Unanimous Vote to Keep Laurel Street Closed
On Monday, November 27, Councilmembers in San Carlos unanimously voted (5 – 0) to permanently close the 700 block of Laurel Street between Cherry and Olive streets to cars, paving way for the Pedestrian Mall of San Carlos under the Pedestrian Mall Law of 1960. The resolution here. This decision formalizes a program that was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic to support struggling businesses and encourage residents to spend time outdoors.
San Carlos officials have been conducting experiments with different modifications to Laurel Street since June 2020. These modifications have included allowing parklets and temporarily closing and reopening sections of the road to cars. As a result of these experiments, the idea of creating a permanent pedestrian mall emerged, and councilmembers expressed their intention to close the street in August.
Reactions from the Community
Despite mixed reviews, with some restaurants and customers appreciating the program while many retailers have raised concerns about the loss of parking, Council Members ultimately agreed that creating a pedestrian mall would be a net benefit to the community. Councilmember Sara McDowell mentions, “I know that this council and our staff are committed to ensuring that our new Downtown Plan addresses mobility issues, access for those with disabilities, parking and support for our small businesses.”
Along with the street closure, residents have expressed support for adding more trees and shading in the area, incorporating outdoor gathering spaces like plazas and music venues, and making downtown more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
Laurel Street Closure Debate
The section of Laurel Street between Cherry and Olive Street used to get temporarily closed for farmer’s markets and other events for just a couple of days. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the closure was extended in June 2020 to allow for outdoor dining, and parklets were created to enable restaurants to serve their customers outside. This closure was meant to expire in December 2020.
However, the closure kept on going after December 2020, as it seems to have boosted sales and foot traffic for restaurants and shop owners. Parents also felt great with not having to worry about car traffic being a danger to their young children whilst walking in the area. According to Councilmember Sara McDowell: “During the pandemic many, many people in our community just fell in love with the look and feel of a pedestrianized block of Laurel Street.”
As a result, the San Carlos City Council has yet again approved the extension of the closure for Laurel Street up to September 2022. Furthermore, they have extended it to accommodate the impermanent parklet program to September 15, 2023 – and come November 2023 with the permanent closure of the area.
Further to the decision, the City of San Carlos has now scheduled two workshops to discuss new ideas for downtown. They are inviting you to join and share ideas and priorities to make downtown more vibrant, welcoming, and equitable –
- Virtual Workshop on Wednesday, December 6, 2023 from 6:00-7:30 PM via Zoom. Register here.
- In-person Workshop on Saturday, December 9, 2023 from 10:00 AM- 3:00 PM at 677 Laurel Street right next to Peet’s Coffee in Downtown San Carlos. Register here.
These meetings will welcome ideas regarding the following, regarding Laurel Street:
- Public Space Design
- Program Mix
- Circulation & Access
The Downtown Initiative Plan
The city is spending $1 million on developing the Downtown Planning Initiative, which is expected to be completed by early 2025. This Plan will build upon what’s best and most loved about Downtown San Carlos. This process began in March 2022, and will wrap up in Spring of 2024. More information here: https://www.sancarlosdowntownplan.com/
To read more about the latest in San Carlos, visit the San Carlos Life Blog