Posted by marilynch
Do you enjoy the Open Space of Monterey’s Custom House Plaza and Alvarado Mall, or would you rather drive through?
10/24/13 update: At its 10/22 meeting, the Monterey City Council expressed its desire not to have the Alvarado Mall and Custom House Plaza opened to motor vehicle traffic. In a conversation with a planning commissioner on 10/20, Bicycling Monterey confirmed that the direction now is that only very slow trolleys would be allowed to travel this area in the future–and a costly redesign of the area would first be necessary, putting such activity well into the future.
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Do you prefer that Alvarado Mall and Custom House Plaza remain car-free?
Tell City of Monterey leaders now!
Below, see a gallery of people who treasure this Open Space.
Many people of all ages value the Custom House Plaza and the Alvarado Mall as a very special gateway between the waterfront and downtown Monterey for people who walk or bike. Sadly, that may not remain so for future generations. But don’t give up yet–you still have an opportunity to voice your opinion about this issue.
- Attend City meetings and offer your opinion during Public Comment time.
- Write to the Planning Commissioners and City Council (for contact info, scroll down to “Express your opinion“). Among those who’ve written is peninsula resident Nathan Pierce (download here: Nathan Pierce 9-9-13 ltr to City of Monterey).
- Write a letter to the editor to spread the word, as did peninsula resident Elvira Robinson (click here, then scroll to “Roundabout Ways”).
Most of us agree that the City’s Downtown Specific Plan has a majority of wonderful features! Yet, given that the City and others generally want to encourage more walking and biking, it is puzzling to some that the Plan is to do away with this unique gateway.
- But hey, that’s part of their further recommendation to open Alvarado Mall to some motor vehicle traffic–and Custom House Plaza too!
- How about this instead: The City could choose to end the on-the-books restriction of bicycles on Alvarado Mall. And they could do so without attaching that to allowing motor vehicles on the Alvarado Mall and Custom House Plaza.
- There isn’t any “bicycles not allowed” signage on the Alvarado Mall presently, because the City has no desire to enforce this old restriction; the City has been planning to change that ordinance. While skateboards aren’t allowed–because of the noise they make on the brick pavers–allowing visitors and locals to bicycle through the Alvarado Mall is part of the City of Monterey’s increasing bike-friendliness.
Speak up now if you’d like to maintain this very special car-free area–the Alvarado Mall and Custom House Plaza–that links downtown to the waterfront and the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. There’s still time to let the Planning Commissioners and City Council know how you feel about this feature of the Downtown Specific Plan.
Learn more at the end of this post.
But first, see who’s out enjoying this very special gateway to downtown!
Some people coming from Old Fisherman’s Wharf don’t know that downtown Monterey is directly across the Custom House Plaza. “Yes! It would be helpful to have a prominent year-round sign at the Plaza entrance, reading: ‘Welcome to downtown Monterey!’”
On special event days, the Custom House Plaza is hopping! But on many other days, it serves as a peaceful place to rest, read, and meet up with friends, coworkers, and others.
Do you have hard-of-hearing loved ones, or just find conversations in restaurants difficult? Pick up some take-out at one of the many nearby restaurants, then relax in the Custom House Plaza. Quiet days here mean conversations can flow easily!
International visitors are among those who find this special place, apart from the hustle and bustle of city streets, so charming.
Daniel Grün, German visitor
Custom House Plaza is a favorite destination
for this frequent visitor from Santa Cruz.
It’s enjoyed by people biking to adjacent history spots and museums,
When it’s a quiet day in this open space, children of all ages enjoy the simple treat of circling around the fountain. What a healthy treat! Dr. Hugh Stallworth would surely agree!
Common sense dictates when that is not appropriate, e.g., when people are gathered in the plaza for a special event.
Multiple thousands of visitors and residents experience California’s State Historic Landmark #1 and its plaza as a center for cultural celebrations of all sorts.
The Custom House Plaza is very much alive with such events as the Greek Festival, Festa Italia-Santa Rosalia Festival, Turkish Festival, Monterey Bay Sardine Festival, Whale of an Art Show, Monterey Bay Theatrefest, Springfest and Summerfest arts and crafts shows, Monterey Wine Festival, Monterey Beer Garden, First Night Monterey festivities, and more. Pictured below: free performances of the Next Generation Jazz Festival at Museum of Monterey, spilling onto the plaza.
