Weekend on Main will come to a close at the end of Labor Day weekend after the Pleasanton City Council unanimously agreed on Tuesday to make way for other events and activities downtown like Concerts in the Park and holiday shopping in the not-too-distant future.
"Shop small, shop local, shop Pleasanton Main Street and our entire downtown, and let's keep these businesses alive and thriving, year after year," Mayor Karla Brown said before voting.
The Weekend on Main season is scheduled to conclude on Sept. 6, while last month the council extended a separate parklet program in downtown through the end of the year.
Feedback from the community has been "really incredibly positive for this event," particularly the "appreciation for the experience and the vibrancy," deputy city manager Pamela Ott told the council, but she said city staff also grappled with a number of "other considerations" for potentially extending the street closures which prompted their recommendation that the council confirm the originally planned Sept. 6 end date.
"Some of those are traffic and circulation; we're now seeing increased commute and personal travel," Ott said. "Some of our key intersections are now nearing their pre-COVID volumes ... and traffic is getting heavier. That is a consideration as we think about keeping Main Street closed every single weekend."
Deliveries started being rerouted last year, and "when that street is closed, it means many of those delivery trucks that are bringing the supplies to our businesses, particularly for weekends, can't get downtown," Ott said. "They struggle to do that, so they either can't get here and they can't make their deliveries or they're being rerouted onto side streets that were never intended to accommodate delivery trucks."
The return of Concerts in the Park and other planned events also presented various challenges to extending Weekend on Main.
"To be able to do that alongside or at the same time as Weekend on Main puts incredible pressure on the downtown, and not just the downtown but on the residential areas that surround the downtown that would have to accommodate all of that additional parking and traffic," Ott said.
This year's Weekend on Main season generated approximately $125,384 in direct expenses for the city, according to Ott. Barricade rentals, staff time, and cleaning and event management were among the expenses, with each additional weekend of closure costing approximately $7,000. The city estimated that it "would incur similar costs per weekend in 2022."
Vice Mayor Julie Testa supported the closures "reluctantly," but asked if it would "really be that hard to find a 'win-win'" by modifying the event to take up less space.
"What happens if we start to shrink the footprint of Weekend on Main is we create businesses that get left out of the opportunity to participate," Ott replied. "When we created Weekend on Main, we were really thoughtful and wanted to make sure that everybody could participate equally."
Ott added, "Could you change the footprint, yes, but it gets away from the theory that we were trying to be equitable to all of the merchants that we thought wanted to participate in the event, and that's why we haven't changed that footprint yet."
While local restaurants benefited from the weekly event during the pandemic, one retail merchant during public comment said they were "not comfortable with the closure of Main Street" and "do not see the vibrancy you're all mentioning, and our customers are frustrated, they cannot get to us."
Another business owner said their customers who are unable to visit on weekdays cannot do curbside pickup when Weekend on Main is happening. Complaints about people vandalizing property, throwing trash and urinating in alleyways during the event were also mentioned.
Particularly, retailers voiced concerns that the closures would affect them during the holiday season, potentially ruining a prime opportunity to recover revenue lost during the pandemic.
Marketing and promotion efforts on behalf of the city and Pleasanton Downtown Association have boosted support and visibility for downtown businesses, but staff said the effects aren't enough to counter the weekly street closures.
"Is it fair to say these retail shops ... this is a make or break time for them, they need those holidays to do those sales?" Brown asked.
Ott replied, "Yes; when I've talked to some of our retailers, they have shared with me how important this fall and holiday season is, which is one of the factors that influenced PDA's recommendation to end the season on Sept. 6, because this is a significant time for them."
Councilmember Valerie Arkin agreed the closures have "really helped out our restaurants," but said "the retailers have suffered more negative impacts because of it" and that ending on Sept. 6 is "the right thing to do."
"With holiday shopping coming up, inclement weather coming up -- hopefully, anyhow -- and the fact that we did give our word that we were finishing this on Labor Day, I'm in favor of staff's recommendation," Arkin said.
Councilmember Kathy Narum also said it's imperative that the city "support the retailers as they go into the fourth quarter, which is their busiest season, and they're competing with internet sales and we need to do everything we can to support them."
Between more parklets occupying downtown streets and reduced parking due to the railroad corridor improvements, Councilmember Jack Balch said "our businesses and residents have done an outstanding job trying to be polite and adjust to the realities on the ground."
"It does not go past me that we need to look for parking immediately," Balch said. "I think that we understand that we enjoy promenading down Main Street in a safe way and that our popups are assisting our restaurants further."
After hearing local merchants "loud and clear," Brown said ending the Weekend on Main season on Sept. 6 is "something I could easily support."
"That fourth quarter -- 50% of your business," Brown said. "And that's tremendous when you think that these are our small businesses, these are our residents that live here, they own a home and they need to continue to support their families."
The council also voted to incorporate next year's Weekend on Main season into the Pleasanton Downtown Association's annual events programming.