News

City could close Castro Street at train tracks

Council majority leans toward closure as least disruptive plan for downtown hub

Mountain View council members signaled early support for closing off Castro Street at the Caltrain tracks, making for a dramatic transformation of the city's downtown strip. The idea, which is still being studied, would prevent traffic from crossing the tracks, blocking vehicles from Moffett Boulevard and Central Expressway heading to the downtown.

At the March 22 study session, a majority of the council hailed the idea as the least disruptive way to preserve the character of downtown.

"Closing Castro at the railroad is the best we could do for downtown for safety and for emerging transit options," said Councilman Lenny Siegel. "By doing something simpler and cleaner, this would give us money we could use to improve transit options."

The spot has long been considered a safety risk due to the large numbers of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians who regularly converge there to cross the tracks. Those dangers are expected to grow as Caltrain moves forward with plans to electrify the tracks and add twice as many trains. In addition, the rail corridor will someday be used for California High Speed Rail trains.

With those projects on the horizon, city staff and a consultant team say they needed to find options for improving the crossing. Among those ideas, they considered lowering the Caltrain tracks to run below the street. But making those modifications would have been enormously expensive and complicated, possibly requiring miles of track modifications and even a new tunnel running under Stevens Creek.

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On Tuesday, staff presented a slate of other options that centered around lowering Castro Street about 18 feet to dip underneath the trail tracks. While this type of grade separation would require extensive construction, city staff suggested the idea could include also lowering Central Expressway. If the city desired, project manager James Lightbody suggested the city could even create a new downtown plaza space over the roads. Lightbody said the cost estimates for these ambitious plans would come at a future date.

A majority of the council expressed wariness about trying to dramatically modify Castro Street for the convenience of drivers. The idea would be great if the city had "an infinite pot of money" said Councilman Chris Clark, but otherwise city officials had to be strategic about how it spent its resources.

"My guess is we can handle a closure there," he said. "If it's a permanent closure, people will learn."

Only about 20 percent of the cars heading into downtown are coming from the Moffett Boulevard direction, according to a city traffic analysis. Nevertheless, the possibility of closing the Castro Street crossing raised concerns among some speakers in the downtown business community. Club owner Sarah Astles said she experienced on average a 17-percent business drop each time the city closed Castro Street for street fairs.

"It's hard to like any of these ideas," she said. "People already have a hard time finding their way into Castro if they're not familiar with Mountain view."

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City staff members said they would conduct an economic impact study and gather input from the business community, and council members urged them to get this information before any final decision is made. On this note, Councilman John Inks warned that the city was trying to craft plans even though there was a lot of uncertainty.

"(These plans) are lacking and it makes it difficult to pick a design at this stage in the project," he said. "We're being asked to select a point design before the design for the whole (transit) system is established."

City staff agreed there were some mixed signals coming from the California High Speed Rail Authority over how the system would be built along the Peninsula. Mountain View's downtown transit center has been identified as a possible Midpeninsula station for the future high-speed rail. Adding to the complexity, Mountain View leaders are also investigating plans for a new automated mass transit system centered at the station.

Given the many challenges, City Council members threw their support behind simplicity and certainty in backing the Castro Street closure.

"I realize that any underpass proposal would just destroy downtown and its ambiance at the expense of citizens," said Councilman Mike Kasperzak. "All you have to do is be downtown at lunchtime, and you can see (this traffic) blocks up downtown."

As part of the closure plans, staff members said they would look into expanding Evelyn Street so that it would connect with Shoreline Road, creating a new route into downtown. City staff expected to build some kind of overpass or tunnel across the Caltrain tracks so that pedestrians and bicyclists could still cross at Castro Street. Siegel suggested the city should look into creating some kind of pick-up/drop-off area at the end of Moffett Boulevard.

The City Council was only giving feedback at the study session on what options members wanted to pursue, and no final decisions were made. Through a series of straw votes, council members showed support for continuing to investigate closing off Castro. A minority of the council also asked staff to further study two alternative plans that would lower Castro Street beneath the tracks.

The city is expected to have a community meeting on the transit center plans in May.

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City could close Castro Street at train tracks

Council majority leans toward closure as least disruptive plan for downtown hub

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Mar 23, 2016, 1:47 pm

Mountain View council members signaled early support for closing off Castro Street at the Caltrain tracks, making for a dramatic transformation of the city's downtown strip. The idea, which is still being studied, would prevent traffic from crossing the tracks, blocking vehicles from Moffett Boulevard and Central Expressway heading to the downtown.

At the March 22 study session, a majority of the council hailed the idea as the least disruptive way to preserve the character of downtown.

"Closing Castro at the railroad is the best we could do for downtown for safety and for emerging transit options," said Councilman Lenny Siegel. "By doing something simpler and cleaner, this would give us money we could use to improve transit options."

The spot has long been considered a safety risk due to the large numbers of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians who regularly converge there to cross the tracks. Those dangers are expected to grow as Caltrain moves forward with plans to electrify the tracks and add twice as many trains. In addition, the rail corridor will someday be used for California High Speed Rail trains.

With those projects on the horizon, city staff and a consultant team say they needed to find options for improving the crossing. Among those ideas, they considered lowering the Caltrain tracks to run below the street. But making those modifications would have been enormously expensive and complicated, possibly requiring miles of track modifications and even a new tunnel running under Stevens Creek.

On Tuesday, staff presented a slate of other options that centered around lowering Castro Street about 18 feet to dip underneath the trail tracks. While this type of grade separation would require extensive construction, city staff suggested the idea could include also lowering Central Expressway. If the city desired, project manager James Lightbody suggested the city could even create a new downtown plaza space over the roads. Lightbody said the cost estimates for these ambitious plans would come at a future date.

A majority of the council expressed wariness about trying to dramatically modify Castro Street for the convenience of drivers. The idea would be great if the city had "an infinite pot of money" said Councilman Chris Clark, but otherwise city officials had to be strategic about how it spent its resources.

