After a long and sometimes-contentious discussion on Wednesday, the City Council put off a decision on turning the 500 block of Main Street from a one way to a two way street. A public workshop will be scheduled soon to debate the merits of one way versus two way traffic and its effect on outdoor dining, pedestrian safety and emergency vehicle access.
Toward the end of the public testimony, Dick Duncan, who designed and help build the experimental pockets on the 500 block of Main Street in 1999, accused the council of thwarting the desires of downtown merchants and instead bowing to the will of major property owner Earl Dunivan.
“I’ve sat around too long and seen him control you people,” Duncan said. “It makes the staff look like fools, it makes you look like fools, it makes us all look like fools. You’ve got to stand up for everybody in this town.”
Dunivan did not respond Wednesday to Duncan’s remarks, but when contacted earlier this week about similar charges leveled against him on the Martinez Patch comment stream, Dunivan said that “people can believe what they want to believe. I support what supports successful businesses downtown.”
A number of speakers supported keeping the 500 block a one way street. Mitch Avalon, a civil engineer with Contra Costa County, urged the council to keep the one way configuration in place.
“It’s narrower, and feels more intimate,” Avalon said. “It doesn’t feel like you’re in the middle of a city street. We should replicate it rather than destroying it.”
Changing the block to two-way traffic would be “a deadly form of social engineering,” said White Rabbit Boutique owner Anne Mobley.
“You’re really going to hurt something very special that you’ve got there,” warned Pat English, owner of Haute Stuff restaurant.
“This is not about anybody controlling anybody else, regardless of what anybody thinks,” said Mayor Rob Schroder. He said the two way configuration would ultimately prove to be better for all the businesses on the block.
Councilman Mike Menesini agreed, pointing to streets in San Francisco that had been turned into one way, and wound up “killing whole neighborhoods” because they became defacto freeways. He said two-way streets would create more intimacy.
Councilwoman Lara DeLaney said that she and councilwoman Janet Kennedy promised the community that there would be at least one special workshop on downtown traffic flow, and urged the council to keep that promise.
“I don’t think we’re going to get to a better place tonight with shallow analysis,” she said.
“If it ain’t broke, I don’t know why we’re trying to fix it,” said councilman Mark Ross.
Stay tuned to Martinez Patch for updates on the traffic flow workshop.