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Los Altos officials eye plan to close downtown streets

The push to improve business downtown amid shelter-in-place orders has city leaders thinking outside the box – or at least outside the storefront.

Los Altos City Council members were scheduled at their May 26 meeting to discuss the idea of closing Main and State streets to cars in a bid to encourage pedestrian shopping and dining outdoors. City officials announced late Friday, after the Town Crier's May 22 press deadline, that the item has since been moved to the council's June 9 meeting.

A steering committee comprising business leaders and city staff has been looking at the feasibility of pedestrian-only streets and restricted parking. The proposal would allow restaurants to accommodate outdoor dining – permitted under loosened public health restrictions. Retailers, currently barred from having patrons inside their stores, could display merchandise on the sidewalk for outdoor shopping.

The concept has vocal supporters and detractors. Some believe the plan gives downtown businesses an opportunity to attract more customers during a time of social distancing and sheltering-in-place. Others believe street closures, with no auto access, will make a bad problem even worse.

Proponents are actively lobbying for the pedestrian-only streets, with the goal to have outdoor shopping and dining for summer. A change.org petition to the city council gathered more than 2,000 signatures as of Friday.

Such a plan could impact the curbside pickup option for retailers, which Santa Clara County officials began allowing May 22 under their revised public health order.

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