This Bay Area city plans to ban cars, expand outdoor dining for good along its ‘crown jewel’

Even as some Bay Area cities pull dining tables off of the streets and reopen their downtown strips to motorists for the first time in 18 months, Mountain View leaders have no intention of doing away with what they see as one of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the contrary, Mountain View plans to make some serious investments to transform the city’s oldest commercial corridor — Castro Street — into a permanent pedestrian mall for residents and visitors to enjoy car-free for decades to come.

“Castro Street has been successful and I know some folks say ‘well, it took a pandemic to do this,’ but there are silver linings to the pandemic and this was one of them,” said councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga.

Like many cities across the Bay Area, Mountain View in the summer of 2020 closed off Castro Street from Evelyn Avenue to California Street to allow restaurants and shops to move their operations outdoors when public health orders banned them from serving customers inside.

In the months since then, the city’s main downtown drag has become a lively and bustling outdoor gathering destination for friends and families to eat, drink and shop.

A recent city survey of more than 1,500 Mountain View residents and visitors found that more than 85% of respondents supported maintaining the road closure.

“Castro is more vibrant now during this unprecedented time than it has been in decades,” said resident Yonatan Shamgar. “Let us make Castro into the crown jewel of this area and continue making it the place that everyone wants to come to have a good time.”

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The Mountain View City Council on Tuesday night endorsed a plan to keep the temporary three-block closure of Castro Street in place until at least 2023, with the intention of gathering feedback and pursuing a broader vision of turning that segment of the roadway into a permanent pedestrian mall.

Their decision comes as other cities like Palo Alto and Pleasanton have gone in the other direction — taking down barriers that once blocked off cars from downtown streets and putting an end to their beloved outdoor business scenes. Meanwhile, San Jose recently hired a consultant to analyze the potential ramifications of keeping its San Pedro Street car-free permanently.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – SEPTEMBER 14: Mountain View’s Castro Street has been closed to traffic for outdoor dining. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic provided Mountain View with the opportunity to test out the viability of a pedestrian mall, the city was already considering the concept prior to March 2020.

With the impending electrification of Caltrain, Mountain View plans to overhaul its Transit Center, located adjacent to the north end of Castro Street, and build a tunnel for pedestrians and bicyclists under the Caltrain tracks and Central Expressway at the north end of the main drag.

As part of those plans, the city council in 2019 expressed interest in creating a pedestrian mall along the block of Castro Street closest to the tracks with the hopes of providing …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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