Open Streets Capitola a hit with attendees; merchants to weigh in as well

Photo- Capitola Historical Museum

CAPITOLA >> Whether Open Streets Capitola will get an encore is expected to be up for review by the City Council on June 12.

Organizers of the first-time event May 4 estimated at least 4,500 attended, strolling on the Esplanade, which was closed to cars, to enjoy live music, chalk art, a kids’ bike rodeo plus kite flying on the beach.

Of 428 visitors surveyed by iPad, 97 percent said they would like to see the event return to Capitola Village.

Surveys of business owners are incomplete but early feedback indicates a once-a-year event could have support from retailers and possibly from restaurants.

Open Streets organizer Saskia Lucas, who said she sees public spaces as a way to foster community health, was pleased to see 81 percent of those surveyed said they walked or biked to the event.

A third of the visitors surveyed came from Capitola, with 20 percent from Santa Cruz, smaller numbers from Soquel, Live Oak, and Aptos, and a handful or two driving from as far away as Watsonville and San Lorenzo Valley or from outside Santa Cruz County.

Many may have walked from the city’s two parking lots on Capitola Avenue, where cars filled 450 spaces by early afternoon.

Lucas said People Power parked 191 bicycles, and cited anecdotal reports that two restaurants, Britannia Arms and Pizza My Heart, had exceptional sales.

Half those surveyed reporting discovering a new store in Capitola Village, as did Lucas, who lives in Santa Cruz, did while organizing the event.

“That’s the beauty of these events … they bring people from other parts of the county,” she said.

Many of those surveyed added positive comments; a surprising number requested outdoor food booths. Others suggested street sales by the merchants and salsa music.

One village resident said the parking restriction was a hardship for people who live in village.

Carin Hanna, owner of the Craft Gallery in the Village, said she heard from retailers that Open Street was enjoyable for visitors and that it should happen once a year while a couple of restaurateurs voiced concern about parking for the handicapped and felt once a year would be plenty.

The merchants printed 400 “passports” for visitors to get stamped to be eligible for locally donated raffle prizes, and 80 were turned in, according to Hanna.

“Too many streets had to be closed,” she said, noting San Jose Avenue was closed but had no activities. “It felt like a ghost town. The beach was crowded but the street was not.”

Robert Singleton of Civinomics aims to have 80 merchants to complete the survey by Wednesday.

Steve Jesberg, the city’s public works director, said trash was not a problem.

The Capitola-Soquel Chamber of Commerce sponsored the day’s kite flying and gave away more than 100 kites, according to chamber chief Toni Castro.

About 140 people visited the Capitola Historical Museum, which has a special exhibit on Harry Hooper, who played for four Red Sox World Championship teams before retiring and becoming Capitola’s postmaster and namesake of Hooper’s Beach.

That’s triple the previous Sundays, according to curator Frank Perry, noting the museum had a booth at the event, with those manning the booth dressed in a baseball uniform to hand out postcards about the Hooper exhibit.

By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel

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