"My guess is we can handle a closure there," he said. "If it's a permanent closure, people will learn."

Only about 20 percent of the cars heading into downtown are coming from the Moffett Boulevard direction, according to a city traffic analysis. Nevertheless, the possibility of closing the Castro Street crossing raised concerns among some speakers in the downtown business community. Club owner Sarah Astles said she experienced on average a 17-percent business drop each time the city closed Castro Street for street fairs.

"It's hard to like any of these ideas," she said. "People already have a hard time finding their way into Castro if they're not familiar with Mountain view."

City staff members said they would conduct an economic impact study and gather input from the business community, and council members urged them to get this information before any final decision is made. On this note, Councilman John Inks warned that the city was trying to craft plans even though there was a lot of uncertainty.

"(These plans) are lacking and it makes it difficult to pick a design at this stage in the project," he said. "We're being asked to select a point design before the design for the whole (transit) system is established."

City staff agreed there were some mixed signals coming from the California High Speed Rail Authority over how the system would be built along the Peninsula. Mountain View's downtown transit center has been identified as a possible Midpeninsula station for the future high-speed rail. Adding to the complexity, Mountain View leaders are also investigating plans for a new automated mass transit system centered at the station.

Given the many challenges, City Council members threw their support behind simplicity and certainty in backing the Castro Street closure.

"I realize that any underpass proposal would just destroy downtown and its ambiance at the expense of citizens," said Councilman Mike Kasperzak. "All you have to do is be downtown at lunchtime, and you can see (this traffic) blocks up downtown."

As part of the closure plans, staff members said they would look into expanding Evelyn Street so that it would connect with Shoreline Road, creating a new route into downtown. City staff expected to build some kind of overpass or tunnel across the Caltrain tracks so that pedestrians and bicyclists could still cross at Castro Street. Siegel suggested the city should look into creating some kind of pick-up/drop-off area at the end of Moffett Boulevard.

The City Council was only giving feedback at the study session on what options members wanted to pursue, and no final decisions were made. Through a series of straw votes, council members showed support for continuing to investigate closing off Castro. A minority of the council also asked staff to further study two alternative plans that would lower Castro Street beneath the tracks.

The city is expected to have a community meeting on the transit center plans in May.

Comments

let'sgetreal
Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:21 pm
let'sgetreal, Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Seriously Sarah Astles??? People have a hard time "finding Castro St"!? Most people have directions on their phone, or built into their car.


Resident
Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:22 pm
Resident, Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:22 pm

What's the problem that we're solving for?


Love it
Monta Loma
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:28 pm
Love it, Monta Loma
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:28 pm

I love this idea. It's already dangerous to drive on Castro, between the train tracks and the frequent pedestrian crossings. Not to mention that as a pedestrian, I've been almost mowed down by cars in the crosswalks on several occasions. There's just too much going on there for safe driving.

I think Castro should be a safe place to walk, eat, and shop. I would bet that if this is made permanent business will pick up rather than slow down. Once drivers know where to go, as opposed by being blocked by an unexpected and occasional street fair, they will want to come downtown even more.


kh
Sylvan Park
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:34 pm
kh, Sylvan Park
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:34 pm

Castro St should be pedestrian only between Evelyn and California. If Dublin, Ireland can convert Grafton Street to a pedestrian zone it should be possible for Mountain View to do the same with Castro St. Pedestrian zones, common to many European cities, provide public space that is attractive and functional, feels comfortable and safe, mixes a variety of uses, and de-emphasizes the automobile in relation to other modes, chiefly walking, cycling and transit.






Name hidden
Monta Loma

on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:36 pm
Name hidden, Monta Loma

on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Madeline Bernard
Monta Loma
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:39 pm
Madeline Bernard, Monta Loma
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:39 pm

Closing Castro at the tracks sounds good to me. It's always a disaster when I end up trying take a right off of Central on to Castro. I'd love to be able to get to the great bodyshop on Moffet near Castro without having to deal with the people escaping the horrible driving situation on Castro. The Shoreline overpass is a massively better approach to getting to downtown by car.


Cost_concern
North Whisman
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:56 pm
Cost_concern, North Whisman
on Mar 23, 2016 at 2:56 pm

I hope they study various alternatives. I think a grade separation would be the best although expensive. Could the Caltrain and LR tracks be elevated like in San Carlos rather than Castro and Central dipping for less money?


JCH
Monta Loma
on Mar 23, 2016 at 3:13 pm
JCH, Monta Loma
on Mar 23, 2016 at 3:13 pm

I love this idea. I live in the Monta Loma neighborhood and never go up Moffett to Castro. I use Shoreline or Rengstorff to California and go to Castro that way. I'd love to see Castro become a walking-only street, Bricked to make it look nice. Then I would consider dining at the restaurants outside. Now we can't handle the noise an odors coming from cars so close to the outside dining.


Shoreline Resident
Bailey Park
on Mar 23, 2016 at 3:29 pm
Shoreline Resident, Bailey Park
on Mar 23, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Sooner or later the Council will need to realize that you can't keep putting more and more traffic onto Shoreline and expect it to move. It's already impossible to move on that street during rush hour. Closing Castro at the tracks will only make it that much worse. And there is also a proposal to take a lane away from Shoreline. Think about the whole city when making these plans please!


PDview
Shoreline West
on Mar 23, 2016 at 3:36 pm
PDview, Shoreline West
on Mar 23, 2016 at 3:36 pm

Makes sense to me. A solution for the moment that can be modified later depending on what happens with high speed rail. My main question is how this could negatively impact the possibility that the Castro end of Moffet might otherwise develop into a thriving extension of downtown.


Love Downtown
Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2016 at 3:39 pm
Love Downtown, Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Why can't we leave it the way it is? I started to think about Murphy St in Sunnyvale and they allow traffic and parking as well. Staying alive at intersections and crosswalks is a joint responsibility. When I'm driving, I try to pay close attention and stop ahead of time, but I've seen people walking and just jump on out there like they know people will see them and stop.


