On an eventful Memorial Day weekend—the first time a portion of San Benito Street was closed for outdoor dining—police reported that a 2017 grey Mustang crashed at 12:30 a.m. into the cement safety barricades blocking the street. The driver sustained injuries and no one else was around at the time.
By June 5, the city added additional safety measures to both ends of the street closure, including more warning lights, and signs and bright orange reflectors attached to the cement barricades.
BenitoLink spoke to Hollister Councilwoman Carol A. Lenoir, whose district covers the downtown area, about the additional safety measures. She collaborates with city employees in various departments when it comes to making decisions for new ventures in the downtown district.
“We moved the notice of the street closure back to Hawkins Street and narrowed down the entrance,” Lenoir said, noting that the narrow approach forces drivers to slow down in order to pass. “Mike Chambless of Management Services thinks a lot about safety measures. I know that we are stringing guide wires for some drop down lights. It will really add to the ambiance of nighttime outside dining.”
Chambless said the first of thousand of lights went up on June 5. The city is waiting on more materials, but he expects to have the lighting finished in a few weeks.
Pedestrians, byciclists and diners should all be aware that even though parts of San Benito Street are blocked to all vehicle access, Lenoir said the East/Westbound lanes of Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and South Streets are still open to traffic. All have controlled intersections crossing with San Benito Street.
Lenoir is part of the downtown revitalization ad hoc committee, now on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier, the committee had considered providing flags for pedestrians at all midblock crossings not controlled by a stop sign in order to be visible to drivers while crossing the street. (Morgan Hill does this in its downtown.) Lenoir said she also suggested adding stop signs on San Benito Street at Sixth and Seventh Streets, which she said was “shot down” in a recent commentary.
Outdoor dining on San Benito Street will begin its third week on June 6, which will also be the first day for the return of the Hollister Farmers’ Market. When asked about the two events happening at once, Lenoir said, “This city has a lot of experience in policing large events. It’s not every city that can handle a large motorcycle event. Our police department personnel have a unique set of skills for a department of their size and I am confident they will address any emergencies we may have, as well as our fire department. They are just as highly trained at saving lives in time of need.”
Beyond the physical safety of those enjoying outdoor dining, there is concern regarding exposure to COVID-19. Restaurants with outdoor dining must follow social distancing guidelines, and the farmers market will limit itself to 15 vendors, with only 50 customers allowed in the space at one time.
“If you can go to a store for produce with a mask and social distancing, I don’t see the difference with a small farmers market,” Lenoir said. “I think the city has stepped up to the plate with consistent support of state orders and a good partnership with the county health department.”
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