Uli leads Santa Fe merchants who want to create an open pedestrian street

This is an article published in The Santa Fe Mexican written by Teya Vitu:

Imagine taking a walk down San Francisco Street. On the street itself, free of cars, as you can do in countless European cities and a growing number of places in the U.S.

Dozens of downtown merchants hope to see that kind of concept in place soon on San Francisco Street, possibly even this month.

A petition to create a car-free zone on San Francisco — from just east of the Sandoval Municipal Garage entrance to Old Santa Fe Trail — is circulating among merchants, with about three dozen on the street signing on. Included in the petition is a push to close Don Gaspar Avenue and Galisteo Street between San Francisco and Water streets to vehicle traffic, said Joe De Bella, a downtown store owner.

Uli’s Clothing Boutique owner Uli Campbell had the idea to create a pedestrian zone and shared it with De Bella and Henry and the Fish co-owner Joe Garcia. De Bella drafted a petition to circulate among merchants and Garcia collected signatures.

“I didn’t have one person say no,” Garcia said. “It goes to show you what kind of economic impact is going on. We’re all desperate to try something. The collaborative effort of the retail community was amazing. There was no hemming and hawing: ‘Yeah, give it to me, I’ll sign it.’ ”

De Bella and Garcia have spoken with Mayor Alan Webber, Tourism Santa Fe Executive Director Randy Randall and other city officials. The city is unveiling a program to allow restaurants to put tables on sidewalks, parking spaces and in parking lots but is stopping short of closing traffic lanes. The city ordinance will be considered June 24 by the City Council.

San Francisco Street merchants taking the next step to close the street has piqued the city’s interest.

“If you can get property owners and store owners affected by it to approve it, we will support it,” Randall recounted telling De Bella. “Tell us who is in favor of it and tell us who isn’t. We asked the city attorney: If we’re not able to get 100 percent, is any level of support enough for us to go ahead?”

City Attorney Erin McSherry said the city wants to make sure there would still be access for emergency vehicles and that public safety officials would be in agreement with the proposal. She added an Americans with Disabilities Act evaluation needs to be done.

“It definitely is possible without 100 percent” business approval, she said. “We just want more people to be on board.”

Many businesses in the area can barely contain their enthusiasm.


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