News

Castro Street businesses weigh in on permanent street closure proposal

Customers dine at picnic tables placed on the street in downtown Mountain View on July 2, 2020. Two years later, the city is now looking at making the temporary street closure permanent. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

After more than two years of allowing a few blocks of Castro Street businesses to utilize the street for outdoor dining, the Mountain View City Council is taking steps to turn this temporary program into a permanent pedestrian mall.

The city voted to close part of Castro Street to vehicular traffic in June 2020, following the lead of other cities like Palo Alto that implemented similar programs in response to the pandemic. The current Castro StrEATs program allows businesses and the public to utilize the car-free roadway on the 100 to 300 blocks of the street.

The city has conducted several engagement activities to get feedback about the program over the last two years, and according to a city staff report, the community has indicated a strong support for making the street closure permanent.

“I think it’s absolutely fabulous,” said David Gamow, manager of East West Bookshop located at 324 Castro Street. “We get a lot of walk-by traffic, and cars zipping past is not the same as people strolling Castro Street. I get people all the time that say, ‘This is fantastic, it feels like a European city or something.’”

East West Bookshop in downtown Mountain View has benefitted greatly from the increased foot traffic caused by the Castro Street closure, the store manager said. Photo by Michelle Le

But before the city can decide to keep Castro Street closed forever, there are a few steps required by the California Pedestrian Mall Law of 1960.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

“What you’re doing tonight is the first step in establishing a permanent pedestrian mall … which is to adopt a resolution of intent to create this mall on the first three blocks of Castro Street,” Public Works Director Dawn Cameron said at a June 28 council meeting. “That kicks off a minimum 90 day public review period.”

After the review period, a public hearing will be held Oct. 11, where the city will take formal public comment on the creation of a pedestrian mall.

Staff said that if the street closure becomes permanent, the city will need to pursue some major changes to infrastructure.

“When you look around the country at other pedestrian malls, eventually we would have to do a complete reconstruction of the street so that it no longer looks like a street, everything is at one level,” Cameron said.

She said any reconstruction is at least a few years off.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

“That’s going to be a major capital improvement project, it’s going to take time and effort to do thoughtful design, working with our community, and eventually constructing it,” Cameron said. “So one of the key considerations we have is, how are we going to handle this interim period or this transitional period between what we see out there today and the eventual reconstruction of the street.”

Chuck Imerson, CEO of the popular fast-casual restaurant Asian Box located at 142 Castro Street, said he supported the initial closure of Castro.

“I think the closure definitely benefits the full-service restaurants more that needed the outside seating during the pandemic,” Imerson said, whereas Asian Box is more of a grab-and-go type business. “At this point it’s probably kind of neutral for us.”

Imerson said he supports permanently closing Castro as long as it keeps driving increased foot traffic.

“I don’t have the statistics on if more people are walking around there because it’s a more attractive walking venue,” Imerson said. “If it becomes a more inviting walking space for the weekend traffic, where people want to go down there and just spend the day, then I would be in favor of keeping it closed long term.”

He said the closure can make it challenging for third party delivery services to navigate and pick up orders from restaurants like his.

“Those are the things that certainly impact us more directly,” Imerson said.

Juan Origel, owner of Ava’s Downtown Market and Deli located at 340 Castro Street, is in a unique position as his business includes both a retail grocery market and a dine-in restaurant component.

“We do have two restaurants inside the store,” Origel said, and having the street shut down benefits that portion of his business greatly. But some challenges arise with retail.

“The way Americans are used to shopping, they’ll drive around a parking lot 10 times just to get to the closest spot to the front of the store. That’s the kind of mindset that most Americans have. That has affected me,” Origel said. “… Even though there’s a parking structure behind us, there’s something about having that front door that people like to park close to.”

Ava's Downtown Market & Deli in downtown Mountain View offers both a retail and restaurant perspective on the Castro Street closure. Photo by Michelle Le

During the 90-day review process prior to the Oct. 11 hearing, Public Works Director Cameron said the city will continue to do outreach with business owners, property owners and the community to hear what these key constituencies want a pedestrian mall to look like, and what infrastructural improvements will help businesses thrive from the change.

“The entire street need not be used for dining purposes,” Cameron said. “What we’re looking at is how can we bring more public gathering, more public interest, a certain amount of maybe public furniture added to it. Maybe there’s a play structure. There’s a lot of opportunities there we want to entertain that create activation and engagement.”

