Councilmember Katherine Beiers made an impassioned plea at last week’s city council meeting. She tried to bring in more public input on the Downtown Association’s plan to turn Pacific Avenue into a two-way street for part of the holiday season—even though businesses like the idea.
“The street doesn’t belong to the landlords and the retailers, however wonderful they are—and they’re struggling—and the wonderful job they’re doing,” said Beiers at the Oct. 26 meeting. “It doesn’t even belong to us. It really belongs to the community.”
Beiers, worried the discussion is moving too fast, tried to convince council to send out postcards or do a reverse 911 phone call to get the word out about a hearing on the three-month trial run. She didn’t win much support.
“When we added dogs to downtown, we had months of debate, and we didn’t postcard the entire community,” said Mayor Ryan Coonerty. City council agreed instead to place an ad in a local newspaper.
As of press time, neither the paper nor the date had been decided. The council’s decision to test the waters with a two-way Pacific Avenue represents a 180-degree turnaround since retail expert Bob Gibbs first brought up the idea at a city council meeting in September. Gibbs said the change would increase sales on Pacific 20-30 percent virtually overnight.
Councilmembers Don Lane, Hillary Bryant and Lynn Robinson all expressed skepticism on the two-way suggestion. Since then, the $20,000 three-month-long trial run, which would launch Dec. 2, has been adopted by the Downtown Association and sent to city council. The council last week unanimously approved a joint public meeting—sending it to the Downtown Commission and also to the Transportation Commission for the larger session, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 3 at City Hall.
After the hearing will be a Nov. 8 council meeting, which will ultimately decide the fate of the proposed trial run. Only the block between Locust and Water streets would remain one-way. Meanwhile, bicycle advocacy group People Power is mounting a campaign for a pedestrian-only Pacific, starting with closing the street on Sundays on a trial basis.
“We do have an excellent idea as far as what it could be and what it would look like,” says Micah Posner.
City attorney John Barisone says he won’t know until he sees a final plan whether or not it will need more study or an environmental impact report. Councilmember Lane reserved the right to vote “no” on the proposal next week if he feels the public process gets compromised.
“Clearly it is a fast and short process, and maybe we can get the job done in two weeks,” said Lane.