Even as some Bay Area cities pull dining tables off the streets and reopen their downtown strips to motorists for the first time in 18 months, Mountain View leaders have no intention of stopping the spread of COVID-19. See that as one of the silver linings. 19 pandemic.
In contrast, Mountain View is planning to make some serious investments to transform the city’s oldest commercial corridor – Castro Street – into a permanent pedestrian mall for residents and visitors to enjoy car-free for decades to come .
“Castro Street has been successful and I know some people say ‘Well, it took a pandemic to do this,’ but there are silver linings to the pandemic and this was one of them,” said council member Margaret Abe- Koga said.
Like many cities in the Bay Area, Mountain View closed Castro Street from Evelyn Avenue to California Street in the summer of 2020 to allow restaurants and shops to move their operations outside when public health orders allowed them to move inside. Banned from serving customers.
In the months since, the city’s main downtown drag has become a lively and bustling outdoor gathering place for friends and families to eat, drink, and shop.
A recent city survey of more than 1,500 Mountain View residents and visitors found that more than 85% of respondents supported keeping the road closed.
“The Castro is more alive now than it has been in decades during this unprecedented time,” said resident Jonathan Shamgar. “Let’s make Castro the crown of the region and continue to make it a place everyone wants to have a good time.”
Mountain View City Council on Tuesday night endorsed plans to keep a temporary three-block stretch of Castro Street closed until at least 2023, gathering feedback and intent on pursuing a broader vision of turning that stretch of road into a permanent one. goods on foot.
His decision comes as other cities such as Palo Alto and Pleasanton have gone the other direction – removing the barriers that once locked cars off city streets and put an end to their beloved outdoor business scenes. Meanwhile, San Jose recently hired a consultant to analyze the potential implications of keeping its San Pedro Street permanently car-free.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic provided Mountain View an opportunity to test the viability of a pedestrian mall, the city had already been considering the concept since March 2020.
With the imminent electrification of Caltrain, Mountain View plans to overhaul its transit center, located near the north end of Castro Street, and the Caltrain track at the northern end of the main drag and the access for pedestrians and cyclists below the Central Expressway. There are plans to build a tunnel for
As part of those plans, in 2019 the city council approved a pedestrian crossing along a block of Castro Street, with the hope of giving pedestrians and cyclists more direct access to the transit center and allowing them to arrive via bus. Expressed interest in building a mall. Or train to get to restaurants or the Central Expressway without the need to cross any roadways.
The pedestrian malls of the past have not always been successful. Cities across the US, including Sacramento and Fresno, added them to their business districts decades ago to relegate them to cars when pedestrians failed to come out in the expected numbers.
But urban design consultant Blaine Merker told Mountain View city council Tuesday night that Castro Street has “all the ingredients to be successful,” taking into account the city’s ideal year-round weather, young residents and workers, and the street’s large make-up. are keeping. Restaurants instead of the majority retail outlets.
Mountain View plans to begin construction on the pedestrian tunnel at the north end of Castro Street by the end of 2024 – or as soon as Caltrain completes electrification of its tracks. If that timeline continues, Mountain View officials expect the tunnel to be completed by 2026.
For Castro Street, the city currently envisions building a pedestrian mall in two phases.
The first phase, which could take up to five years to complete, will establish a car-free Castro Street from Evelyn Avenue to California Street. Several improvements will be made to the street to make the street more accessible and inviting, including raising the street to match the current height of the sidewalk and adding more permanent outdoor dining space.
During this phase, motorists will be able to use Evelyn Street to cross Castro Street, therefore intersecting the train tracks and the pedestrian mall just before the transit center.
The second phase, however, would intersect West Evelyn Avenue before Castro Street and re-align the road to cross the Caltrain tracks for the Central Expressway further east. This would allow for longer car-free space between the pedestrian tunnel and shops and restaurants along Castro Street.
The final vision of the city will require a substantial amount of funding and is expected to take up to 10 years to complete, according to Don Cameron, the city’s director of public works, although he did not provide a specific cost estimate.
But most residents said Tuesday night that they thought the price tag and longer shelf life would be worth it in the end.
Resident Tim McKenzie said, “It took a one-time epidemic to get to a place where we turned it into a pedestrian mall … and we don’t get another chance in 15 or 20 years to reconsider it.” Going to do.” . “It’s something that not only makes it more liveable and pedestrian-friendly but takes us away from car travel and makes it so we’re not building our city around single-occupancy vehicle travel. “