San Mateo to expand downtown outdoor dining program

in Community/Featured/Headline

Another block on B Street in San Mateo — from 1st to 2nd streets — will soon be closed off to vehicular traffic to allow for outdoor dining after the city reported early success in the program. Some city councilmembers are suggesting the downtown street closures become a seasonal or permanent feature.

On June 19, the city closed B Street from 2nd to 3rd streets to vehicular traffic, and additionally closed one lane of B Street from 1st Street to Baldwin Avenue, to provide outdoor space for dining. The plan aims to boost economic opportunities for the city’s restaurants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic health order.

The B Street block between 1st and 2nd streets wasn’t initially closed as part of the program due to a lack of support from businesses on the block. But since closures have occurred on adjacent blocks, some of those businesses are now in support of closing 1st to 2nd, according to city staff. Also, having one block open to vehicular traffic in between two blocks that have closures is causing a confusing traffic pattern and a potential safety issue, the city said.

Thus far, the city reports that the outdoor dining program has been a success. Deputy Mayor Eric Rodriguez said he’s twice dined outdoors, enjoyed the experience and is thrilled the program will now run continuously along three blocks of B Street. Kids played in the street as adults dined, he said.

“We felt safe, we had fun,” Rodriguez said.

The street closures are set to run through Oct. 19 or until the COVID-19 public health emergency ends and restaurants can return to full capacity indoor service. Rodriguez and Councilmember Amourence Lee raised questions as to whether the city could make the program permanent or seasonal. Either is possible although a permanent closure would require a more involved process, Assistant City Manager Kathy Kleinbaum said.

“If you haven’t or plan to [dine outdoors downtown], I really would encourage you to think about how this adds to our downtown and think about how we might be able to think of something more permanent when the crisis subsides,” Rodriguez said.

Photo: B Street between 2nd and 3rd streets, courtesy of City of San Mateo