Palo Alto Considers Banning Cars From Part Of University Avenue

PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) — The city of Palo Alto is mulling over plans to close down part of a popular street to car traffic so pedestrians take over.

Palo Alto already has one of the most vibrant downtowns in the Bay Area. Some wondered why city officials want to mess with a good thing.

You know, I think some people may have that concern. I share that a little bit, admitted Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff.

This week, the city council voted unanimously to study closing parts of downtown and making it pedestrian only.

It’s very early in the process, so it’s unclear what that would look like.

But Mayor Scharff said all that asphalt could be replaced with outdoor dining, the city could add benches and water fountains.

Oh yeah, I’d be very excited about it. I think it could be fantastic, said Scharff. I mean, if you’ve been to Boulder, Colorado, or Santa Monica, you see how wonderful these pedestrian mall can be in the downtown.

If Palo Alto were to make such a bold move, it would be one of the few Bay Area cities to do so.

Back in 1994, San Jose began to shut down six blocks of E. San Carlo St. that used to bisect San Jose State University. Now it’s a network of grass, airy walkways and benches.

We have to take this in a thoughtful manner, said Scharff. I don’t think this is something you wake up one day and say, ‘We’re just gonna close the street.’

The biggest impact would be on parking and traffic flow.

Local restaurant worker Dee Prasad does not think it’s a good idea, since he works late hours and already has to park several blocks away.

So it’s going to take a lot of parking away from everyone, which means guess we’ll have to park really far and walk here, and go back again, said Prasad.

Palo Alto resident Casey Girard supports the idea, saying distracted drivers are dangerous.

People should walk. It would be a better. It’s nicer. It makes it more pleasant, because then you’re not afraid, said Girard. I’m about to walk across the street, but a car might hit me because they’re not paying any attention to pedestrians.

The mayor hopes to have the study done in about a year and a half.

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