Groucho
Rex Manor
on Mar 23, 2016 at 4:06 pm
Groucho, Rex Manor
on Mar 23, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Great idea -- as long as they include a pedestrian bridge. It will be a wonderful benefit for traffic on Central Expwy. Then do the same thing for Rengstorff.


AC
Registered user
another community
on Mar 23, 2016 at 4:09 pm
AC, another community
Registered user
on Mar 23, 2016 at 4:09 pm

I just don't understand how you can increase density, both residential and commercial, and then think it's a good idea to reduce motorway thoroughfare. If people did not need to travel inbound or outbound to far away places, I'd understand it. But what with cost of living, I don't see that happening.

If you work, say, off of Middlefield... How would you go to lunch on Castro Street and still get back to the office on time? You could do the Whisman->Dana->Hope route... and get so snarled in traffic for parking, it just wouldn't work.

And how would you park-and-ride for light rail to Levi Stadium without snarling the small residential 25mph streets that lead into it?

I just can't figure out how one expects that to work.


Plan Ahead
Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2016 at 4:16 pm
Plan Ahead, Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2016 at 4:16 pm

We should be studying plans to do all three now, so when High Speed Rail makes their OWN plans about what Mountain View train station looks like, we'll be ready to hit the ground running. It's a bit short-sighted to rule any out now just because of cost, though, without knowing the full picture.


Common sense
Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2016 at 4:45 pm
Common sense, Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Three separate parallel points (I watched the meeting -- this Voice article is a good overview, but only hit the main upshots). Also keep in mind this is an early exploratory phase of a long decision process; per "Love Downtown," the existing situation remains at least workable for now, and has fewer unknowns than any of these potential changes.

1. Many citizens have jumped onto the bandwagon of blocking Castro St. at Central, taking for granted that what would result is the same thriving cluster of restaurants and shops, plus added pedestrian freedom. It doesn't always work out like that, for reasons that are complex. Bruce Liedstrand, an architect of the current Castro-St. downtown and others, wrote recently "about potential damage to downtown and downtown merchants from closing Castro Street at the tracks. . . I have clear memories of the problems of the old Castro Street, as I was City Manager at the time and active in planning and creating the “recovered” Castro Street we enjoy now. . . Based on that experience and similar work in other cities, I strongly urge not to try to turn Castro Street into a pedestrian-only mall. It has a high risk of seriously damaging the great downtown we worked so hard to create. I am also concerned about the potential damage to downtown from closing Castro Street at the tracks. It isn’t just a matter of car counts - it is the whole functionality of Downtown. In years past several local cities damaged their downtowns by diverting traffic away." That, despite instinctive opinions that it's a sound idea, or worked in some places, or is even good for the merchants.

2. All that said, considering the alternatives for grade separation (the options are more limited at this location than at some of the numerous other Caltrain crossings), blocking Castro might still be the least disruptive to local business of all the alternatives presented. Julie Smiley, speaking for the downtown business group, more or less said so in acknowledging that the businesses are divided about the options, but eager to be involved in the process. Council members did stress last night the need for careful analysis of the business impacts as the options are considered.

3. PDview raised a separate issue, which also concerned some of the Council last night: "how this could negatively impact the possibility that the Castro end of Moffet might otherwise develop into a thriving extension of downtown." Changes are already underway there: large modern apt. complex coming on NW corner Moffett/Central, and prospects for lively redevelopment of the southmost 2 blocks of Moffett closest to the transit hub (there are already busy retailers and restaurants a little farther north). Don't want to mess that up; and above all, pedestrians and bikes need easy access across Central, even if it ends up blocked to cars.


Kimley-Horn
Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2016 at 4:58 pm
Kimley-Horn, Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2016 at 4:58 pm

I have not been impressed with the consultants, Kimley-Horn, on this project. They did not make a single change after the community meeting, despite several good ideas and concerns, and with two months between that meeting and their Council presentation. What was the community meeting for?

Kimley-Horn did not do any real study of what concerns are important to the City, they have virtually no traffic or transit data included in any presentation. The four alternatives are far from exhaustive, and it is hard to see why they presented them in these particular configurations. During the community meeting, it was mentioned that different components could be mixed-and-matched, but it was not clear what the implications would be, and so the concept of "modularization" is completely lost.

We deserve a more professional and thorough study for such a massive project, from a team that adequately engages with the community.


Janet Lafleur
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Mar 23, 2016 at 5:07 pm
Janet Lafleur, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Mar 23, 2016 at 5:07 pm

A key point: Castro would only be closedto vehicle traffic at the railroad tracks, not foot or bicycle traffic. Many people crossing the tracks at Castro Street are walking or biking. During peak commute hours, there may even be more than in cars. Unfortunately, the report with the plan did not include counts for foot or bike traffic.

Also, the Alternative 4 that would close the railroad crossing to cars does not including options for closing Castro Street to cars or like other alternatives, removing any parking on Castro or on Moffett.


Ed
Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2016 at 5:07 pm
Ed, Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2016 at 5:07 pm

A wide, well-lit pedestrian/bike crossing between Castro and Moffett would reduce the impact of closing Castro at the tracks, and ensure that the new developments along Moffett aren't cut off from downtown.

Taking that one step further: how about a shuttle bus pickup/dropoff on the Moffett side for shuttles to North Bayshore and other destinations north of Central. Shuttle buses could then avoid crossing Central and the train tracks altogether, shortening trips (even accounting for the extra minute or two of walking) and reducing traffic to the station proper.


ValF.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Mar 23, 2016 at 5:14 pm
ValF., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Mar 23, 2016 at 5:14 pm

let'sgetreal : She was specifically talking about festival weekends. One of the CM's noted that the problem with those weekends was that the GPS would not be aware of the event to route around the closures. Also, the closure those weekends is the entire street *and* side streets, so hopefully only closing it at one spot would have less impact on business.

resident: Have you tried to walk/drive/bike near this intersection during commute hours? It can take 10-15 minutes to legally cross two sides of the street to get from Moffat/Central to the transit center. I've been stuck there in my car, too, waiting to cross for 5-10 minutes. Hundreds of pedestrians jay walk in a matter of minutes. It is dangerous.

