News

Mountain View council says no to Chick-Fil-A

Mountain View's City Council voted 4-2 Tuesday evening, Oct. 16, against allowing a Chick-Fil-A to open at 1962 El Camino Real, saying that a drive-through restaurant would be at odds with visions of a bike- and pedestrian-friendly city.

With as many as 60 to 100 hungry drivers an hour entering its drive-through, council members said Chick-Fil-A would be in conflict with bicyclists and pedestrians on a portion of El Camino Real where several have been killed by cars. They also said the drive-through would be too close to an apartment building, where residents could be exposed to higher levels of tailpipe emissions.

"We just finished our general plan," said council member Jac Siegel of the blueprint for the city's development until 2030. "It is all about sustainability. We worked on it over several years and this just flies in the face of that to me."

Council member Ronit Bryant echoed Siegel's comments about the city's vision for El Camino Real. "When we were talking about bus rapid transit, we all got quite excited about the thought of bike lanes. Having a use based on cars just doesn't make sense."

Council members Tom Means and John Inks supported the drive-through, while Mayor Mike Kasperzak was absent.

Chick Fil-A may still apply to open a restaurant without a drive-through.

"We need to deliberate on that," said Blake Goodman, senior manager for Chick-Fil-A, after the meeting. "A lot of things are still up in the air."

Chick-Fil-A officials had told the council that a drive-through was needed to make the store financially viable.

A number of Chick-Fil-A supporters spoke, saying the store would provide valuable first jobs, and that the store would fund youth sports and other community programs.

The owner of 1962 El Camino Real, Kathy Lin, was in tears at the end of the meeting with a crowd of Chick-Fil-A supporters around her. She told the council that the Sizzler there now was refusing to pay "market rent" for the site and that it had become a financial burden on her family. "We could not tenant anyone else," Lin said. "Only Chick-Fil-A or a 24-hour Denny's. We don't have much choice."

Zoning administrator Peter Gilli had previously approved the project, citing no real opposition at the time, and the fact that being closed Sunday would reduce drive-through impacts. The decision was appealed to the City Council, by not one, but two groups.

The first appellant, David Speakman, had raised the $1,000 appeal fee on wepay.com overnight, noting Chick-Fil-A's funding of anti-gay rights groups. But Speakman and his husband Richard focused entirely on land-use issues on Tuesday night, as did everyone else. City officials noted that "free speech issues" could not be taken into consideration.

"As a city, we have decided to be bicycle-friendly," Speakman said. "People lining up and looking for a break in traffic or a green light, probably aren't going to be looking for pedestrians as much."

Alarmed by the line forming at the drive-through of the new San Jose Chick-Fil-A, residents of the Gemello neighborhood south of El Camino Real organized against the drive-through.

"We don't see this as trivial -- people are going to seek chicken through our neighborhood," said Gemello resident Stephen Friedman.

Neighbors and City Council members were also surprised that no traffic study had been done for Clark Avenue and other neighborhood streets south of El Camino Real. Gemello residents and Los Altos High School students would be driving to and from Chick-Fil-A through the neighborhood on their lunch hour, especially on Clark Avenue.

"I don't want my son exposed to crazy-driving teenagers in a hurry to get chicken for lunch," said a father of a student at nearby Almond elementary school.

"The question comes down to, do we really want more drive-throughs in the city," said the second appellant, Bruce England. "There are already 26, this would be 27."

He held up pictures of the city that are used to promote Mountain View on its website, and noted that not one was of a drive-through. Then he showed pictures of how the city's "grand boulevard" vision for El Camino Real might look, with taller, denser buildings and vibrant street life. "It's not anti-business, cars are able to get through there, it looks like a place you would want to go through, it looks like a destination."

While a plant-covered trellis would cover the drive-through lane, and Chick-Fil-A made assurances that noise would be tolerable and promised double-paned windows for neighbors, council members said they had to imagine feeling comfortable living in the apartment building right next to the drive-through. Siegel said smog levels could be 10 times the average around drive-throughs, according to a study he read.

Resident Joyce England said the drive through would put "car exhaust next to rooms with children who can't control their environment."

One resident said the noise levels might be tolerable on average, but that doesn't account for "that one V8 Mustang that comes through every hour, revving its engine."

Chick-Fil-A supporter and City Council candidate Jim Neal responded to the concern, saying, "As the owner of two V8 Mustangs, we don't just rev our engines only at drive-throughs, we also do it at stoplights and on Highway 101. That is what V8 Mustangs are for, thank you."

Council member Tom Means explained his support of Chick-Fil-A by saying that it would be hard to develop much else on such a property.

"We've had a lot of silly comments about why drive-throughs are bad," Means said. "But we really have not vetted that with any other alternatives."

There was much discussion about how the narrow lot created a circulation problem.

"I don't know how you get in and out of that parking lot if you've got that line in the way," said council member Margaret Abe-Koga, referring to a line of cars likely to extend into the narrow parking lot, waiting to place orders at the drive-through. "It just seems like too much happening in this small space."

As part of the project, a new shared driveway with the neighboring strip mall would have been built, allowing a new El Camino Real stoplight at Clark Avenue. A Chick-Fil-A consultant said it would resolve an unsafe situation, as the intersection allows unprotected left turns onto El Camino Real where 14 preventable accidents have occurred in the last five years, said public works director Mike Fuller. But council members and others opposed having a stoplight 550 feet from one at Escuela Avenue, and some said the danger could be addressed by allowing right turns only.

