Pandemic Silver Linings – Tables in the Streets Become a Possible Plaza

“In early March, we recognized that business had been so bad for two weeks, it was simple to see that things were about to get worse.” President of the Downtown Business Association Darrel Menthe looked back over his shoulder at the last six months to talk about how pivoting quickly had made the difference. ‘”On March 16, I turned in a list of 19 things the DBA needed to City Manager John Nachbar. I had it to him at 10 am, and at 4 pm he was back to me with most of those requests granted.”

The transformation of downtown Culver City from a busy, pedestrian-friendly cityscape to a deserted collection of empty sidewalks has taken a positive turn with many eateries offering outside tables for sidewalk  and even street friendly dining. The temporary re-routing of traffic and the closure of some streets has made a significant change in walking space, and the possibility of a permanent downtown plaza seems to be taking shape.

“The tables have made a tremendous difference for these restaurants,” Menthe enthused, “and it’s enabled them to continue to pay rent and keep employees on. It’s been crucial for the local economy. Of course, it’s also been a great thing for the people who want to get out and enjoy some of the things we’ve been missing, like eating out.”

With the closure of Culver Boulevard heading north (there is a lane for bus and bike access) and the shift in traffic patterns, people arriving downtown are often surprised by the changes. Driving down the bus lane will get you a traffic ticket, and exiting the area will likely take you out to Venice Boulevard or over to Washington and Ince.

Will these changes be permanent, creating the European style of ‘grand plaza’ that sculpted the Culver Steps towards the Lion statue? “The people will decide,” Menthe said. “It’s going to depend on what we hear, how much business continues to increase, and how many other factors continue to change. How many people will go back to regular office hours? What does that mean for places that focus on serving lunch?”

While every downtown establishment has a whole new protocol of masked servers, regularly scheduled sanitizing and carefully covered service, the tables seem to be filling quickly with people happy to be out in the sunshine.

Will the lunch rush become tea time? Will all auto traffic be redirected? What would a grand plaza mean for Culver City? “The people will decide.”

Menthe is running for a seat on the City Council in the November election. He has stated that if elected, he will resign from his position with the DBA – but he’ll continue to consider a plaza, perhaps sitting across the table from the DBA rather than leading it.

Judith Martin- Straw

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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