San Jose restaurateurs are pushing the city to slow down car traffic along the popular downtown street
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) – Keeping cars out after COVID-19 is the goal of a group of restaurant owners along San Pedro Street in downtown San Jose.
Restaurateurs are calling on the city guides to make the popular route between Santa Clara and St. John St. permanently car-free.
ABC7 News first introduced viewers to the Al-Fresco concept of the city of San Jose in April 2020. The coordinated efforts allowed companies to work in certain outdoor areas.
Along San Pedro St., most businesses have taken service to the street, and the owners want to continue to do so.
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“We don’t have to go back 100%,” Randy Musterer, owner of Sushi Confidential, told ABC7 News. “We’ll have to go back to 150% for many, many years to make up for any losses we’ve had.”
Musterer said he and other restaurateurs had conducted a number of pilot studies in recent years to uncover interest in what he calls the “urban feel”. In this case a kind of pedestrian zone.
“We’ve done a number of pilot studies over the past few years, starting with the Super Bowl and the National Championship,” he said. “If there’s a silver lining with the pandemic, we realize this road should be closed so everyone in the community can come down here and eat and these restaurants can thrive.”
“With the skyscraper, all the businesses and restaurants, that’s exactly what downtown San Jose needs,” continued Musterer.
Before making a decision, however, Colin Heyne of the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) says there is a lot to consider.
“Whether full-time or part-time, limited closure would be best. How could we maintain access to the parking garage, what impact would the closure of that part of San Pedro Street have on the traffic in the area and access to the garage itself and how we do it could continue to support large community events that require access to this parking garage if we had closed the access, “said Heyne.
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He emphasized that the idea was still in its infancy.
“It would be a major change to our downtown road network,” added Heyne. “It would require funding for engineering and implementation – and we don’t currently have any budgeted funds.”
Another major problem concerns maintaining access to the parking garage – a 1,200-space structure in the middle of San Pedro Street.
“When we get back to pre-COVID traffic and business levels for this part of downtown, we may see significant demand for this garage to deal with,” Heyne shared.
Still, he said the Department of Transportation has generally always supported the mixed use of many of the city’s rights of way.
“We have long supported local vendors by setting up parklets – that extension of the outdoor space for restaurants and other businesses on the street,” he said.
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“In general, I can say that DOT is absolutely open to ideas that use our street space other than just driving vehicles through or parking cars,” Heyne told ABC7 News. “But it’s a complicated proposition when you look at all of the factors.”
Above all else, Heyne said that DOT is keen to make sure they aren’t doing anything that creates unacceptable congestion in the parking garage and surrounding streets.
However, traffic problems won’t stop business owners from looking for a more permanent solution.
“There are a number of hurdles that we still have to overcome,” admitted Musterer. “And we hope that the city, the community, the city officials and the fire department can find ways to make this a safe place. And be able to minimize any traffic problems it could cause.”
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Musterer added, “Closing the road would give us the opportunity to grow our sales and make additional sales to counter all the losses we had over the past year.”
He also told ABC7 News, “Since the road is closed, I think it’s so much safer down here because there are so many people around. Lots of people still work from home, but they bring their dog with them downstairs. You’re sitting here on your laptop. And having more people in the community here creates a sense of security. “
Musterer shared a potential traffic control diagram on behalf of the San Pedro Square Committee.
When asked about the possibility of San Pedro St. reflecting the chart, Heyne said, “It’s a good example of discussion, but it’s not something that, as far as I can tell, has been officially submitted to us for review. “
The city of San Jose recently decided to extend their al-fresco program until the end of the year. Approved companies are allowed to continue working in certain outdoor areas until at least December 31, 2021.
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