San Carlos to consider ending Laurel St. outdoor dining program

in Business/Community

San Carlos is considering ending its outdoor dining program on Laurel Street in two months due to “rising safety concerns and an anticipated statewide reopening order from the Governor.”

“Residents have expressed feeling unsafe while visiting the Downtown due to the lack of social distancing and congestion from pedestrian overcrowding,” according to city staff.

At its meeting tonight, City Council is set to review the proposal to end the street closure and parklet program on June 15, when Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to lift most statewide COVID-19 restrictions.

While the program was launched in summer 2020 to provide a safe, socially-distanced alternative amid indoor dining restrictions, city staff says it may have become too popular. Local residents have complained to the city about nighttime activities and overcrowded parklets in the 600, 700 and 800 blocks of Laurel Street.

“While originally designed to encourage social distancing, the program has proven immensely popular and has drawn large crowds to the Downtown, making proper social distancing and enforcement extremely difficult,” according to staff documents. “The City has received reports of Downtown patrons and restaurants failing to adhere to proper mask and social distancing protocols throughout the pandemic, and these issues have been growing.”

The city is concerned foot traffic on the corridor will further increase as COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted.

Sources in the local business community tell Climate that some, but not all, eateries are failing to follow safety rules and are ruining it for businesses that need the program to recover from the pandemic’s impacts. The program has been successful economically and is supported by many downtown businesses, according to city staff, adding it “has allowed business to expand their operations and promote social distancing.”

Ending the program would return 150 parking spaces in the downtown area and open up the roads to vehicular traffic, and would allow for the return of downtown community events such as the farmers’ market, San Carlos Block Party and Goblin Walk, the city said. Council could decide to only eliminate the program on the three blocks of Laurel Street, where the majority of complaints are coming from, the city added.

Tonight’s City Council meeting is set to start at 7 p.m. Click here for the agenda and related information.

11 Comments

  1. If we want to alleviate “congestion, the answer is open the indoor area, AND KEEP THE OUTDOOR AREAS. Laurel St should be closed to vehicular traffic permanently. The reclamation of 150 parking spaces pales in comparison to the benefit of a permanent walking stroll to our ability to socially distance, to the businesses themselves, and to the property values in the City of Good Living.

    Let’s improve the Good Living that much more with a permanent Laurel ban on vehicular traffic. The current temporary closure barriers should be replaced with permanent concrete (or otherwise appropriate and safe material) for planting beds and lighting.

  2. Nice, if people don’t understand, then take them their bad behavior away, is not about supporting businesses, is about ‘oh I wanna go out because I am bored’, then the spike in covid comes once again, responsability is 1st for a sooner safe reopening, but people don’t get it, not only in SC, but in RWC, SM, PA, MP, MV, BurlinBroad downtows are crowded and they need to seek the same measures adopted without dining out.

  3. Or, to headline it differently, “As COVID concerns come to a close, let’s end an economically successful that has rejuvenated downtown San Carlos”

  4. That’s ridiculous!!! If you don’t feel safe to go out and eat outside you don’t have to do it!!! We have been shut down over a year, numbers in San Mateo are low, people are getting vaccinated and want to get back to living their lives!!! Stay home if you feel unsafe that is your choice but don’t decide what is good for other people!!!

  5. People concerned with the situation should stay away from the area. If you are so triggered, stay home. Let the non-hysterical people live their lives.

  6. The first question that comes to mind is – How many residents felt unsafe – and what percentage of the population do they represent? If they feel unsafe then don’t come down town. Why should a minority get to impose their will on the majority that don’t have an issue with the current setup?

  7. Please remove the parklets. Pedestrian foot traffic is dangerous to cars trying to frequent non restaurant businesses and I have been avoiding the area because it feels unsafe.

  8. This is a ridiculous and terrible idea. People that don’t feel safe walking down a closed street are going to feel safe walking down a sidewalk? Give me a break. The current configuration with outdoor dining is safer for pedestrians, cars, and for those dining. We don’t need to drive down Laurel street. Keep San Carlos recovering and keep the current outdoor dining protocols into the fall regardless of when the state reopens.

  9. Closing off north Laurel is one of the best things to happen to San Carlos. It’s family friendly and very sociable. Why do cars have preference over walking in practically all aspects of our lives? Once Covid is over, they should level the street with the sidewalks so there are fewer tripping hazards, and it becomes a true mall like those in Europe and Australia. Businesses will naturally self-select to this environment where they will thrive even more. What an awesome opportunity! Please don’t throw it away.

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