestrians. The key differences came down to how much to accommodate cars, ranging from preserving two-way vehicle traffic on Castro Street to closing traffic and outright moving Evelyn Avenue out of the way to make room for more outdoor space.

Mountain View has planned since 2016 to close Castro Street at the Caltrain tracks in order to accommodate a spike in Caltrain service, spurred by both electrification and high-speed rail. Once the street was closed at Central Expressway, the plan was to turn the 100 block of Castro Street into some type of pedestrian mall, though there were few details at the time on what it would look like.

Of the three options now up for consideration, one calls for keeping a 24-foot-wide road down the center of the 100 block of Castro Street for vehicles, with large 16-foot areas for "streetlife" on either side -- areas for outdoor dining and other pedestrian uses. Another would remove the vehicle lanes from Evelyn Avenue to Villa Street, creating a pedestrian-only plaza and more room for bike and pedestrian travel.

A third option, considered the most extensive and costly, would realign Evelyn Avenue in order to extend the pedestrian promenade to the Mountain View Transit Center and a short distance east on Evelyn.

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Polling at the open house -- done via blue stickers on poster boards -- showed attendees overwhelmingly favored the third option, with residents calling out the need for traffic safety and a more urban design that shifts the emphasis away from cars. Keeping vehicle traffic on Castro Street polled badly, with the vast majority signaling they were very concerned with the option.

Despite the potential for closing off part of Castro Street to cars, a traffic analysis found that all three options would have a minimal impact on traffic in the area. The greater downtown corridor in Mountain View has numerous side streets and nearby thoroughfares like Shoreline Boulevard, making it easy for drivers to navigate around the street closure. City officials say the plan is to take in feedback from the community on all three options before taking it to the City Council to weigh in this fall.

Revamping the 100 block of Castro Street had been in the cards since before the COVID-19 pandemic and the city's ensuing decision to temporarily close off Castro to vehicle traffic, and the project is being treated independently of the ongoing debate over whether to keep the street closed indefinitely. The temporary street closure had a muted effect for businesses on the 400 block of Castro Street -- which includes the Bay Plaza building, Cascal and Scratch -- but boosted foot traffic and sales for restaurants on the first three blocks of Castro Street.

The city's pedestrian mall study for the first block of Castro Street is instead intertwined with plans to redesign the Mountain View Transit Center, which includes a massive overhaul aimed at helping bicyclists and pedestrians get across Central Expressway with the road closed and trains whizzing by at higher frequencies. To that end, the city is planning to build a Y-shaped bike and pedestrian undercrossing that links Castro Street to Moffett Boulevard and Stierlin Road.

City officials say there were already 300 bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the street during the busiest commute hours prior to the pandemic, and future growth could ratchet that up to 1,000 people -- necessitating new infrastructure to help get them to the transit center. The undercrossing, along with other improvements including a vehicle ramp from Evelyn Avenue to Shoreline Boulevard, is expected to cost $80 million, with construction tentatively set to begin in spring 2023.

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Anyone interested in weighing in on the pedestrian mall can take a survey on the city's web page through Sept. 16. Comments can also be emailed to [email protected]

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Mountain View considers transforming downtown Castro Street into a pedestrian mall

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Sep 8, 2021, 1:30 pm

As Mountain View prepares to close off Castro Street at the Caltrain tracks, city officials are asking the public to chime in on the future vision for downtown and whether it ought to have cars at all.

At an open-house event Tuesday evening, residents were invited to consider three options for changes to the first block of Castro Street, all of which call for eliminating parking and expanding space for bicyclists and pedestrians. The key differences came down to how much to accommodate cars, ranging from preserving two-way vehicle traffic on Castro Street to closing traffic and outright moving Evelyn Avenue out of the way to make room for more outdoor space.

Mountain View has planned since 2016 to close Castro Street at the Caltrain tracks in order to accommodate a spike in Caltrain service, spurred by both electrification and high-speed rail. Once the street was closed at Central Expressway, the plan was to turn the 100 block of Castro Street into some type of pedestrian mall, though there were few details at the time on what it would look like.

Of the three options now up for consideration, one calls for keeping a 24-foot-wide road down the center of the 100 block of Castro Street for vehicles, with large 16-foot areas for "streetlife" on either side -- areas for outdoor dining and other pedestrian uses. Another would remove the vehicle lanes from Evelyn Avenue to Villa Street, creating a pedestrian-only plaza and more room for bike and pedestrian travel.

A third option, considered the most extensive and costly, would realign Evelyn Avenue in order to extend the pedestrian promenade to the Mountain View Transit Center and a short distance east on Evelyn.

Polling at the open house -- done via blue stickers on poster boards -- showed attendees overwhelmingly favored the third option, with residents calling out the need for traffic safety and a more urban design that shifts the emphasis away from cars. Keeping vehicle traffic on Castro Street polled badly, with the vast majority signaling they were very concerned with the option.

Despite the potential for closing off part of Castro Street to cars, a traffic analysis found that all three options would have a minimal impact on traffic in the area. The greater downtown corridor in Mountain View has numerous side streets and nearby thoroughfares like Shoreline Boulevard, making it easy for drivers to navigate around the street closure. City officials say the plan is to take in feedback from the community on all three options before taking it to the City Council to weigh in this fall.

Revamping the 100 block of Castro Street had been in the cards since before the COVID-19 pandemic and the city's ensuing decision to temporarily close off Castro to vehicle traffic, and the project is being treated independently of the ongoing debate over whether to keep the street closed indefinitely. The temporary street closure had a muted effect for businesses on the 400 block of Castro Street -- which includes the Bay Plaza building, Cascal and Scratch -- but boosted foot traffic and sales for restaurants on the first three blocks of Castro Street.

