San Mateo City Council expressed support Monday for continuing the B Street outdoor dining program from 1st to 3rd streets as a permanent, yearround fixture, and also for discontinuing the current single-lane closure closure on B Street from 1st to Baldwin.
Council also stated the need to make changes to the program that include reducing the size of outdoor dining structures in order to improve access for fire and garbage trucks, and to make the surface of B Street level, aligning it with the height of the sidewalk. Currently, the street’s crown shape creates a slope that can send glasses sliding off dining tables.
To make the outdoor dining program permanent, the city must hold a public hearing and also receive support from a majority of property owners on any block where it is implemented, city staff said.
The outdoor dining program was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to expand economic opportunities for local restaurants enduring restrictions on indoor dining. The program is slated to remain in place through Sept. 30, or until the end of the pandemic. Currently, just three businesses between 1st and 2nd streets are taking advantage of the outdoor dining program, while a majority of businesses between 2nd and 3rd streets are using it, city staff said.
Many have considered the program a success, but enthusiasm differs among residents and businesses. In a survey with over 730 responses from community members, more than 80 percent expressed support for continuing the B Street closure between 1st and 3rd, with 70 percent preferring a yearround closure. Just under 60 percent supported continuing the single-lane closure between 1st and Baldwin, where city staff said there’s been a problem of drivers going the wrong way in the open lane.
A survey of businesses along the corridor found that 40 percent felt the street closure has been harmful and 35 percent stated it has decreased revenues. Parking access for businesses not using the outdoor dining program is among the complaints. Nearly 60 percent expressed support for continuing the B Street closure and just over 50 percent said they would use the space after the pandemic is over.
In order for B Street’s outdoor dining program to be permanent, the city would likely need to spend $200,000 per block to install permanent bollards, re-stripe the roads and adjust the traffic signals. To repave B Street and align it with the sidewalk so that there is no sloping in the street, the cost would be about $1 to $2 million per block, the city said.
Meanwhile, a plan to make the citywide parklet program a permanent fixture is moving forward, with proposed guidelines set to be presented to City Council in June.
Photo courtesy of the City of San Mateo