Halloween block party killed by cars

City cites traffic disruption for denying Latham Street party permit

As the City Council discusses the possibility of turning Latham Street into a bike boulevard, city staff denied a permit for what was to be the fourth annual Latham Street Halloween block party on Sunday afternoon, apparently over concerns about blocking car traffic down the residential street.

Organizer Jennifer Sumant said she has organized the event with other residents of the 1300 block of Latham Street for three years, and "they've always permitted it in the past." The stretch of single family residences just north of Shoreline Boulevard, between Palo Alto and Mountain View avenues, won't have its usual tables set up in the street with food, games and crafts for kids milling around in costume -- an event "well-supported by everyone on the block," Sumant said.

Public works director Mike Fuller explained that the city's traffic engineer denied the permit. "Latham is residential collector street with 2,000 cars or so per day on it. We thought it would be disruptive to traffic flow," he said.

Sumant says the ordeal has caused her neighbors to question the need to allow so much traffic on Latham street. Having 2,000 cars a day "is not justified by the amount of residents in the neighborhood, yet takes priority over the well-being of the community," Sumant said.

"The City Council is saying that the city priorities this year are for non-car transit," Sumant said in an email, referring to the council's goal this year to focus on pedestrian and bicycle mobility. "In reality our city codes including the codes for block parties are written to prioritize cars."

Meanwhile, City Council members made comments at an Oct. 15 meeting about creating a bike and pedestrian boulevard on Latham as an alternative to potentially dangerous bike lanes on El Camino Real. "My preference would be bike boulevards parallel to El Camino Real," said council member Ronit Bryant.

Since the permit was rejected, Sumant says she's heard from neighbors, "Why don't we get a bike boulevard?"

In Palo Alto, bike boulevards run on streets parallel to El Camino Real. They include barriers that would prevent cut-through traffic like those 2,000 cars cutting down Latham, but allow bicyclists and pedestrians through. It is reportedly a hit with those who live along such streets, as car traffic is reduced dramatically.

Council members declined to comment on the block party permit, but member Chris Clark said he didn't mean to get Latham Steet residents' hopes up with his comments on Oct. 15.

"The point wasn't to say Latham is the street where we should invest lots and lots of money," Clark said. The point was to say, "We shouldn't be looking at El Camino as our only option."

As for the Halloween party, Fuller said it was suggested to Sumant that it be organized on a quieter side street. But "since all the neighbors who put on the party live on the 1300 block of Latham Street, it didn't make any sense to block off someone else's street," Sumant said. "It would be presumptuous to block off someone else's street for a party."


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Posted by Curious
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2013 at 1:47 pm

How many cars a day on Castro? Whatever the number is, it doesn't seem to prevent Castro to be closed many times a year. Is the traffic on Latham considerably higher?

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Posted by CPP
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 2:23 pm

you got to love the MV city council. they talk out of both ends - true politicians. while they tout about how this city is a walking/biking friendly city, they encourage the 2000/day cars down the side streets. i bet most of the 2000 cars are not locally the neighborhood.

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Posted by Was there any incident
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 25, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Was there any problems there the last few years? If not, I for one don't mind them closing it off for their party and i'm a driver. I think residents of the area would be more concerned about getting to and from there houses.

But rather than having them party on the streets, like some getto trash, how about having the party at the Rengstorff park? Much wiser idea and not far away.


Rather than closing it for bike only traffic, how about making a path next to the train tracks for them to ride on.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Think traffic on Latham is bad now? Just wait for our 'Grand Boulevard' to be built. Every time traffic is artficially restricted on a main road, it goes elsewhere. As if all the cars will simply vanish by eliminating a lane.

Like this comment
Posted by john olive
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 25, 2013 at 2:59 pm

I agree, Rengstorff is a great park to have a party.

Like this comment
Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on Oct 25, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

This is really silly. As others have said, what harm did it cause the last three years? That neighborhood is built on a small-block grid. Close off one short block and cars can drive around the block using Snow St or Mercy St. Maybe it will take them an extra 45 seconds.

