Mill Valley compromises on keeping road closed for outdoor dining

In typically quiet Mill Valley there have been concerns and disagreements recently over what to do with Miller Avenue, in the city's downtown.

Some businesses, including the restaurant Piazza D'Angelo, would like to see the street closed to make room for an enlarged outdoor dining area. That's how it was during last summer and fall when the pandemic took away indoor dining, and restaurants desperately needed customers.

"We had a lot of families coming to dine and it was very popular for them to sit out on the street and let their children run through the street and the square," said co-owner Luigi Petrone.

But it didn't work for everyone. Suzanne Price, owner of Sprout San Francisco, an infant and children's clothing and toy store says closing the street means a lack of parking near her shop.

"Pregnant women or families with strollers will have a hard time parking farther away and navigating to the store making it less likely for them to come shop," says Price.

For the past several months the city tried keeping one lane open for cars and closing the other from Thursdays to Sundays.

That idea has been getting bad reviews, mostly concerning safety.
But the Mill Valley City Council has come up with a compromise.
The street will close to all traffic but only from Saturdays at noon to Sunday evening.

"This version is reduced. But we hope to recapture that magic again," says Jim Welke, head of the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce.

"The shortening of the hours to Saturday afternoon to Sunday way better for us and it's a legitimate compromise the town is making," says Price.

"It will mean the community can enjoy the space again," said Petrone.

There will no doubt be many other Bay Area communities wrestling with this very same issue in the weeks to come.