Cost_Concern: There are issues with both raising and lowering the train tracks, due to the Shoreline overpass and Steven's Creek. They are still studying dropping Castro, if I understood correctly.

Love Downtown: Murphy Street in Sunnyvale does not cross the tracks, so you can't really compare what they can do to Sunnyvale to here. This intersection is very dangerous as it is, and will get much worse when Caltrain electrifies in the near future.


The article in the voice touched on Caltrain electrification in their article, but the study session went in more deeply into those impacts: trains will double during commute hours. So, now where the crossing bars come down every 7-8 minutes, it will be more like every 3-4 minutes after electrification - essentially shutting Castro down a the tracks during those hours. I saw the council express concerns about business, the business at the near end of Moffat, alternatives, pedestrian safety and looking for more ideas. I don't believe any change will be made without thorough investigation.


Common sense
Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2016 at 5:21 pm
Common sense, Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2016 at 5:21 pm

By the way: There's a good answer to "Why can't we leave it the way it is?" We can, for now -- but that situation won't last much longer. Both CBOSS Web Link (almost complete) and planned electrification support more frequent Caltrain service, with the more frequent crossing-gate closures that go along with it (any future high-speed rail service would add to that). That itself will degrade both automobile access (already a complex dance with the Central turn-lane signals, disrupted each time a train passes) and pedestrian-bike crossings of Central.


Resident
Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2016 at 5:23 pm
Resident, Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2016 at 5:23 pm

@ValF.: "resident: Have you tried to walk/drive/bike near this intersection during commute hours? It can take 10-15 minutes to legally cross two sides of the street to get from Moffat/Central to the transit center. I've been stuck there in my car, too, waiting to cross for 5-10 minutes. Hundreds of pedestrians jay walk in a matter of minutes. It is dangerous."

How do the proposals (principally meaning closing Castro at the tracks, which is the one that seems to have the most focus and likelihood of happening) solve this problem -- either for cars or pedestrians?


PA Resident
another community
on Mar 23, 2016 at 5:53 pm
PA Resident, another community
on Mar 23, 2016 at 5:53 pm

I have driven across the tracks here if it is the most sensible route for me, but I prefer not to as it is confusing particularly since the red flashing traffic light rule has changed.

However, I think a pedestrian/bike bridge would be necessary. Presumably this would be the start of having an extension of the light rail to North Bayshore or even to San Antonio which would help as would the Pod Cars.

The big problem is that often there are pedestrians and bikes rushing to catch a train or light rail that they can see at the station and need to catch. It makes them take dangerous chances to run across traffic to catch the train. I have seen it many times and I don't use that crossing often.


Bill
Willowgate
on Mar 23, 2016 at 6:33 pm
Bill, Willowgate
on Mar 23, 2016 at 6:33 pm

What about only closing the intersection during rush hour? Let it be open during the mid-day times when Caltrain runs less often. Let it be open after 8pm. Let it be open on weekends when there is very little train traffic. A special type of gate could be constructed for this purpose. Time the traffic lights and warning signs appropriately. ?? What say you?


Changes
another community
on Mar 23, 2016 at 7:01 pm
Changes, another community
on Mar 23, 2016 at 7:01 pm

With electrification will come a more sensible signalling system which doesn't require holding traffic crossing the tracks while the train is stopped at the station. Most of the problem with crossing pedestrians at rush hour has to do with needless time the arm is down but no train is ever going to move into the intersection. This applies to trains headed north but stopping at the station. Currently the arm on Castro goes down for the arrival at the station/while stopped at the station (down on approach and then waiting over a minute more while the train is stopped) and then raised just long enough for a few cars to get through, and then the arm goes down AGAIN when the train finally moves north.


ValF.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Mar 23, 2016 at 8:33 pm
ValF., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Mar 23, 2016 at 8:33 pm

Resident: all proposals involve either a bike/ped tunnel or bridge. Closing at the lights will simplify the signals for cars as well. Therefore, bikers and walkers could cross at their leisure and not 1)wait 10-15 minutes to cross 2) jay walk dangerously to catch their train/bus. Make sense?


let'sgetreal
Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2016 at 9:30 pm
let'sgetreal, Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2016 at 9:30 pm

WHY isn't there lighted crosswalks in downtown Mt view?


Doug Pearson
Blossom Valley
on Mar 23, 2016 at 9:39 pm
Doug Pearson, Blossom Valley
on Mar 23, 2016 at 9:39 pm

I attended both the community show and the council meeting and was surprised at the popularity of closing Castro and Moffett Blvd at the railroad tracks. To me, this pushes too much traffic onto Shoreline, the only N-S street with speed limit greater than 25 MPH that I know of.

Raising or lowering the railroad tracks will be expensive but raising the tracks should be considered. Lowering the tracks means lowering below Stevens Creek (and probably other creeks) and is really too expensive.

Raising the tracks enough to truly minimize the impact on the 100 blocks of Castro and Moffett would require putting 85 and the Stevens Creek Trail below the tracks, and putting Shoreline below the tracks, but is the best option in my opinion. That is, if we raise the tracks, we should raise them at least all the way through Mountain View and that would mean at San Antonio Road. Unfortunately, Palo Alto would have to agree, and I don't think they will.

Raising the tracks is attractive to me because it's the best way to truly separate trains from pedestrians, bikes, and cars. Keep in mind that grad separation is also required at Rengstorff. Grade separation is required at EVERY crossing because the number of electrified trains per hour will be unsafe for at-grade crossings. In my opinion, the number of trains per hour is already too many for safe at-grade crossings.


Ed
another community
on Mar 23, 2016 at 10:07 pm
Ed , another community
on Mar 23, 2016 at 10:07 pm

Raising the tracks over Castro Street seems the most practical and likely least costly approach. It works at University Avenue in Palo Alto and in San Carlos.


mvresident2003
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Mar 23, 2016 at 10:45 pm
mvresident2003, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Mar 23, 2016 at 10:45 pm

@let'sgetreal Nooooooo, stop with the lighted crosswalks. They create MORE danger. More slowing and confusion both by pedestrians and cars. Half the time they're blinking and there's no one anywhere around.

