With a mix of successes and challenges, the San Carlos street closure program will be expanded to allow for additional businesses to open up shop outdoors until at least Dec. 31. 

The San Carlos City Council voted in favor of expanding the downtown street closure plan to include Arroyo Street and the Industrial Arts District. Currently, the program has benefited mostly restaurants along Laurel Street and San Carlos Avenue by allowing outdoor dining into parking stalls. 

“I’m very much in favor of doing this. I’m very much in favor of trying to lift all boats and throw out life preservers to small businesses here, not just the ones on Laurel Street but the ones that are in other areas of town too where it makes sense,” said Councilwoman Sara McDowell who sits on the Industrial Arts Committee with Councilman Adam Rak. 

The expanded program will allow for water barriers to be placed in front of businesses including Broiler Express and Boondocks Barbershop on Arroyo Street. Yoga Health Center will be allowed to expand into Cherry Street on Sundays during the street closure of the 600 block of Laurel Street. A winery in the Industrial Arts district will also be allowed to perform tasting outdoors following the council’s approval to include the district in the program coverage area. 

Councilman Mark Olbert supported the first resolution permitting portions of Arroyo and Cherry streets to be added to the program but was the only councilmember to vote against granting expansion to the Industrial Arts District. He raised concerns other businesses would be negatively affected by potentially placing water barriers in the area, frequently trafficked by larger vehicles, and felt staff could do more research into the request.

“It could be a good idea if done the right way but I just have some concerns that area is fundamentally, in some respect, different from downtown Laurel Street,” said Olbert.

Following the approval for expanding the program, councilmembers considered altering the date for when the street closures are set to end. Despite concerns that cooler weather in November would lead to an interest in closing parklets, councilmembers voted unanimously to table the measure keeping the end date Dec. 31. 

Multiple councilmembers raised doubt cool and rainy weather would be as frequent come winter, citing a drier winter last year. The potential for heat lamps and coverings were also discussed but City Attorney Greg Rubens noted the state requires all coverings to be open on at least three sides to be permitted as an outdoor area. 

Olbert and Vice Mayor Laura Parmer-Lohan spoke in favor of striking a balance between the benefits the street closures bring to dining establishments compared to the negative effect of lost parking on retailers. Olbert said restaurants bringing dining outdoors does not change business models and Parmer-Lohan noted many retailers have struggled to access technology needed to meet customers online. 

Staff said no complaints about the street closure program by nonrestaurant retailers have been received recently. During a future meeting, the council will consider linking the end of the program to when indoor dining restrictions are lifted, similar to Belmont. 

(650)  344-5200 ext. 106

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