"Do we really want to have signals every 550 feet?" asked council member Laura Macias.

"Typically no, you don't want to have one every 550 feet," said public works director Mike Fuller. "That is definitely a consideration."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Blah
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Yes. Because as we all know, El Camino is a bike boulevard and not a car-heavy HIGHWAY.

Ridiculous. Admit it: it was banned due to politics. Nice to know that the Bay Area is pro-free speech. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Hooray! I am just happy that there won't be another icky fast food restaurant clogging the arteries of the locals and sending out a greasy smell to pollute the air.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by eat more chikin
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm

What Blah said. It's perfectly OK to have bars, porn shops, car washes, and the Fatty Zone on prominent display along El Camino, but heaven forbid we have a DRIVE THROUGH RESTAURANT ZOMG DANGER!!!!1! I'm glad to see that my (nominally) elected representatives are promoting economic growth and expansion in MTV. Thanks, y'all!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm

What a tragedy! We have gone to San Jose to eat at the new Chick-fil-A there four times already! It is great food with plenty of healthy options on the menu. My husband and I are very fit and we love it!

This is Mountain View's loss.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm

No more drive throughs! How many accidents has the drive through Starbucks at Sanford Ave & El Camino caused? Cars back up into the street and cause all kinds of havoc with traffic. If you are so lazy that you cannot walk from the parking lot into the restaurant, then you should not be eating high-fat high-calorie fast-food.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Sorry, don't believe a word of this. They are just looking for a loophole because they don't like the CEO's personal opinion. It is wrong to refuse to allow a business to trade due to opinions. In this country, provided all laws against discrimination against hiring practices are being obeyed, then it is OK for a CEO to have an opinion.

I suppose the local residents don't like the fact that it would be closed on Sunday for religious reasons either.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm

This is absolutely RIDICULOUS! I live down the street and don't foresee any of these issues actually happening. After the 1st week, the fast food lines will be normal and move quicker, not like the in-n-out off Grant that somehow got approved...that car line is insane during a lunch hour. VERY DISAPPOINTING, at least we know Tom Means and John Inks are the only ones worth keeping on the Council!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Blah Squared
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Politics, pure and simple. Another affront to free speech and an embarrassment for the Bay Area. Politics here are positively Orwellian.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2012 at 10:37 pm

This is absolutely RIDICULOUS!" +1
To Mountain View merchants... you won't see any of my dollars again.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2012 at 11:50 am

So does this mean no more drive thru restaurants in Mountain View? Or only ones that are owned by companies that agree with local politics? We are talking about El Camino - strip mall and retail land - not a residential neighborhood.
BTW - I don't agree with the Chick-Fil-A owner's views.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Agree with all above. Politics plain and simple.

@ resident - The Starbucks on the corner of Stanford and ECR is not a drive-through. Popular? Yes. Drive through? No.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nathan Ring
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I watched the council meeting online. It was almost comical how every member made sure they started their comments with 'while i have nothing against the company...' As if they had all discussed exactly what needed to be said, and not said. This was rigged from the beginning. Shame on you Mountain View city council, I hope your citizens expose you for the corrupt liars you are.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Would the response be the same if McDonald's wanted the site?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I think any future restaurant requesting a drive thru in Mountain View is going to be very embarrassing to the Council.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Supporting Chick-fil-A
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Chick-fil-A would have been perfect in that location. Their generous offer to add a stoplight would have made it safer.

I will not vote for Mayor Mike Kasperzak, who conveniently left early without casting a vote.

I will vote for John Inks. He and Tom Means supported this business going in there, as did the MV Chamber of Commerce.

A bar with live music can go in there, but Chick-fil-A is not acceptable?

This was a violation of our US Constitution, pure and simple. Four councilwomen/men (and Mayor Missing in Action) overstepped their bounds, misrepresenting the community.

No one I know is happy about this. All are voters. We waited to see the results of this council vote.

Palo Alto residents - take note, if this comes to your area. Veterans lost their lives, fighting for our freedom of speech, the press, right of peaceable assembly.

No laws broken, to have an opinion and speak about it. Just great food. Everyone welcome. A nice place. Yum.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by salmonella sammy
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm

"Veterans lost their lives, fighting for our freedom of speech, the press, right of peaceable assembly."

But they didn't do it for the ignorant bigotry of denying the civil rights to those that seek to marry.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Liking their chicken
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Bigotry is subjective. Denying legal business the right to open for reasons that have nothing to do with Zoning and Use, but rather based on the politics of owners, is a classic case of Bigotry.
Reminds me of McCarthy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Very Sad, Chick-fil-A's are very child friendly places that offer many healthy choices for children and parents alike. Too bad the minority rules again to further their agenda.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by danielle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm

great news!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Love Chick-fil-A
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm

A Gallup survey, the largest of its kind, just reported a scant 3.4% of American adults identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

That means 96.6% of people in nearby communities are being deprived of enjoying the benefits of this restaurant, and due to a weak and politically uninformed city council.

Whatever happened to elected officials representing the majority of their constituents?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by art
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Sharon, as usual, is off topic and way out there with her " predictions"


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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