Why can't residents on Latham have the peace and quiet of a street party for one afternoon, something that post-1950 cul-de-sac neighborhoods have all the time? You know, neighborhoods like Monte Loma, Waverly Park and Varsity Park, that were intentionally designed to prevent cut-through traffic.

Not that I can blame developers for designing cul-de-sac neighborhoods. Who wants cars streaming past your house all day? But at the same time, shouldn't older neighborhoods be given the same reprieve from car traffic, even if only for one afternoon?

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Posted by konrad M. Sosnow
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Oct 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Give me a break!

The City shuts down Castro Street several times a year but won't let residents of one block of Latham Street shut one block down for one afternoon. The City does what it wants, when it wants. When it comes to we residents the City uses the mushroom theory - keep us un the dark and feed us ____.

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Posted by Andrea Klein Lacy
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 25, 2013 at 4:34 pm

A once-a-year block party on a *Sunday afternoon* is a traffic concern? Are any Sunday drivers concerned about traffic and/or going a block out of one's way? I respectfully suggest our fine City Staff reconsider this one.

Like this comment
Posted by Plan B
a resident of Bailey Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Plan B is to just block it off anyway. The cops will pollitely ask you to reopen the street but by the time they notice the party will probably be over with anyway.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr DePortum
a resident of Bailey Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

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Posted by Roman
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 25, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Come on city council...2000 cars on a Sunday? Get real, that's over 1 car every 15 seconds for 8 hours, on a Sunday?
Family and kids and getting to know and enjoy your neighbors at your own neighborhood Halloween block party is something to treasured.
Part of one day a year!!!.
I would bet if Google wanted it it would be rubber stamped complete with police presence to direct traffic.
Come on council get off your high horses and make this happen for those citizens and their children.

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 25, 2013 at 7:09 pm

2000 cars a day is more than 1 car per minute for 24 hours straight. Since most don't drive at night, probably they are estimating more than 2 or 3 cars every minute during many hours? every 15-20 seconds a car? on latham? That is quite a lot of traffic on a residental 6 block long narrow street. If that was the case, a normal city would find ways to reduce the traffic on such a street. If latham is a commute street, then what is residential? Maybe, the city traffic engineer should recheck his data. The data seems unbelievable, and the city should show to the community and public the data and proof of such high car flow. If latham traffic is so high, think of what other real commute streets are handling.

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Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 25, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Not sure if this is what Chris Clark was suggesting, but what if the full length of Mercy and Latham (just were they are both parallel) were made into one way streets in order to preserve resident parking and yet make room for dedicated bike lanes on those two roads?

I don't know if it would cut down on traffic, but it would have made my family bike more all the years I lived on Latham.

There's been so much talk about adult bikers, but not enough that Mountain View isn't as bikable for kids as the places many of us grew up.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 25, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I am all in favor of having latham blocked to car traffic in the middle of its 6 blocks the way many streets in Palo Alto residential sections are. How do I get the city and City Council and the traffic engineer to consider this?

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Posted by Oppose
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I oppose blocking Latham and making it a bike boulevard for just few because it doesn't take into account the rest of us who use Latham. About ten years ago they installed red stop signs whereas before you could drive right through. I'm sorry but the small minority bicycle coalition are bullies.

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Posted by reader
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 25, 2013 at 7:56 pm

this headline is horrible and kind of inconsiderate on many levels.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 25, 2013 at 7:59 pm

the blocking is not for bikes but to calm the neighborhood and not let it become a main thoroughfare that it was not designed to be, and that people did not buy their house planning for such noise and danger. Shouldn't residential streets be residential?

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Posted by ghetto trash here
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 11:32 pm

@Was there any incident "...But rather than having them party on the streets, like some getto trash, how about having the party at the Rengstorff park? Much wiser idea and not far away..."

Over here on Carmelita (off Martens) we received permission from the city to block off the street for our upcoming block party, as Latham should have also. Not to sound snobby, but did anyone else know that people who live in $1 and $2 million dollar homes are ghetto trash? If we have the block party in someone's backyard does that mean we are not ghetto trash?