Let's stop with these damned lighted flashing crosswalks. they are a menace to pedestrians AND cars.


Reality Check
another community
on Mar 24, 2016 at 12:18 am
Reality Check, another community
on Mar 24, 2016 at 12:18 am

The excellent Caltrain-HSR Compatibility Blog featured a detailed proposal (with diagrams and drawings) for raising the Caltrain tracks over Castro: Web Link


PS2000
Whisman Station
on Mar 24, 2016 at 12:21 am
PS2000, Whisman Station
on Mar 24, 2016 at 12:21 am

Blocking off Castro will be detrimental to businesses. Sarah Astles hit the nail on its head when saying ease of flow into MV downtown will be diminished and businesses will lose revenue and likely be forced to leave. Blocking off a significant entry / exit will only clog up Castro further since cars will need to navigate around. Additionally it will clog up Shoreline and other entryways (i.e. Just passing the buck on for a future construction remediation project). I know I was first shown downtown MV by driving straight down Castro from Moffett to El Camino and I was awed at the "simple elegance".... Vibrant businesses, lively people, convenient quick stops. Blocking Castro at Central would remove this advertising / showcasing of downtown MV and decrease the desire to live near a downtown that is very difficult to navigate. Farmers markets would likely suffer significantly enough (even 10% loss can be significant for their upkeep).

My proposal would be to just put a pedestrian/bicycle bridge over Central to connect Moffett and Castro, or to build a European type transit center with the cross streets sunken below an appealing hub which could provide additional attractive retail space at the head of Castro and provide continuity for future businesses to grow on Moffett (which is more highly preferred than starting to fill the cross streets near downtown Castro.

If the city council does not listen and decides to close Castro at Central anyway, at a minimum, the city should pilot closing off Castro at Central for a week and look at business impacts. It is a terrible idea. Losing downtown appeal will sink Mountain View quickly as businesses will find cheaper alternatives in neighboring areas which attract more people, and hence customers.

Agree that pedestrian / bike safety is a must, but please do not forget about all the drivers. Detailed counts of ped/bikes/cars entering and exiting at each major entry point (current and proposed) should be reported back for the next study session to determine feasibility. Same metrics should be collected if the pilot is performed.

Let's work together on a solution that will not only sustain the downtown area, but rather increase its appeal further and have it last for many years to come.


resident
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2016 at 9:35 am
resident, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2016 at 9:35 am

I think closing the Castro & Central intersection is a great idea. Driving into town has always been easier via Shoreline than Castro anyway. Traffic backing up on Central Expressway trying to get to Castro has always been a huge traffic hazard. So are the crazy turns you have to make across the train tracks to get out of Castro to Central. Just shut all that down and direct traffic from Shoreline to and from the parking lots north of Castro.

I'm in favor of removing all the on-street parking on Casto as well. Replace them with bike lanes or make the sidewalk wider. Distracted car drivers hunting for parking spaces on Castro are a huge hazard for pedestrians in the crosswalks.


mike
Monta Loma
on Mar 24, 2016 at 10:41 am
mike, Monta Loma
on Mar 24, 2016 at 10:41 am

The bike ped over crossing is a good idea, and could be done at anytime, without waiting for a study. I have only used Shoreline for decades, but traffic infrastructure on Shoreline can be improved. We walk the 3 miles to Castro to enjoy one of the dozen good restaurants, so I'm not sure that all auto traffic should be stopped. Perhaps Castro can be closed from Central to California? But crossing Central at Castro is already impossible.


Resident
Old Mountain View
on Mar 24, 2016 at 11:30 am
Resident, Old Mountain View
on Mar 24, 2016 at 11:30 am

@mike

This is California, where the huge anti-change faction of residents stalls every project for years through countless studies and environmental reviews. God forbid we build a pedestrian bridge that helps thousands a day if one person's view of the mountains is impacted. Living in Mountain View is all about "me me me".

I completely agree that separating out bikes and pedestrian traffic would make a lot of sense, both to simplify the crossing for cars, and to completely remove pedestrians and bikes from harm's way. That's why it won't happen, and we'll just have to way for some boondoggle costing hundreds of millions.


Rodger
Sylvan Park
on Mar 24, 2016 at 12:50 pm
Rodger, Sylvan Park
on Mar 24, 2016 at 12:50 pm

I think the best solution is to build an bike and walking bridge over Central Expressway and the railroad tracks and leave the roads alone. This would cost the least, provide a safer walking and biking intersection while not impacting auto access. Businesses would not be impacted much.


rainbow38
Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 24, 2016 at 2:37 pm
rainbow38, Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 24, 2016 at 2:37 pm

Closure of Castro at the tracks would increase the response time for fire and police. Has this been considered?


T. Martinez
another community
on Mar 24, 2016 at 2:40 pm
T. Martinez, another community
on Mar 24, 2016 at 2:40 pm

This should have been done decades ago. The Shoreline (formerly Bailey) bridge was clearly designed with this in mind. San Mateo County is far ahead of Santa Clara County in terms of achieving the stated goal of separating the entire Caltrain right of way. Make it happen!


Bruce Liedstrand
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2016 at 4:57 pm
Bruce Liedstrand, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2016 at 4:57 pm

Instead of wondering and arguing about the impact on downtown and downtown businesses from closing Castro Street at the railroad, let's do a 30 day test of the idea. The city can coordinate with downtown businesses and then put out the sandbags for a real life test of the closure. A 30-day test should be long enough for us in the community to experience the closure and spot any serious problems.
Make sense?
Bruce Liedstrand
Former Mountain View City Manager, retired.
Resident of Bentley Square


PH
Rengstorff Park
on Mar 24, 2016 at 5:14 pm
PH, Rengstorff Park
on Mar 24, 2016 at 5:14 pm

BART would have solved the grade separation problems years ago and could have been built with bike and pedestrian bridges as part of the plan. This is what happens when people can't understand that population and business growth won't be stopped by not over building infrastructure to meet the demands of the future. They come and then we try to build it. What a backwards way to plan for the future.