The city's pedestrian mall study for the first block of Castro Street is instead intertwined with plans to redesign the Mountain View Transit Center, which includes a massive overhaul aimed at helping bicyclists and pedestrians get across Central Expressway with the road closed and trains whizzing by at higher frequencies. To that end, the city is planning to build a Y-shaped bike and pedestrian undercrossing that links Castro Street to Moffett Boulevard and Stierlin Road.

City officials say there were already 300 bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the street during the busiest commute hours prior to the pandemic, and future growth could ratchet that up to 1,000 people -- necessitating new infrastructure to help get them to the transit center. The undercrossing, along with other improvements including a vehicle ramp from Evelyn Avenue to Shoreline Boulevard, is expected to cost $80 million, with construction tentatively set to begin in spring 2023.

Anyone interested in weighing in on the pedestrian mall can take a survey on the city's web page through Sept. 16. Comments can also be emailed to [email protected]

Comments

David Haedtler
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Sep 8, 2021 at 1:58 pm
David Haedtler, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 1:58 pm

I applaud the city staff for taking this first step in evaluating the alternatives and seeking community feedback. The current pedestrian mall in the 100-300 blocks of Castro street has added vibrancy to the downtown and I'm concerned that the current plan is to go back to vehicular traffic after the first of the year or to limit plans to just the 100 block. If you'd like to ask the City Council to take bolder action and make the current temporary change into a permanent one, please sign my petition to the City Council by going to Web Link


bkengland
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Sep 8, 2021 at 2:29 pm
bkengland, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 2:29 pm

Now to get the Moffett Boulevard Precise Plan in the works for full attention on the area!


gretchen
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Sep 8, 2021 at 2:32 pm
gretchen, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 2:32 pm

Great idea but totally excludes the disabled and elderly. This is our town too.


Shane
Registered user
Willowgate
on Sep 8, 2021 at 3:10 pm
Shane, Willowgate
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 3:10 pm

I see this as part of a new grand vision for the Historic Downtown Castro Street and eventual interconnection with the future transit center on south side of the tracks. Hopefully, this grand vision will eventually be extended to connect with Moffett Blvd and it’s in-proximity to the Willowgate and Whisman neighborhoods. But a Feasibility Study and Precise Plan for Moffett Blvd Area needs to begin now before private developers and corporations screw up the ultimate plans for this area by building developments in a piecemeal manner with no careful and comprehensive urban planning to realize a grand vision. What a great opportunity to realize a vision of a people-centric community with greenery, trees, beautiful landscape, water fountains, restaurants, theaters and other entertainment, helpful services. It can be integrated into the natural environment and preserve our historical past and native plant species and wildlife. It would be a shame to pass up this single opportunity. Developing housing projects with little consideration for the cumulative impacts of dozens such projects is the recipe for failure in efforts to improve the livability and quality of life in Downtown and Mountain View neighborhoods. Currently, developers are guiding our growth. Advocacy groups are working hard on behalf of the people of our city. I implore the leaders of these groups and elected officials to make improvements by fine-tuning urban planning tools, instruments, and practices including the use of General Plans, Precise Plans, and Zoning Ordinances. Make this one of your primary goals and objectives. With respect and appreciation for all you do as volunteers. Thanks! As Admiral Dolittle said on the runway of the Hornet, a WWII Aircraft Carrier, there is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer. With it beats the spirit of service, generosity and compassion... and the health and the wellbeing of the community, country and our world. Thanks for your service.


Concerned
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Sep 8, 2021 at 3:35 pm
Concerned, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 3:35 pm

A great idea! Right now the downtown needs to be spruced up. It is looking shabby and needs design standards for the outdoor areas. Other local cities have done a nicer job. Consider some communal lawn areas like City Hall Plaza. With a few exceptions most of the buildings are not of historic significance and could be redeveloped in a tasteful way with housing overhead. The Global Beads area could be converted into a Marketplace, similar to Oxbow Market in Napa, the Ferry Building Marketplace and the smaller recently opened State Street Marketplace in Los Altos.


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Sep 8, 2021 at 3:44 pm
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 3:44 pm

I support 100% making Castro a pedestrian mall. But let's make sure we keep the current setup that we've all come to enjoy WHILE doing all these studies. Please consider signing this petition: Web Link


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2021 at 12:56 pm
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2021 at 12:56 pm

@Gretchen, all three of the upper blocks of Castro have back alleys on both sides (refer to your online map of choice). People who can't walk half a block can be dropped off in the back alley.


PeaceLove
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Sep 10, 2021 at 2:32 pm
PeaceLove, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Sep 10, 2021 at 2:32 pm

>Polling at the open house -- done via blue stickers on poster boards -- showed attendees >overwhelmingly favored the third option...

Haha, those blue stickers on the board are a performative move that the City Council will now summarily ignore. I was at the meeting where they asked the audience whether to allow cannabis dispensaries in Mountain View and the Yes column was overwhelmingly popular. The result? They ignored it and did what they wanted. 25 years after MV residents first voted to allow cannabis (by an OVERWHELMING margin) it's still unavailable in the city.

Open houses, City Council meetings, all of it is a veneer of democracy. They will do whatever the developer money tells them to do. They know who they serve.

It's sad, because downtown Mountain View could be an awesome place for the community to gather. Small local merchants like the pet store, the used book store and other now-gone mainstays should be protected, rather than priced out. Instead it will be designed to benefit those with the deepest pockets...as always.


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