That is so unfair for the city to designate Latham as a major thoroughfare and deny residents from doing exactly what the city neighborhoods grants program encourages. Completely wrong call by the traffic engineer. Of course people can take a detour for a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon. That line of reasoning would mean that Castro can't be closed for festivals, freeway lanes can't be closed for construction, city streets can't be closed for repaving, etc. This is the same mentality as the shutdown, who at the top gets to decide which activities the rules apply to and which they don't?

I really want to like this city and agree with the people who run it, but they aren't giving me many opportunities to do so.

The headline is indeed offensive, the mental image of Latham residents being run down...Voice editor, you don't have to try so hard to sound catchy.

Having a neighborhood block party a mile away at Rengstorff Park makes as much sense as eating Thanksgiving dinner with your family at Rengstorff Park.

Let's see the entire city government stop playing politics, use some common sense, and adopt that campaign slogan "Residents First"

Like this comment
Posted by Curious
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2013 at 6:04 am

A more factual headline would have been "Halloween Block Party killed by City bureaucrats" or if you want catchier "No Candy for you, City Staff"

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Posted by C C
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 26, 2013 at 9:29 am

The difference between Latham and Castro is the City is getting paid for blocking of Castro for those dumb festivals. The Latham street block part is not going to generate revenue so they do not want all of the extra foot traffic that is not really putting $ into the city. Those 2000 cars can carry things out that were bought in the city giving it tax. Isn't capitalism fun! Good job Mountain View!

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Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 26, 2013 at 10:15 am

If anyone is interested in speaking about their specific experiences at past Latham Halloween parties, this 10/29 Tuesday’s city council time for public comments on non-agendized items is little after 7pm.

I have never in all the years of living at several different parts of Latham (at the busiest part of Latham) considered traffic an issue at this particular block party that is further down by less trafficked Palo Alto Ave. Something is missing when a well intending city policy to have an efficiently operating city is applied indiscriminately in a way that trumps the equally important goal of community building.

I know few neighbors want to make a stir, but anyone who has been to this event, where families donate pies and kids get dressed up, knows how wrongly decided this is. I feel Mountain View is less transactional and more communal than this decision would lead us to believe.

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Posted by Old Timer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 26, 2013 at 10:25 am

This is nuts. I live near downtown and I can't tell you how many times I've driven towards Castro only to find it's closed due to a parade, or because it's a Thursday (!), or some arts fair. And the City gives us NO notice of those closures. Poor government, and lazy, overpaid City employees. Speaking of salaries (off-topic, sorry) if you'd like to see what our City employees are making, check out: Web Link

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Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm

It's silly to not let them have their Street Party, the City should stop this high handed nonsense.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Be realistic, the way residents drive around Mountain View, parents are putting their kids at risk by holding a party in the middle of the street, even in broad daylight. Do you think a cheap wooden barrier would have stopped Mathew Pumar from barrelling down the street?

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Posted by John
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 27, 2013 at 1:23 am

we have plenty of cut through traffic thru Monte Loma and city staff doesn't lift a finger to do anything about it.
It's a developer town and to heck with the people who live here.

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Posted by Susan
a resident of Castro City
on Oct 28, 2013 at 2:26 pm

You can walk down the middle of Latham Street on Sunday. I usually applaud the Council but this is just plain selfish. A party in an occasionally troubled neighborhood that has had no problems for the past 3 years?!? Neighbors making friends with each other? What am I missing here?

Rengstorff Park requires a party to be in the picnic area and you need an expensive permit to have any alcohol. That is a deal-breaker. Boo to City Council for a really bad move!

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Posted by nikonbob
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 28, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Their mistake was not getting Prometheus to sponsor it...Automatic approval and the entire council in attendance then!

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 28, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Good one! We should start going to Prometheus with our problems.
They own the place.

Like this comment
Posted by FrankSki
a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 31, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I'm with @Susan....Boo! (in the spirit of Halloween) to the City Council and the Traffic Engineer who nixed this party!

Once again, it comes down to who citizens voted to put into Office! Who is the Council Member for the 1300 Block of Latham? Hmmm...maybe it shouldn't be that person the next vote???

Jus' sayin'!

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