To encourage retail and outdoor dining, three blocks of Valencia Street will become pedestrian-only walkways on weekends, starting Friday, Feb. 5, and continuing through the end of June.
Manny Yekutiel, the owner of Manny’s and the instigator of closing the streets in the summer of 2020, said that move would be transformative for small businesses and the corridor as a whole.
“It is hard to underestimate the value of the joy that was created by giving folks a safe way to be in the community during such a dark period in our city and community’s history,” he said.
In the newest closure, cars will be prohibited on the blocks between 16th and 17th streets, between 18th and 19th; and between 20th and 21st. The traffic restrictions will run on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 9 p.m. and Sundays noon to 4 p.m. Traffic on cross streets will not be affected.
In addition, the Valencia Lights Project fundraiser, to install lights from 14th to 24th streets, is also in full swing. The initiative, also spearheaded by Yekutiel, has already raised $18,000 of its $40,000 goal. If the campaign is successful, the lights will be installed by late March or early April.
“We see this as a way to bring light back to the street, to clear away the darkness,” said Jonah Buffa, co-owner of Fellow Barber, in a press release. “This will help create jobs and support the economic recovery of this important commercial corridor in the City. “
The pedestrian-only designation is part of the city’s Shared Spaces program, with the aim of increasing public space available for outdoor dining and retail. Valencia Street was previously repurposed as a pedestrian-only thoroughfare in late July. That program ran for three months.
The success of that program aided efforts to apply and be approved for the pedestrian-only permits.
The program made the summer months feel almost normal on Valencia Street, with live music and diners packing outdoor restaurant spaces. While the foot traffic brought much-needed revenue to businesses, some raised concerns about the safety of having so many people gathered together.
Livable City will manage the staffing of the closure for the next few months, according to Yekutiel. “I’m very confident in their ability to ensure that all necessary safety protocols are being followed,” he said.