T. Martinez
another community
on Mar 24, 2016 at 6:57 pm
T. Martinez, another community
on Mar 24, 2016 at 6:57 pm

This closure is going to happen whether people like it or not. For over 30 years, Caltrain has had a stated goal of separating the entire line between San Jose and San Francisco. The buildings along Castro Street, many of them historic, are too close to have an overpass or an underpass. There is no question of whether or not that this closure will take place. The only question is when.


Brett
another community
on Mar 24, 2016 at 7:13 pm
Brett, another community
on Mar 24, 2016 at 7:13 pm

It's a good idea but the city should go one step further. Close 3-4 blocks of Castro to all vehicle traffic and turn it into an outdoor pedestrian mall.


Monta Loma
Monta Loma
on Mar 24, 2016 at 9:10 pm
Monta Loma, Monta Loma
on Mar 24, 2016 at 9:10 pm

Bruce, I don't think that would be an accurate test at all. It would not take into account the mitigating factor of an extension of Evelyn to Shoreline, or of people "getting used to it" over a longer period of time, or of signage to direct people from Central to downtown via Shoreline.

Closing Castro at the tracks is the "least bad" option. All the others would be too destructive to the 100 block of Castro. BTW, I don't support closing blocks on Castro.


Castro St Business Owner
Castro City
on Mar 24, 2016 at 9:20 pm
Castro St Business Owner , Castro City
on Mar 24, 2016 at 9:20 pm

I do not support closing Castro at Central. As a business owner on the 100 block of Castro, I know I will lose significant business, not only from customers, but also from delivery services such as DoorDash and Grubhub which will be harder for them to get to me. Mountain View residents, I urge you to strongly reconsider closing Castro at the tracks and to simply build a pedestrian bridge over the tracks. The businesses here like mine are what gives MV much of its charm. Closing businesses will have a profound negative domino effect on real estate prices as well.


ValF.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Mar 25, 2016 at 10:51 am
ValF., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2016 at 10:51 am

JCH: a note on bricking streets or sidewalks. Yes, they look nice, but having taken a disabled person around England's cobbled streets and sidewalks - they are NOT great for folks in a wheelchair, using a cane or walker, or who have an uneven gait or sprains ankles easily. They can be done well, but need to be done carefully. (and don't get me started on the rumble strips for the blind...)


bjd
Old Mountain View
on Mar 25, 2016 at 1:57 pm
bjd, Old Mountain View
on Mar 25, 2016 at 1:57 pm

A note on the pedestrian bridge vs tunnel: A bridge would require a 23' clearance over the tracks, and a 15'5 clearance over Central Expressway. At 5% grade, it will take a very long ramp to get pedestrians that high between Castro and the railroad tracks-- over 450', about the distance between Villa St. and Caltrain. We would need many switchbacks to get over the tracks.

The Steven's Creek Trail overpass has the advantage that it first goes over a pedestrian walkway, then Evelyn, then the railroad tracks, so it can continue raising its grade until its peak over the railroad tracks.

A tunnel would need to descend about 12.5' (10' clearance, 2.5' for the thickness of the tunnel above). This would require ~270' ramp to descend at 5% grade- easier on pedestrians/bicycles but the ramp still has to go somewhere.

These grades/ramp lengths are a reason why the consultants mentioned it might be possible to raise the tracks a few feet-- if they were raised 5', a 7.5' downramp could be 150' long.


(Disclosure: I am not a transit professional, but have done my best to learn about the options)


Brian
Shoreline West
on Mar 25, 2016 at 4:52 pm
Brian, Shoreline West
on Mar 25, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Hey, remember that the Voice reported that the Council is also considering reducing the number of lanes on Shoreline (and California)? Together with closing the crossing at Castro, this would provide great incentive to go elsewhere to dine. Why sit in the city-created gridlock, when you can go to Palo Alto or Sunnyvale? Seriously, the idea might be workable if there was the breadth of mass transit that you'd find in a high density city, but in Mountain View, Caltrain and the light rail only realistically serve a small subset of the population. I admit that I am not certain about the bus system, though I do see them crossing the train tracks on Castro, so presumably they'd be diverted to Shoreline too.

As a side note, do any Council members have to drive to their day jobs? If not, I'd suggest that they spend a week driving the box of Shoreline to Charleston to Rengstorff to El Camino back to Shoreline from 8-9 am and the reverse from 5:30-6:30 pm every day for a week to see how reducing the number of lanes or closing alternate routes would make living in Mountain View less tolerable.


Evelyn Avenue
another community
on Mar 25, 2016 at 5:03 pm
Evelyn Avenue, another community
on Mar 25, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Evelyn Avenue on the Shoreline side of Castro is basically a parking lot with a road running through. If Evelyn is connected through Castro and connects to Shoreline in BOTH directions, and widened, it could be better than Castro street at bringing traffic into and out of downtown.

So that's one way to look at it. Evelyn on the Highway 85 side gets much less traffic than it could handle. This would make it much easier for 85 traffic to get across Castro when exiting at Evelyn. This means a much more DIRECT and higher capacity route from 85 to downtown Mountain View. It could be good for businesses.

There's more to this than meets the eye.


Janon
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2016 at 12:54 am
Janon, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Mar 26, 2016 at 12:54 am

Approve thousands more jobs as frequently as possible but...

REJECT any creation of new housing AND...

LIMIT roads as much as possible BUT...

Expect to still have a "beautiful outdoor walking mall", thriving of course with *just enough* 'flavor', to stroll through when you feel like leaving your $4M 1200 Sq ft house.

And of course unobstructed views. Can't forget that.

Sounds sane!


