Bay Area/ San Jose/ Food & Drinks
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Published on August 15, 2023
Menlo Park's Outdoor Dining Expansion: A Feast for the Streets or Overcrowded Public Space?Luis Angelo on Unsplash

The Menlo Park City Council is gearing up for an important meeting today, about implementing a more permanent Streetary outdoor dining program, with potential road closures on areas of Santa Cruz Avenue and Ryans Lane on the line. The meeting is set to take place at 5 p.m. in the City Council Chambers located on Laurel Street.

With outdoor dining gaining traction since its first establishment as a pilot program in Menlo Park back in 2015, it further expanded during the pandemic in an effort to help struggling restaurants the city stated. This new development aims to strengthen safety standards, establish a consistent design aesthetic, and maintain fairness in the utilization of public right-of-way.

As the City Council weighs the pros and cons of such an initiative, it is crucial to consider the diverse perspectives that have emerged. On the one hand, the program has garnered commendation for bolstering local businesses during the pandemic, providing both a lifeline for struggling restaurants and an appealing outdoor dining scene for residents and visitors alike.

On the other hand, concerns have surfaced about the potential impact of road closures on other businesses along Santa Cruz Avenue and Ryans Lane. Detractors argue that these closures could pose challenges to establishments that rely on access to adequate parking or delivery services, leading to losses or even closures of their own. As it stands, there is no consensus on whether the benefits of an expanded Streetary outdoor dining program will outweigh the disadvantages that may arise from the proposed road closures.

Over the next few weeks, Menlo Park residents should keep an eye out for the outcome of two important City Council meetings related to this program. On August 15th, the City Council will address recommendations from the Planning Commission and consider a first reading of the Streetary outdoor dining program and related design standards. Afterward, on August 29th, the City Council will debate the final adoption of the Streetary outdoor dining program and closure of a portion of Santa Cruz Avenue and Ryans Lane.

While outdoor dining has been widely appreciated – and even crucial to some businesses' survival during the pandemic – it is essential to weigh this against the possible downsides for neighboring establishments that may be hampered by road closures.