The Healdsburg City Council will hold a special meeting on Monday, July 27 at 5 p.m. to discuss and consider a proposal to limit parts of Plaza Street between Healdsburg Avenue and Center Street to cars to allow for more pedestrian use and additional social distancing space for retailers and restaurants. If agreed to, the limitation — either a one-way configuration or a full closure — would remain in place through Labor Day as a trial run.
The first option that will be presented to council is to make Plaza Street a one-way street between Healdsburg Avenue and Center Street, with the side closest to the Plaza open and the side closest to the stores blocked off with water filled barricades. Tables and chairs could be placed in the closed area for businesses and the side of Plaza east of Center could be set up with parklets if desired by adjacent shop owners.
The second option would be to completely close Plaza Street to all vehicular traffic. Again, tables and chairs space six feet apart could be placed in the closed area for businesses and stores could set up street advertising, retail sidewalk displays, art, plants, or other creative displays. Room would be made down the middle to allow for emergency vehicle access and for additional pedestrian space.
Depending on input and direction from surrounding businesses another alternative would be to close Plaza to cars between Center Street and roughly 100-200 feet in from Center Street.
The city has already implemented an “Outdoor Activities Permit” process so businesses, if interested, can use public sidewalks or parking spots adjacent to their stores for additional retail and eating space. Several businesses in the downtown core such as Valette and the Lioco wine tasting room have taken advantage of this option.
Yet in previous council conversations on street closures, some retailers expressed concern that a street closure of any kind would negatively impact their business in terms of customer traffic, deliveries and curbside pickup.
According to the staff report, “Business concerns tend to be about harming the limited commerce that retailers have today, such as when their older or higher-COVID-risk customers cannot access parking close to or in front of the storefront. Business owners stated concerns such as access to delivery vehicles and ensuring safety where traffic interacts with a closed or re-routed street. Additionally, when temperatures are too warm, ‘No one will want to be outside away from tree shade.’”
Over the course of the last two months, the city has held 11 Zoom meetings to garner feedback from the business community on street closure options. They also held one in-person meeting on June 30 with Center and Plaza Street business owners and conducted two small surveys, one for businesses and one for community members.
In the case of the Plaza idea, the proposal came from the restaurant managers of Duke’s and the Brass Rabbit. For the Plaza proposal the city procured feedback from One-On-One, Bradford Brenner Art Gallery, Outlander, Elements on the Plaza Day Spa, Brass Rabbit, Duke’s, Seasons of the Vineyards Wine Shop, Arena Gallery, Rainsong Shoes, Stafford Gallery, JCB Tasting Room, El Farolito and Idlewild.
Of the 13 businesses on Plaza that offered up feedback, six were supportive of the idea. Two said they would be willing to try it out for a short time. Two were opposed and three were uncertain.
Should the council decide to proceed with one of the three options, the city will use the small amount of remaining funds in the SBS (small business) Loan Program, up to $30,000, to purchase or rent additional water filled barriers, signs, tables and chairs and Porta-Johns for the trial run. City staff would work with the Healdsburg Farmers Market to make adjustments if needed on the Plaza side of the Tuesday market.
To watch this Monday’s virtual meeting, visit: http://healdsburgca.iqm2.com/Citizens/default.aspx.
To view the agenda packet visit: http://healdsburgca.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=1987&Inline=True.
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