Palo Alto restaurants reject new plan to remove outdoor eating spaces built during pandemic

Palo Alto City Council voted earlier this year to allow outdoor eating areas built during the pandemic to stay permanently, but this week a new proposal was presented to the council that would change that.   

Two restaurant managers told KTVU that removing the parklets would seriously hurt their business. Still, there are other property owners who think the parklets are simply taking up too much space. 

"It’s a problem. We need places to park cars, but I think it’s worth walking a little further to have a better downtown experience," said  Breena Kerr, who says she used to live in Palo Alto. 

With the support of downtown property owners Premier Properties and Thoits Brothers, a new plan to improve University Ave in Palo Alto emerged at Monday’s city council meeting. CSW Engineering Group presented the plan that would widen the sidewalks and create parallel parking spaces. But restaurants with parklets for outdoor dining have rejected the plan.  

"For one, we spent a lot of money building the parklets and the guests love sitting outside. It’s 50% of our revenue, so if they take away the parklets, they take away a big chunk of our revenue," said Suzanne Tetens, Oren’s Hummus Gen. Mgr.   

Back in September, Palo Alto City Council implemented a permanent parklet program with size limitations and annual fees. Though they approve of parklets, Oren’s Hummus and some customers agree that parking is an issue on University Avenue.  

"Everything’s two-hour parking. Maximum three-hour parking. So, we have to move our car every two to three hours. If you work an eight-hour shift, you have to move your car three times a day," said Tetens.   

"Parking has always been a problem. We’re addicted to our cars, but I think there are other ways to solve that. I mean, they could do some creative things with the parking that they do have," said Geoff Browning, of Palo Alto.     

Management at Local Union 271 on University Avenue also say they support keeping the parklets, because they too spent thousands of dollars building them, and their customers appreciate being outdoors.  

"Businesses should work with the city council to figure out a way to create more parking. Getting the parking off the street and having people in the street, I think is better and there are other places to park," said Martin, a Local Union 271 customer.   

The council is still looking for ways to redesign University Avenue. They asked city staffers to come up with alternative plans that include the current parklet program.

 KTVU reached out to the CSW and Thoits Brothers for comment, but they didn’t respond in time for this report.