Inspired by Oakland, San Mateo officials are considering temporarily closing certain streets to cars or at least reducing speed limits so residents have more space to safely recreate during the ongoing stay-at-home order.

The City Council endorsed the proposal during a remote meeting Monday, and agreed that new traffic rules should be implemented in dense areas where residents don’t have backyards.

“[We should] prioritize the study and resources in the direction of our transit-oriented developments like Bay Meadows that are more dense and don’t have as much access to private backyards and green space,” said Councilwoman Amourence Lee.

Aside from Bay Meadows, the only other specific location mentioned during the meeting as a candidate for restricting car access was downtown.

In addition to closing certain streets to cars, councilmembers proposed reducing speed limits in all of the city’s residential areas to between 15 mph and 20 mph. The existing speed limit in residential areas is typically 25 mph.

Mayor Joe Goethals after the meeting said the new rules could be decided upon at the next council meeting and then implemented soon after that.

San Mateo is just one of many cities throughout the country that has or is considering closing streets to cars during the coronavirus crisis. Oakland on Saturday made 74 miles of streets — 10% of the city’s streets — accessible only to pedestrians and cyclists. In San Mateo County, Redwood City is also considering restricting cars on certain streets.   

During the Monday meeting, City Manager Drew Corbett said staff has already been exploring potential street closures and reduced speed limits, and said the effort has been a challenge.

“Closing streets is a challenge especially when you have people still needing to come in and out and deliveries,” he said. “The key problem we’re finding is that to do it effectively such that pedestrians are able to recreate in the street and be safe you have to close the road and enforce it. The problem is then how do people get in and out. That becomes a logistical problem.

“If you’re not fully closing the street because you want to have people have access to their homes and get deliveries then you don’t want to encourage people to be out in the street” Corbett added.

Corbett also noted some have proposed closing a single lane of a street to cars, but said doing so will create conflicts between motorists.

Goethals, who supports the idea, said he doesn’t want the project to occupy too much staff time.

“I don’t want this to become something where we get so caught up in the design, signage or enforcement that it ends up costing way more staff time than we want to invest,” he said. “If it can be implemented in a way that doesn’t take everybody away from the projects they need to be working on then I’m very supportive of it.”

In other business, the council is considering creating a grant program for small businesses that will be further discussed at the next council meeting. The program will likely cost between $300,000 and $500,000 with $10,000 potentially awarded to each businesses, Corbett said. He described the proposal as an investment in one of the city’s top revenue sources and noted the city can absorb the cost despite the financial impact of the ongoing crisis.

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(12) comments

Henry Case

"... so residents have more space to safely recreate"...?? Then why are all of the parks closed? Make up your mind, do you want people to shelter in place or not?

Greg Snelling

Silly, silly, silly. Bureaucrats who can't stop bossing other people.


Right on Greg Smelling!


Sorry for the typo Greg Snelling (Google spell checking).


Also, you should be able to say whatever you want unless the U.S. has become China over night and we somehow over night gave up are right if free speech or maybe we have and no one toldus.

Terence Y

Why are we wasting time and money even thinking about this exercise (yes, pun intended)? Has SM fallen so low that we hold up Oakland as an example? If we close some streets, wouldn't it just increase parking/traffic through surrounding streets? Do we really think slowing the speed limit down by 5 to 10 mph will do anything, or is this just an excuse to ticket more folks to refill county coffers. It's nice to know our mayor and council are still focused on wasting taxpayer money instead of finding ways to manage the upcoming budget shortfall.


See SM Journal Article headed up

" San Mateo budget stable, but changes coming

Tax income likely to drop, officials prep for new directives

By Jon Mays Daily Journal staff Mar 26, 2020

Mr. Zed

Yes, please. Get people to slow down. A reduced speed limit would help make our streets safer for everyone. Vancouver BC has a 25kph speed limit in residential neighborhoods. That's 15 miles per hour. Remember, if you're in hurry, it's because you didn't leave soon enough or plan for traffic on the way.


Didn't we just read that the City lost $10M last two months? And you are going to spend money closing the streets? Priorities, Drew and Joe, check your priorities. Save your will need them!


I think you mean spent. A lot of these funds were for PD to have more officers on the street.


Excellent news! Please consider reopening the dog park at Ryder park as well. Plenty of room for social distancing. The Bay Trail is a great place to walk because it is so wide. Thank you.


If Mr. Scott is going to require mask's to be worn in a few days then the county needs to provide the mask's that have a specific type of material. Since the public doesn't have availability and seniors don't have this product available to them then they need to extend the date required and send every 🏠 house hold the exact mask's. People who are miss using power creates more habic and more problems. They pull this type of reasoning when people are facing the weekend and product is unavailable at any store in the bay area. Therefore, you can't go shopping and provide food for your families.

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