The Pleasanton City Council on Tuesday approved a shortened timeframe for the First Weekends on Main Street program in 2023 after considering recent input from downtown residents, retailers and other business owners.
First Weekends on Main Street, which will continue to shut down Main Street late Friday afternoons through Sunday evenings on the first weekend of the month, is now scheduled to start in May and end in October for a total of six weekends. Last year the program closed down the downtown area to vehicular traffic for a total of 10 weekends from May to December.
"The First Weekends on Main seasons have been well received by the community as they provide outdoor space for expanded operations, as well as an expanded pedestrian environment, with space for gathering," economic development manager Lisa Adamos said. "These activities were vital during the pandemic, and help bring the vibrancy into the downtown."
Originally called Weekends on Main, the program was first introduced in 2020 by the Pleasanton Downtown Association, which still runs the program today, so businesses in the area could continue operating during the COVID pandemic in 2020.
The weekly program was then rebranded in 2022 to a monthly program with special Saturday activities and programs.
But according to Adamos, the association recently conducted a survey in November and December where 58 businesses, retail stores and restaurants downtown all weighed in on the conversation of continuing the program and to what extent.
In the survey, most of the respondents supported keeping the program as it was last year, there were a few issues that came up such as certain retailers or stores saying they did not benefit from the road closures -- especially this last year during the holiday season.
"When we went through the discussion, the weather was definitely a problem for the retailers because the street closures didn't allow a car to pull up in front of their store to pick up their packages and so forth," said Bridget Karl, executive director of the PDA
Karl, who was just hired in November, also clarified that the weather factor was one of the main factors that led to the shortened time frame for the weekend program.
The new schedule ending the road closures in October will now account for not just the bad weather that usually comes after the summer months, but it will also account for the retail businesses that benefit from open roads during the holiday season, according to city officials.
"The (new) season would be intended to build on the community enjoyment of the pedestrian experience, provide equitable balance among diverse downtown businesses, support the restaurants during favorable weather months and support retailers during the robust holiday season," Adamos said.
Other issues that Adamos noted during those discussions were the traffic that piled up due to the fact Amador Valley High School classes end around the same time city staff begin closing roads on Fridays.
But the overall consensus from the survey, according to Karl and Adamos, was that the stakeholders in the downtown area all support the now modified program schedule.
Along with the revised schedule, which was adopted with a 4-0 vote on Tuesday, the council also approved the estimated city expenses. Mayor Karla Brown was absent from the meeting.
Expenses include renting the road barricades, Operations Services Department staff overtime and overall garbage removal services -- which, according to assistant city manager Pamela Ott, is much-needed for the litter filled street after those weekends.
The street closures would generate direct expenses of approximately $54,000 to the city for the six weekends scheduled this year.
But instead of renting the barricades, Councilmember Julie Testa asked why the city couldn't just buy them in order to save money -- given that street closures will most likely continue to be part of Pleasanton's future -- to which Ott answered by saying it was cheaper renting.
Apart from asking staff to do some sort of cost analysis to see if that is true, Testa also asked about improving the signage on the barricades as she said retailers have come to her stating customers had trouble navigating the closed streets.
While Ott said that while the city is trying to work on creating some nicer looking banners to go on the actual barricades, the issue came up last year and the city has added additional signs on where customers can find parking since then.
Karl added that the downtown association is also working on developing a map of where people can park and their distance from retailers.
The program will continue to take place every first weekend of the month from May to October, with the exception of September due to Amador's centennial anniversary celebration. Main Street will instead be closed on the weekend of Sept. 15 to align with the activities planned for that celebration.