The Custom House Plaza is also a frequent meeting place for people participating in a wide variety of community activities, such as the annual Walk to End Alzheimers and the Intergenerational Ride for Bike Week. It’s a comfortable place and easy to find, which makes it a favorite of many Meetup groups whose members are gathering to explore Monterey.
Below is one of the many people who enjoy shopping-by-bike, including at the arts and crafts fairs held at the Custom House Plaza.
By the way, many communities are finding that bicyclists are better customers than drivers for local businesses. From Toronto to the Netherlands, commerce and bicycles go hand in hand.
This man is a frequent visitor from Florida, shown here at the waterfront entrance to Custom House Plaza.
Local musicians exiting Custom House Plaza and heading onto the Alvarado Mall, then on downtown.
Many couples love to stroll or bike through the Alvarado Mall, one of the many charms of a romantic experience of Monterey.
Alvarado Mall makes a very special contribution to the City of Monterey’s efforts to be a more walkable, bikeable city. This brick passageway leading from downtown to the Custom House Plaza– and on to the waterfront–is part of a wonderful discovery path for visitors, and locals!
This family was staying at the Portola Hotel and found the adjacent Alvarado Mall a perfect place to begin their explorations by bicycle.
Pictured below: Dan Vitanza of Pino’s Cafe. Like his Alvarado Mall neighbors Spa on the Plaza and Portola Hotel, Dan enrolled Pino’s in the HER Helmet Thursdays project, a long-term ecology-economy sustainability project that supports the City of Monterey’s goals to encourage more biking and walking.
Visitors not only loved the bike-friendliness of Custom House Plaza but also loved learning that Museum of Monterey, located on the plaza, gives HER Helmet Thursdays discounts too.
Museum of Monterey? Discounts for people who bike? Awesome!
People love the ease of walking and biking Custom House Plaza and Alvarado Mall, like these folks from an Intergenerational Ride group who had just enjoyed lunch at Peter B’s Brewpub–another HER Helmet Thursdays spot.
Whether you’re walking, biking, shopping, dining, or just relaxing on a bench,
Alvarado Mall is a special downtown spot.
This woman is a San Jose visitor, making a stop for a purchase at Adventures by the Sea–another Alvarado Mall business.
This kind of vehicle–pedal-powered–fits in nicely at the Alvarado Mall.
On special event days, and many weekends, there’s enough activity on the Alvarado Mall that I not only s-l-o-w down or hop off and walk my bike–as a courtesy to pedestrians–I almost want to hand-signal which way I’m headed!
We’re off next to explore downtown by bike!
“Oh, you mean we missed it? We wanted to go downtown but didn’t see how to get there from the trail. Maybe they could put in a sign back there [by the Custom House Plaza entrance] that directs folks: ‘This way to downtown Monterey!’”
Coach Jim Warwick of Salinas High’s mountain biking team and his daughters Justine and Rebecca brought visiting friends to experience historic Old Monterey the best way they know–by bike! Here they are on the Custom House Plaza.
Below, our much respected City of Monterey Traffic Engineer Rich Deal listens to Jan Valencia, as Jan shares thoughts from his experiences of biking in Monterey. Jan is Velo Club Monterey’s Answer Man.
Dutch visitors biking with their young daughter love it when they get down Alvarado Street and reach the Alvarado Mall, Custom House Plaza, and the nearby section of the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, because all have no motor vehicle traffic at this time. That is planned to change for Alvarado Mall and Custom House Plaza. (See below.)
Change doesn’t have to be all or nothing, as wise elders know so well. We can accept most of the recommendations made by the transportation consultants hired by the city, and still say “No, thanks” to opening Alvarado Mall and Custom House Plaza to motor vehicle traffic.
Perhaps you read Sara Rubin’s 4/11/13 story in the Monterey County Weekly, and the comments below it. Now see “Where the Plazas are in the City of Monterey,” and be sure to scroll down to “Perhaps change coming” as well.
The corresponding Citywide Transportation and Parking Study is found at monterey.org on this page.
Express your opinion
Let the City of Monterey’s planning commissioners and council members know how you feel about the plan to open up Alvarado Mall and the Custom House Plaza to (“at least some”) motor vehicle traffic.
- Click here for list of Planning Commission members. You may write to them c/o Planning Office, Colton Hall, 570 Pacific Street, Monterey, CA 93940. Be sure to ask for a reply.
- Contact the Monterey City Council members directly. Click here. You’ll be on a City of Monterey webpage that includes (on left of their page) the names of each Council member. The names link directly to their email addresses.