By Kiet Do

MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX) — The city of Mountain View is moving forward with plans to keep Castro Street, the main downtown thoroughfare, closed permanently, ultimately converting it into a pedestrian mall.

The decision will keep the main drag closed from the 100 to 300 block. Mountain View, much like other cities across the nation, expanded outdoor dining on public streets as a way to keep businesses afloat during the pandemic.

“There’s a silver lining to the pandemic and this is one of them,” said Margaret Abe-Koga, Mountain View council member.

The council decision came after a 90-minute study session Tuesday, where council members heard a variety of options that also included closing portions of Evelyn Avenue.

Staff conducted surveys of downtown business owners and residents across the city and found widespread support for maintaining the closure, according to Mayor Ellen Kamei.

“Over 82 percent of those blocks that were closed, businesses were in favor of closing so this is something that’s here to stay. We heard from our community loud and clear so there wasn’t a need to re-open” Kamei said. “I do think that it’s been something of a glimmer of hope for everyone.”

Peter Katz, CEO of the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, said the city had historically been resistant to efforts to close Castro Street, citing disruptions and with opponents arguing such a move would be “out of character” for the city.

“Now, we’ve had this experiment for almost a year and a half and it has worked out extremely well. I don’t want to say that every business is thriving but they are surviving,“ Katz.

Katz said the closure of Castro Street would complement Caltrain’s future electrification, which will affect access to the rail line.

“That access from Central Expressway onto Castro, that’s going to be closed anyway. So it’s one of those things where we have to look intelligently at how we handle that and how do we build an infrastructure so that the traffic and people can come in,” Katz said.

Rose Lue, a frequent visitor to the Castro Street, likened the vibe and ambience to street cafes in Paris.

“I enjoy eating outdoors, feeling like we’re in Europe. But we’re in America,” Lue said. “There’s tables and a unique look for every restaurant. It’s just an atmosphere of community. It’s just vibrant.”

The city will keep the temporary structures in place until at least January 2023. Staff will begin collaborations with partners and stakeholders on a permanent design.