Future Of Parklets In Downtown Menlo Park Sparks Debate Among Neighboring Businesses – CBS San Francisco


MENLO PARK (KPIX 5) – During a city council meeting this week, Menlo Park officials voted to extend the closure of Santa Cruz Avenue between Curtis and Doyle streets, to accommodate outdoor dining spaces.

Restaurant owners are celebrating the decision, as the pandemic-related street closure has been a lifeline for their businesses.

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“Ninety-nine percent of our business is all outdoor, even with the cold weather,” said Ali Elsafy, the owner of Bistro Vida. “It’s very important to have the outdoor street closed, and to have the parklet outdoors to seat our clients, to survive.”

“Most lunches we only have seating outside,” said Rayane Abi Abboud, the general manager of Left Bank.

Nestled between the two, in the middle of the block, is Harvest Furniture. The owner, Karsten Iwers, is not pleased with the city council’s vote to keep the road partially closed to traffic.

Parklets along Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park. (CBS)

“We’re completely barricaded by not just the parklets – which we actually tolerate – but the exposure from the street and the occupancy of the street with tents,” he said. “It’s pretty clear that the impact of blocking access to our business and visibility and exposure are absolutely not minorly impactful, but devastating to us.”

Iwers has two other locations in Redwood City and Los Gatos. He said those two locations kept his business afloat, as the Menlo Park location had its worst year financially since 2009. He’s reconsidering his business’ future on Santa Cruz Avenue.

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“We’re losing money,” he told KPIX 5. “The other stores are keeping my business afloat. All stores were profitable, Menlo Park was a major drain on any profitability, but we have a lease, we’re under obligation. I’m actually looking to get out of that lease, I’m negotiating with the landlord currently.”

While some other downtown areas throughout the Bay Area are keeping downtown street closures in place, such as San Mateo and Mountain View, Menlo Park leaders have not made that move yet.

Iwers hopes the city doesn’t go down that road.

“I certainly don’t have any hard feelings for them – the restaurants. I understand what they’re doing, I would do the same if somebody gave me 2,500 square foot area to use however I please at no charge, fantastic. But, if it’s at the detriment of everybody else, then I think it’s time to listen to the merchants that have a financial interest downtown,” he said. “It makes it very difficult to access downtown, and cars that would ordinarily pass by are not passing by. They’re circumventing downtown.”

But the restaurant owners hope the city will consider the possibility of keeping the street closed to traffic.

“I think it should actually be closed for good,” Elsafy said. “With the parklet, we can survive, and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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“I do expect it’ll come to an end, although my hope is that they will continue it – just because we’ve gotten such great feedback from our community,” Ali Abboud told KPIX 5.

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