My View Neighbor
North Whisman
on Mar 26, 2016 at 4:33 am
My View Neighbor, North Whisman
on Mar 26, 2016 at 4:33 am

Clearly ridiculous. Why not just block off the train tracks as long as we're being ridiculous.


rainbow38
Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 28, 2016 at 2:58 pm
rainbow38, Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 28, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Most of the comments focus on getting to downtown Mountain View from the west side. There's also an east side of Mountain View that's growing and needs direct access to the west side including downtown. And many residents need direct access to get from the west to the east side and/or Central Expressway every day. More mileage means more pollution and higher costs.


mview
Rex Manor
on Mar 30, 2016 at 12:07 pm
mview, Rex Manor
on Mar 30, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Hey, regarding the economic impact of making Castro St pedestrian only, try looking at Pearl St. Mall in Boulder, Colorado as an example of the possible benefits. Since closing it to vehicle traffic years ago, it has become the economic and cultural anchor of Boulder, a huge success by nearly all standards. People actually look forward to getting out of their cars to walk, dine, shop, and mingle. Parking garages help control traffic/parking issues nearby also.


FidelCastro?
another community
on Mar 30, 2016 at 4:24 pm
FidelCastro?, another community
on Mar 30, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Uh, preventing cars from going across to Castro from Central Expwy is a terrible
idea, even though the situation is a mess.

Why not divide the traffic up into coming and going and route them along the
parallel side streets where the parking is anyway?

In other words, cross the tracks into downtown and turn right on Evelyn
and find yourself somewhere to park .... or

get on Evelyn and leave downtown by cross the tracks onto Central.

Otherwise how are people supposed get across Central which splits
Mountain View in half?


FidelCastro?
another community
on Mar 30, 2016 at 4:28 pm
FidelCastro?, another community
on Mar 30, 2016 at 4:28 pm

mview, having lived in Mountain View for many years and going
there still fairly often, the people in MV are different from Boulder
Colorado ... sorry to say.

Castro used to be a fairly pleasant place to eat and walk, but the
crowd that is on Castro these days is often drunk, rude and rowdy.
I would be with you if they closed all the bars ... not the restaurants
on Castro.


Linda Curtis
Cuesta Park
on Apr 5, 2016 at 4:45 pm
Linda Curtis, Cuesta Park
on Apr 5, 2016 at 4:45 pm

I think the sure way to relieve traffic congestion, thereby enabling people to better get around the whole West Bay Area and southward, and to provide lots of jobs for sure in the building, is to invest in a transportation corridor that lowers the grade of Central Expwy and the railroad tracks from east of the San Antonio overpass into Sunnyvale. Then that city can lower the same trough the Mary intersection and it will line up with the rest of the corridor that Sunnyvale had the excellent foresight to build right in the first place! Palo Alto has also been talking about this, and San Mateo, too. The more cities to do it, the better!

Think of the advantages in addition to saving the first blocks of Castro Street and Rengstorff:

No stops required for traffic at intersections for those crossing over OR under anywhere along the expressway/tracks, thus greater traffic flow and easier, and other overpasses could be added for Calderon, Farley, the Light Rail tracks, etc.

Greatly enhanced SAFETY with separate grade level crossings.

Pedestrians and cyclists can flow better across as well at all the grade separated crossings this will afford us, without ever negotiating rolling or stepping over tracks.

Quieter for miles around with the expressway and train tracks sunken.

Joe Simitian has explained that there is a ton of money, like a billions of dollars available to do this! Ask him about it!

And wouldn't it be great for this solution to kill the need for VTA's weak idea of dedicated bus lanes on El Camino? Allowing smoother, faster flow of traffic in the improved corridor will improve traffic flow, including buses, on El Camino, and through out our whole town.


Jim Neal
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2016 at 9:20 am
Jim Neal, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2016 at 9:20 am

It seems that the long stream of bad ideas never ends when it comes to transportation and traffic flow in Mountain View. The same legislators that keep trying to force everyone out of cars are not giving up their own! Why is that? Why do they want to make us take public transportation and increase gridlock in our neighborhoods while they are free to use their own vehicles as much as they want to and live in neighborhoods that are gridlock-free?

Closing Castro Street at the railroad crossing is a monumentally bad idea that when combined with the equally atrocious BRT lanes will have traffic traveling through the neighborhoods like Pac-Man being chased by the ghosts in the old video game.

So again, why is all this being done? In my opinion, it all come down to a 5 letter word M-O-N-E-Y. Cities get lots of money from the State and from other sources to do really stupid things because it benefits the State or a special interest group in some way. This is why it doesn't matter what the majority of the people want. These projects are going to be imposed upon us whether we want them or not, just like High Speed Rail.

All the hearings and study sessions are usually smoke screens to make it seem like we have a choice, but the decisions have already been made. The only way to change them is if we bombard our representatives with emails and phone calls until it becomes clear that they won't be elected dog catcher unless they start representing OUR interests.

During my campaign two years ago, I suggested the use of pedestrian overcrossings to alleviate the problems between pedestrians and cars. This would also alleviate much of the traffic flow problem as cars and pedestrians could both move unimpeded through the central expressway/castro intersection. It also would not require long ramps as was suggested by a previous commenter. We could use the same model as is in use in Las Vegas with an elevator for those who need it and a switchback staircase design or escalators for those who are able to use them. This is a proven solution that works and is much less expensive option than closing off Castro St and raising and/or lowering roadways, and best of all IT DOESN"T REROUTE TRAFFIC THROUGH THE NEIGHBORHOODS.


Jim Neal
Old Mountain View


Agree with Jim
Whisman Station
on Apr 6, 2016 at 9:32 am
Agree with Jim, Whisman Station
on Apr 6, 2016 at 9:32 am

I completely agree with Jim. This is a wonderful solution!! It also creates a potential opportunity to see a beautiful aerial view of Castro St. The Vegas-style elevator/staircase crossing makes absolutely good sense. MV City Council -- please consider this option before closing off Castro st at the tracks!


ValF.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 6, 2016 at 11:03 am
ValF., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2016 at 11:03 am

EVERYONE: please read the details in city council agenda. Every option proposes a ped bridge or under crossing.


