PALO ALTO, Calif. - It’s another sign of normalcy returning to one Peninsula city. Streets closed for outdoor dining during the pandemic may reopen sooner than anticipated. The idea has some restaurant owners and retailers divided.
Several streets in Palo Alto including the city’s main drag University Avenue have been closed for months. City leaders are thinking of opening the streets back up shortly after the state reopens June 15.
For months, people have seen University Avenue in Palo Alto closed to traffic so restaurants can operate outdoors but city streets may see cars driving freely once again.
"I think it’s dreadful and I’m in shock," said Nancy Coupal, owner of Coupa Café.
Coupal has invested close to six figures on a welcoming outdoor space for coffee lovers to enjoy during the summer. She’s hoping it will help the cafe recuperate revenue lost during the pandemic.
"With the hope of being able to stay on the streets until October 31, we all kind of saw a lifeline thrown out to us," said Coupal.
Now, the city manager is recommending pushing the date up as early as July 6 in anticipation of the state’s reopening date of June 15 when businesses can operate indoors at full capacity.
"I would be delighted to have the streets reopen," said Cherry LeBrun of Denovo Fine Comtemporary Jewelry."
LeBrun supports reopening. The store sits at the corner of University and Ramona. Both streets are closed. Limited access means lost sales.
"Someone made it here the other day and she said that she spent 20 minutes trying to navigate her way here. She ended up parking five blocks away and walking," said LeBrun.
"I think it’s time," said Megan Kawab, owner of The Patio. "I think it’s time we all get back to normal."
The owner of The Patio wasn’t given street space but she said the city allows for temporary parklets, which she and many other owners have built. She said the whole process has not been fair.
"The idea to help some while hurting others is not the best position for the city," said Kawab.
Supporters of street dining said a city-sponsored survey showed a majority of people favored the closures. Stu Soffer isn’t one of them.
"It’s killing downtown Palo Alto," said Soffer.
Other cities like San Carlos and Menlo Park have also debated ending their street closures early. Palo Alto’s city council is expected to make a decision next month.
Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU. Email Azenith at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.