Outdoor Dining a Victim of its Own Success in One Wealthy Bay Area City

The California city has received complaints about overcrowding even as the program sought to create more outdoor public space during the pandemic.

April 20, 2021, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


San Carlos, California

The Sunday Farmers' Market on Laurel St., San Carlos, California, in October 2018. | jejim / Shutterstock

In move that signals the debate brewing over the future of "pandemic streets," the city of San Carlos, California is poised to end the outdoor dining program on its main commercial corridor, Laurel Street, citing concerns about "lack of social distancing and congestion from pedestrian overcrowding" as the state looks to a full reopening in the coming months.

Although the program, which "has been successful economically and is supported by many downtown businesses," was instituted to provide more safe spaces for residents to socialize outdoors and patronize local businesses, "residents have complained to the city about nighttime activities and overcrowded parklets." If the city council decides to end it, the move "would return 150 parking spaces in the downtown area and open up the roads to vehicular traffic, and would allow for the return of downtown community events such as the farmers’ market, San Carlos Block Party and Goblin Walk, the city said."

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