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Sunnyvale’s Historic Murphy Avenue Closed to Traffic

A major change has happened in Downtown Sunnyvale. The City closed Historic Murphy Avenue between East Washington Avenue and West Evelyn Avenue earlier this month. The street is now pedestrian only and restaurants will be allowed to extend their outdoor seating further into the street.

Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein says he’s happy it’s finally happening. He says it’s an idea he tried to get businesses behind before, but with no luck. In January, he brought the idea up with the Downtown Association.

“Initially, I was looking at trying to do it on Saturdays because in the summertime we had Saturday market in the morning and we had jazz on Saturday night,” said Klein. “We were doing it for eight weeks out of the year and anyway, so trying to say this would be a positive effect on a year-round basis was my first goal.”

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Both sides were talking about the possibility of closing Murphy Avenue when COVID-19 hit.

“After several months of pandemic and sheltering in place, the county and the state came back that the first thing would be outdoor seating for restaurants,” said Klein. “[The Downtown Business Association] then put in a formal request to the City to close down Murphy Avenue, at least for the next six months.”

For the most part, the response to the plan from local businesses and the community has been positive.

“I think it’s a good change,” said Irene Murphy, General Manager of Fibbar Magees. “We’re really excited that this is happening. I wish they’d close the street permanently…A totally pedestrian Murphy Avenue would make it nice.”

“We [were] at Dishdash yesterday for my birthday and were so impressed; felt very safe. Thank you!” Jeanette Lomori posted on Klein’s Facebook page.

“Hooray!!! This is wonderful news. Since the first day I walked Murphy Street I’ve wondered why it was ever open to car traffic. This is a positive step for our town, and hopefully a permanent one,” Kristine Morrissey Zehner posted on Klein’s Facebook page.

The mayor also hopes the change will become permanent.

“I think the businesses will figure out that it really doesn’t hurt sales at the end of the day and brings more people downtown in a safe environment for families especially,” said Klein.

Sunnyvale will keep Murphy Avenue closed for the next six months and then revisit the plan to decide whether or not to extend the closure.

The City is also trying to make it easier on restaurants throughout the city that did not have outdoor seating initially. It has created guidelines and permitting procedures so restaurants can apply for temporary outdoor dining areas on private property. The permit would allow restaurants to use existing parking for outdoor dining.

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7 Comments
  1. Lilian Baker 3 months ago
    Reply

    Awesome! Absolutely support this to become permanent.

  2. Jack Slocombe 3 months ago
    Reply

    This is great news and several of us have been hoping the city would do this for a long time. It will greatly improve the dining experience.

  3. Ken Ziolkowski 3 months ago
    Reply

    My wife and I have lived in Sunnyvale for almost thirty years and we’ve been waiting for his part of Murphy Street to be closed to vehicles. It’s a great idea. Please make it permanent.

  4. ann 3 months ago
    Reply

    Why there is no 6′ distancing or Plexiglass divider between tables? Why does the city allow that?

  5. Dorothy Branning 3 months ago
    Reply

    I think this is an awesome thing to do. I have not lived here long, but this makes the city have character and not seem so unfriendly.

  6. Jeannie Tasker 3 months ago
    Reply

    Pandemic or not, this is the best thing to happen to Murphy Ave. It totally enhances the dining and shopping experience. We’ve wondered for years why traffic was ever allowed on Murphy. Bravo, bravo. Keep it closed. Murphy’s our favorite area to dine.

  7. John Mercer 3 months ago
    Reply

    The reason the City did not do this when the street was first landscaped and renovated and tables allowed on the sidewalks years ago (1980’s), was that we (City Council) were told that the experience of other cities showed that closing completely actually had a bad effect on street life. For example, Sacramento had closed K Street to traffic and it really hurt the stores back then. It turns out that a lot of people actually like to drive down a street first and check out the street life, and also to see if a parking space is available, before parking nearby and walking back. Maybe this won’t be a problem with just the one block of Murphy. This is a good time to test the idea, anyway. Another approach might be to make Murphy a one-lane, one-way street and use the extra space for expanded outside dining — if if turns out that allowing some traffic is still a benefit.

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