Jim Neal
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2016 at 12:08 pm
Jim Neal, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Don't just read the agenda, watch the meeting online. I attended this meeting and the Castro St closing had the most support. Also, there is no option that is ONLY a ped overcrosssing. They all require some major road modification of one type or another.



Jim Neal
Old Mountain View


ValF.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 6, 2016 at 1:15 pm
ValF., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Jim) I attended in person. A ped over/under pass only will not completely fix this dangerous intersection when electrification comes in. Your comments about money are disingenuous, as council was looking for least expensive options AND options they could actually implement. The creek and Shoreline overpass complicate other options.

Agree with Jim) the comment about every solution having a ped/bike solution was for you. It won't/can't be a "Vegas style" overpass due to space. An overpass has to meet ADA requirements, which means lots of zig zagging for an overpass. A tunnel or scramble would be nicer for all


Small Business Owner on Castro
Old Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2016 at 1:45 pm
Small Business Owner on Castro, Old Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2016 at 1:45 pm

One of the biggest ways of advertising for many of the smaller Castro Street shops is people driving up and down the street. Especially for those with kids or the elderly who cannot afford to walk up and down the street to see what's the newest restaurant or shop. By closing off Castro at Central and/or making it a pedestrian only street, it will only create more issues for small business owners like myself.

If blocking off Castro at Central is the only solution the city council wants to move forward with, there needs to be some way for the city to pilot this before making it permanent, with pre-defined acceptance criteria (i.e. if business revenues decrease >10% over a 30/60/90-day period, do NOT close off Castro at Central). Running a pilot without defined acceptance criteria is absolutely meaningless (and yet another smokescreen to make us think we have a say). I am fairly confident I will move my business to a more affordable area within or outside of MV instead of being directly on Castro St.


You Future Patron
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2016 at 2:01 pm
You Future Patron, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2016 at 2:01 pm

@Small Business Owner. Once they close the streets down I will be much more likely to actually visit your store instead of driving by it. I AVOID Castro and the businesses due to the Castro St traffic. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised at how many more people will visit your store if the road is closed. There is never any parking on Castro anyway and the traffic on that street just seems to clog things up for most of the central DT area.


MV Resident
Old Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2016 at 3:32 pm
MV Resident, Old Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2016 at 3:32 pm

@Small Business Owner - The proposal to close Castro at the tracks would NOT stop through traffic on Castro. Evelyn/Castro would be turned into a T intersection, with the two sides of Evelyn connected, Castro feeding onto it. Evelyn would then be a continuous street, joined to Shoreline by (probably) a ramp.

The other alternatives proposed would all involve sinking Castro starting at Villa. Diners outside Vaso Azzuro or Little Sheep would be looking down into a trench with cars in it. There would be no crosswalk in the middle of the block. Any of these other proposals (called Alternatives 1, 2, and 3) would significantly degrade this block, one of just 3 historic downtown blocks. It would be a Sunnyvale-style mistake. With Castro in a ditch, there would be no street visibility of the businesses in the 100 block.

Alternative 4, closing Castro, does not propose turning any of the downtown blocks into "pedestrian only." It's the lowest-impact way of dealing with an intersection that may become unusable anyway in a few years. In addition, it would not conflict with the (unlikely) possibility of HSR coming up with the funding to put the trains below grade.


Common sense
Old Mountain View
on Apr 7, 2016 at 12:00 pm
Common sense, Old Mountain View
on Apr 7, 2016 at 12:00 pm

The big problem, "You future patron," with your argument above is that downtown business owners' survival depends not on your particular decisions, nor those of any other commenters here on Town Square -- but on the aggregated daily choices of thousands of people who pass through the Castro St. corridor and aren't represented on this forum.

The reasoning error by people gleefully jumping onto a "yes let's block off Castro at Central" bandwagon is their unexamined assumptions. First, it won't stop traffic along the first Castro block. Councilman Siegel has stressed the practical need for alternative motor access routes (for any number of reasons), and proposed enhancing Evelyn west of Castro to connect to Shoreline. Secondly and more grave is the risk that less-obvious side effects of any altered traffic flow could ruin many of those low-margin retail and service businesses, *whether* *or* *not* that is clear now to every offhand opinionater. It's happened elsewhere in business districts after traffic was rerouted, or streets converted to pedestrian-only.

Then again, some big change is inevitable for eventual grade separation. Let's just base it on more depth than "what sounds good." Business owners and the co-author of the current downtown (Bruce Liedstrand) are calling for careful study and trial runs. That makes sense. Look before you leap.


Linda Curtis
Cuesta Park
on Apr 7, 2016 at 4:28 pm
Linda Curtis, Cuesta Park
on Apr 7, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Blocking Castro Street traffic that enters it from Central Expwy or 101 represents the loss of lots of business. It is convenient to stop when passing by, but simply skipped if one must drive out of their way to get there, taking their business elsewhere. Parking hasn't thwarted me yet, but the reduced parking formula must revert back to improve it and to help business. I'm not only speaking for myself but for many people I know who tell me these things.

So: Improve parking, don't block off Castro, and lower the tracks and the expwy so Castro and all cross streets can continue level as they are now but without intersecting traffic.

Joe Simitian told me that a half penny sales tax would yield 6 Billion dollars to this and more, EXCLUDING the designated bus lanes on ECR. Let's get that measure on the ballot and vote for it so we can improve ALL traffic flow in MV, and make it much safer and quieter along the newly embedded "Transportation Corridor" that will be created by employing many non-tech workers for a nice change.


ValF.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 7, 2016 at 11:23 pm
ValF., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 7, 2016 at 11:23 pm

Linda Curtis) trenching Castro options would DECREASE parking. The tracks could be lowered, but would have to go under Steven's Creek (very expensive). With the new ramp on Evelyn, people could still drive the entirety of Castro. (Note: the 100 block of Castro currently only has 7-8 parking spots, most is restaurant dining)


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