Despite the unpredictable trajectory of the pandemic, San Jose is giving one thing for sure: the beloved parklands and sidewalk recreation areas that have revitalized barren streets and allowed restaurant owners to keep their lights on in recent tough times will stay here.
Using $ 700,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds, San Jose officials plan to help restaurants transform temporary recreation areas set up in street parking lots or sidewalks during the COVID-19 pandemic into permanent fixtures throughout the city.
Meanwhile, until December 2022, the city will continue to allow businesses to operate outdoors on private property, such as in private car parks. In addition, two streets in downtown and one in southern San Jose will be temporarily closed to motorists until June. 2022. In the coming months, the City plans to identify ways to make these outdoor restaurants more permanent.
“It has proven to be an invaluable asset for these small businesses and truly a lifeline in the fight against the pandemic, so I’m delighted that we can continue to move forward,” Councilor Dev Davis said of Al Fresco City’s program.
The moves, which were unanimously approved by the San Jose City Council on Tuesday night, came as cities in the Bay Area were deciding whether to continue their pandemic-inspired outdoor dining and business programs. Cities like Pleasanton and Palo Alto recently decided to end their programs and reopen downtown roads, while other cities like Mountain View are taking the same approach as San Jose and are looking for ways to transform its popular restaurants and commercial corridors into permanent pedestrian centers.
The San Jose Outdoor Program was designed by Mayor Sam Liccardo and Davis Councilor in May 2020 to allow businesses closed under the COVID-19 Public Health Order to take up parking spaces, close street sections and set aside sections of public parks for maintenance. open air. Over the past 18 months, the program has been extended five times, and nearly 200 businesses have signed up to work on city streets, parks, sidewalks and private property.
For JR Mini, co-owner of Rosie’s New York Pizza, the program meant he was able to more than double the number of sidewalk tables outside his restaurant.
“I think it looks better,” Mini said in an interview. “It makes the street more attractive.”
According to the program, San Jose has closed three streets to traffic – San Pedro and Post Streets, which are located in the city center, and Coronado Avenue in southern San Jose.
Although Post Street is expected to open in early January, most business owners in San Pedro Street are urging the city to leave it car-free for good.
The City’s Transportation Department recently hired a consultant to assess the potential traffic effects of permanent roadway closures for motorists. City staff plans to spend the coming months working with the public and evaluating the results of the study to determine if a full-time closure is possible.
Randy Musterer, owner of the Sushi Confidential restaurant on San Pedro Street, said he supports a long-term closure to prevent drivers from driving down the street, starting their engines, or interfering with people eating lunch.
“It’s a quieter and more unusual environment now,” he said. “The opportunity to dine outdoors and in San Pedro made people feel safe, and the revitalization attracted even more people to dine in the area.”
On the parking program, the City is working with the Knight Foundation to create quick-build parking projects that comply with city regulations and can be easily implemented by business owners at a significantly reduced cost.
Councilor Maia Esparsa said Tuesday that the city’s outdoor dining program was “one of the good times to emerge from the pandemic,” but reminded city staff to be mindful of safety guidelines when converting temporary structures into durable ones.
In October 2020, a woman was killed in a violent accident when a driver lost control of his SUV and crashed into a group of people dining outdoors at the Grand Century mall, located in the Esparza district.
“I just don’t want to lose sight of safety as we move forward,” she said, “because it’s a wonderful thing, but what would be the bend of the wings usually becomes tragic without it.”