Late last week I released a poll — an unscientific, not statistically-valid poll — seeking feedback on how San Carlans and visitors use of downtown Laurel Street had changed as a result of the pandemic.
Here are the results (this is Powerpoint slideshow I’ll be sharing with my colleagues and the public tonight under Council member comments):
What’s the takeaway? For me, the most important one is we should be hiring someone or some firm to collect statistically valid information about how the usage of our downtown has shifted as a result of the pandemic. It makes sense to act quickly, as we did back in May by closing the downtown. There wasn’t time to study the situation in depth.
But we should’ve accompanied those actions with an effort to see how they were playing out and, more importantly, whether they were addressing the key concerns of our residents. I tried to get the Council to do that on several occasions, to no avail, despite the on-going concerns being lodged with us by the non-restaurant business owners.
I hope you’ll join me in urging the Council to start gathering real data about how the changes are being perceived. We’re way past when we should be relying on anecdotal information (even the kind contained in this poll — that’s why I said my biggest takeaway is “get good data quickly”).
The other thing that’s interesting about the feedback was in response to the “why aren’t you visiting the downtown?” question. Seventy-one percent (71%) of the responses referenced fear of Covid-19 in one form or another. Inadequate parking was cited only 19% of the time.
This tells me we need to do a better job at (a) enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing and (b) communicating the extent to which we’ve done that to the San Carlos community. Because we have done some work in this area (we could always do more) but people may not be aware of what we’ve accomplished.