Helping All Downtown Merchants

Sorry about the late notice about this — it’s been a busy week! — but tonight the Council will be discussing whether or not to set an end date for the current use of public parking spaces by downtown merchants. Presumably discussion of the program more broadly will take place, too.

This is particularly germane given two oncoming changes. Winter is fast approaching, making outdoor dining less attractive. There are adjustments restauranteurs can make, but state and local rules forbid making outdoor dining spaces enclosed and limit the way they can be heated.

But perhaps more important is San Mateo’s transition to the “orange tier” and its more relaxed precautions. Restaurants can now open their indoor dining spaces, with modifications, provided they limit use to 50% capacity or 200 people whichever is less. Other retail businesses can open for indoor operation provided they follow certain guidelines1.

That’s a significant change which argues against the need to continue to dedicate public parking spaces to support local merchants, particularly restauranteurs, at least to the same degree as we are currently doing. There are residents who find the lack of parking near the stores they want to patronize limiting.

Of course, there are other considerations, including the simple one that at least some residents, although certainly not all, like having part of Laurel Street closed to vehicular traffic. On the other hand there have been a number of complaints about skateboarders and bicyclists putting pedestrians at risk in the closed areas (even though bikes are supposed to be walked in them).

If you have a perspective on this I strongly urge you to tune in to tonight’s Council meeting. Better yet, weigh in, either through public comment or by contacting the Council ahead of time.

Hope to see you tonight!


  1. You can learn more about the details of the orange tier at https://www.smchealth.org/post/covid-19-requirements-resources

5 thoughts on “Helping All Downtown Merchants”

  1. With cold weather and rain; I think it is time to close the street dining and give the merchants the spaces for their businesses. We still have the option of take out and dining in for those who want to do that.

    Jayne Bloom, Clifton Ave.

  2. With cold weather and rain; I think it is time to close the street dining and give the merchants the spaces for their businesses. We still have the option of take out and dining in for those who want to do that.

  3. I love the outdoor seating and closed streets. Such a nice atmosphere downtown. People are always going to complain about parking; there were complaints about parking before the pandemic too.

  4. The majority of diners are still preferring to sit outside. While the county may be in the “orange” category, people are not yet comfortable being indoors. Reopening the streets to traffic will seriously impact the restaurants who are already struggling to remain open. There is no doubt that many restaurants on Laurel Street will be forced to close without the outdoor seating.

  5. Well, this is going to be a difficult decision either way. I believe some sort of compromise might serve everyone best…I fully understand the plight of the restaurants, since I once was a restaurant owner myself, but, we have to consider the merchants as well, especially during the holiday season. This could be setting up alternating barriers in some parking spaces and utilizing sidewalks as much as possible…or maybe opening the street during the day and closing in the evening. Both restaurants and merchants are vital to our community!

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