After about a year of limited or no vehicle access along Laurel Street, non-restaurant businesses are now keen to find a compromise with food traders that would allow alfresco dining to coexist with increased parking.
“I am their client and they are my clients. We are not against each other, but we are trying to find a perfect solution so that we can all stay in business, ”said Barry Taleghani, owner of Dynasty Cleaners and a resident of San Carlos for 25 years.
In the early summer of the COVID-19 crisis, when the capacity of indoor businesses was significantly reduced, the San Carlos City Council implemented a street closure program along parts of Laurel Street, San Carlos Avenue and Arroyo Street. With the roads closed, traders were allowed to expand their activities to the vacant parking spaces, which mainly benefited restaurants.
But with indoor capacity now at 100%, Taleghani said it was time for the city to start prioritizing a compromise that will allow retailers to benefit from the reopening of the state like restaurants have done. with outdoor meals.
Ultimately, Taleghani said he would like to see the city reopen boarded up stalls to cars that are not used by businesses, allowing more parking for potential customers. Alternatively, he would argue for the city to open the blocks during normal business hours and close them in the evenings during the dinner rush. Without action, he’s worried his clients will turn to more convenient places for their dry cleaning when they get back to the office and other outings.
“We’re definitely doing better than before because things are opening up, but we’re definitely not near where we were because we don’t have room for people to park,” Taleghani said. . “Now that they go back [to work] I have to make sure they have a way to… reach us and use our services.
Anette Grostad, owner of Nordic Nest at 781 Laurel Street, said she fully supported the street closure program when it was first implemented and always liked having optional alfresco dining. The increase in business in restaurants brought new faces to its interior design boutique as its online presence catered to those who shopped from home.
But not all traders in the region have survived, raising fears that dwindling options will push back business, she said. With fewer shops and lost parking lots, Grostad said the region is in lost competition with shopping malls which often offer floors of parking spaces and plenty of storefronts.
“We’re doing well right now, but the more stores that close around us, the fewer customers we have,” said Grostad. “Stores depend on people making regular purchases, not impulse purchases. ”
By opening roads while maintaining restaurant parks, the company could continue to benefit from new customers while meeting the needs of regulars, she said.
Long hikes and lost clientele
Grostad and Taleghani also took issue with claims that parking is plentiful in the area, with Taleghani noting that large delivery trucks often block the aisles of rear parking lots and restaurant patrons clamor for spaces for hours, including limited ones. 10 minutes away. Calling people “creatures of habit,” he suggested that the public would also go to retailers where parking is more convenient rather than expanding their routine to find a parking spot.
Grostad noted that walking long distances may not be possible for the elderly and those with limited mobility and said the hustle and bustle of El Camino Real is not safe for families with young people. children.
“We need to be able to give our customers access to our stores. It’s not so much that the street has to open completely, but more that it has to have traffic, ”said Grostad.
Likewise, Mitchel Bearg has owned and operated Bow Wow Meow, a pet grooming and retail store located in the 700 block of Laurel Street, for approximately 30 years. Although business is stable, Bearg noted that its services require customers to transport their pets of varying sizes from their vehicles to the store, a challenge during street closures.
Echoing Taleghani, Bearg said the loss of parking and the resulting long hikes caused Bearg to lose a significant number of cases. Similar shortcomings were not recognized at his other two grooming stores in San Francisco and Menlo Park, where roads remain open, he said.
Still, Bearg said he supports maintaining parklets in front of restaurants, but would like to see a more equitable program that benefits all merchants, supporting a hybrid model until the city can develop a more thoughtful approach to revamp. The area.
“These are difficult times. We all need to work together to understand each other’s concerns in order to find the best solutions for each other’s needs, ”said Bearg.
On Monday, city council will consider changing its Laurel Street closure program to restrict parking lot sizes to restaurant fronts and only allow outdoor seating for businesses open at least five days a week starting August 8. .
Staff say the changes would increase parking in the 600 block of Laurel Street and the return of the farmers’ market to the downtown core. The event is currently held on Bayport Avenue and Varian Street from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday, but its size and attendance has declined. Acknowledging the limiting conditions of the event, members of Chamber San Mateo County, who previously managed the event, said it “is unlikely to survive,” according to the staff report.
Farmers’ market, community atmosphere
Maggie Mooney, a 10-year San Carlos resident and Sales Associate at Shelby’s Garden at 629 Laurel St., shared her strong support for the return of the Downtown Farmer’s Market. She suggested the city consider closing additional blocks of Laurel Street for the event if the road is not reopened.
While not too far from her location before the pandemic, Mooney said getting to the Farmers ‘Market is less convenient than before, suggesting that she would rather visit the Belmont Farmers’ Market instead. She also praised the experience of hosting the market on Laurel Street which she said encouraged interaction with the stalls and shops.
“It was like you were part of a community, but that kind of charm is gone now,” said Mooney, calling the current appearance of the street a horror and noting that many non-restaurant traders are blocked. by the parklets.
The current park along the road also sometimes serves as a subtle reminder of the pandemic, she said. Instead, Mooney would like to see a closer throwback to the pre-pandemic days when all merchants were visible from either sidewalk and parking was no longer available.
Without board action, the program would continue as is until its current end date of September 1. Some board members also expressed interest in making a version of the shutdown permanent, a plan that Mooney and some traders disapproved of.
“I understand that people need to make money and that they are catching up, but the city has to make a decision that makes sense for everyone,” Mooney said. “I fully understand what happened, but we have to move forward.”
The city council will meet remotely via Zoom at 7 p.m. on Monday July 12 and will be broadcast live on www.sancarlosca.iqm2.com and on Comcast Channel 27 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99. Remote public comments will be received by telephone during the meeting, prior to the close of public comments on an item. * 67 (669) 900-9128, meeting number: 882 5614 0939.