Some infrastructural changes the city wants to make include improving intersection crossings to make it safer for pedestrians to navigate cross street traffic as well as accessibility improvements, like adding more ramps mid-block.

Councilmember Lisa Matichak moved to pass the resolution of intent to establish a pedestrian mall, the first step in the process toward establishing a permanent street closure as required by the Pedestrian Mall Act of 1960. Vice Mayor Alison Hicks seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

“I think we have to give time not only to solving difficult problems in the city but also to making sure that the community feels fully engaged on things that bring joy to living in the city, and this is one that I get comments from members of the public,” Hicks said. “One of the happiest things they say has come out of the pandemic.”

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now
Malea Martin
Malea Martin covers the city hall beat in Mountain View. Before joining the Mountain View Voice in 2022, she covered local politics and education for New Times San Luis Obispo, a weekly newspaper on the Central Coast of California. Read more >>

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Get uninterrupted access to important local city government news. Become a member today.

Castro Street businesses weigh in on permanent street closure proposal

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Jul 5, 2022, 12:07 pm

After more than two years of allowing a few blocks of Castro Street businesses to utilize the street for outdoor dining, the Mountain View City Council is taking steps to turn this temporary program into a permanent pedestrian mall.

The city voted to close part of Castro Street to vehicular traffic in June 2020, following the lead of other cities like Palo Alto that implemented similar programs in response to the pandemic. The current Castro StrEATs program allows businesses and the public to utilize the car-free roadway on the 100 to 300 blocks of the street.

The city has conducted several engagement activities to get feedback about the program over the last two years, and according to a city staff report, the community has indicated a strong support for making the street closure permanent.

“I think it’s absolutely fabulous,” said David Gamow, manager of East West Bookshop located at 324 Castro Street. “We get a lot of walk-by traffic, and cars zipping past is not the same as people strolling Castro Street. I get people all the time that say, ‘This is fantastic, it feels like a European city or something.’”

But before the city can decide to keep Castro Street closed forever, there are a few steps required by the California Pedestrian Mall Law of 1960.

“What you’re doing tonight is the first step in establishing a permanent pedestrian mall … which is to adopt a resolution of intent to create this mall on the first three blocks of Castro Street,” Public Works Director Dawn Cameron said at a June 28 council meeting. “That kicks off a minimum 90 day public review period.”

After the review period, a public hearing will be held Oct. 11, where the city will take formal public comment on the creation of a pedestrian mall.

Staff said that if the street closure becomes permanent, the city will need to pursue some major changes to infrastructure.

“When you look around the country at other pedestrian malls, eventually we would have to do a complete reconstruction of the street so that it no longer looks like a street, everything is at one level,” Cameron said.

She said any reconstruction is at least a few years off.

“That’s going to be a major capital improvement project, it’s going to take time and effort to do thoughtful design, working with our community, and eventually constructing it,” Cameron said. “So one of the key considerations we have is, how are we going to handle this interim period or this transitional period between what we see out there today and the eventual reconstruction of the street.”

Chuck Imerson, CEO of the popular fast-casual restaurant Asian Box located at 142 Castro Street, said he supported the initial closure of Castro.

“I think the closure definitely benefits the full-service restaurants more that needed the outside seating during the pandemic,” Imerson said, whereas Asian Box is more of a grab-and-go type business. “At this point it’s probably kind of neutral for us.”

Imerson said he supports permanently closing Castro as long as it keeps driving increased foot traffic.

“I don’t have the statistics on if more people are walking around there because it’s a more attractive walking venue,” Imerson said. “If it becomes a more inviting walking space for the weekend traffic, where people want to go down there and just spend the day, then I would be in favor of keeping it closed long term.”

He said the closure can make it challenging for third party delivery services to navigate and pick up orders from restaurants like his.

“Those are the things that certainly impact us more directly,” Imerson said.

Juan Origel, owner of Ava’s Downtown Market and Deli located at 340 Castro Street, is in a unique position as his business includes both a retail grocery market and a dine-in restaurant component.

“We do have two restaurants inside the store,” Origel said, and having the street shut down benefits that portion of his business greatly. But some challenges arise with retail.

“The way Americans are used to shopping, they’ll drive around a parking lot 10 times just to get to the closest spot to the front of the store. That’s the kind of mindset that most Americans have. That has affected me,” Origel said. “… Even though there’s a parking structure behind us, there’s something about having that front door that people like to park close to.”

During the 90-day review process prior to the Oct. 11 hearing, Public Works Director Cameron said the city will continue to do outreach with business owners, property owners and the community to hear what these key constituencies want a pedestrian mall to look like, and what infrastructural improvements will help businesses thrive from the change.

“The entire street need not be used for dining purposes,” Cameron said. “What we’re looking at is how can we bring more public gathering, more public interest, a certain amount of maybe public furniture added to it. Maybe there’s a play structure. There’s a lot of opportunities there we want to entertain that create activation and engagement.”

Some infrastructural changes the city wants to make include improving intersection crossings to make it safer for pedestrians to navigate cross street traffic as well as accessibility improvements, like adding more ramps mid-block.

Councilmember Lisa Matichak moved to pass the resolution of intent to establish a pedestrian mall, the first step in the process toward establishing a permanent street closure as required by the Pedestrian Mall Act of 1960. Vice Mayor Alison Hicks seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

“I think we have to give time not only to solving difficult problems in the city but also to making sure that the community feels fully engaged on things that bring joy to living in the city, and this is one that I get comments from members of the public,” Hicks said. “One of the happiest things they say has come out of the pandemic.”

Comments

bkengland
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Jul 5, 2022 at 6:04 pm
bkengland, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Jul 5, 2022 at 6:04 pm

It's great to see Director Cameron describe what's still to come along that stretch of Castro. Ambitious, but it should truly result in a project we can all be proud of in Mountain View!


Dave Smith
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jul 5, 2022 at 6:59 pm
Dave Smith, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jul 5, 2022 at 6:59 pm

All it takes is one fire on Castro that the Fire trucks can’t get to….


Local
Registered user
Martens-Carmelita
on Jul 5, 2022 at 9:40 pm
Local, Martens-Carmelita
Registered user
on Jul 5, 2022 at 9:40 pm

Have we considered street dining as Los Altos does it? There is seating in the parking area directly in front of a block of businesses, and the cars are allowed through in the two open car lanes. I hope that is an option that is being looked at by our Council.


harvardmom
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Jul 6, 2022 at 6:51 am
harvardmom, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 6:51 am

I'm wondering if the business owners on the rest of Castro Street (outside the couple of blocks discussed in this article) should be asked how they are faring and what they think. Are customers making an effort to find those restaurants and shops, or are they staying within the closed-off blocks?


Another MV Resident
Registered user
Willowgate
on Jul 6, 2022 at 7:25 am
Another MV Resident, Willowgate
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 7:25 am

Excited for this. Here’s hoping they plow ahead and don’t listen to the tiny number of negative Nancys here and on nextdoor that complain about 1 little thing that they think makes them look like a genius.

Pedestrian malls a struggle for fire departments? Didn’t know we were inventing a whole new concept and this had never been tried anywhere ever.

Streets allowing traffic like Los Altos? It’s almost like they surveyed the population with that option and people resoundingly said no to it.


a
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Jul 6, 2022 at 7:47 am
a, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 7:47 am

Having lived in Germany for a couple years where you see many vibrant pedestrian malls, I was so happy to see us move to this sort of model — at least temporarily — in downtown Mountain View. I think it really improves the quality of life here …it sets a good example for other nearby towns ….it encourages biking & walking …and I do believe it will make our town more of a destination once it’s all redesigned. My husband and I have been biking downtown more often, ever since this pedestrian area was put into place. Kudos to Mountain View City Council for experimenting with a new way of doing things!


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2022 at 5:51 am
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Jul 7, 2022 at 5:51 am

Yes, we should pay attention to the other blocks of Castro, too. Maybe they can be closed to cars as well!


TomR
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Jul 8, 2022 at 8:11 pm
TomR, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Jul 8, 2022 at 8:11 pm

I hate how in all the MV town surveys for Castro, none even offered an option to keep the roads open so cars can get in from Central Expressway. It was a false choice. I know a ton of MV families north of central expressway who have already started dining out more in Sunnyvale, Cupertino, or Santa Clara because it’s such a pain to go to Castro now. Also Palo Alto opened up University Avenue streets for driving already during the spring of 2022.


CommonSense
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 3, 2022 at 11:29 am
CommonSense, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 3, 2022 at 11:29 am

Castro is a ghost town now, particularly the Castro block between Dana Street and Villa. Empty/bankrupt stores everywhere. People stopped going to Castro because it’s not convenient at all to access anymore. Congrats to terrible decision making, leading to ruining Castro street as a vibrant downtown area compared to other cities in the area. OPEN Up the roads and let people drive in from Central Expressway !!!


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.