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No new fast food on San Pablo Avenue, commission advises

By Hank Sims Daily Planet Staff
Friday September 14, 2001

The city’s Planning Commission advised the City Council to ban further drive-through restaurants on San Pablo Avenue Wednesday. 

At its regular meeting, the nine-person commission unanimously approved a measure that would ask the council to ban new drive-throughs and change the permitting process for quick-service restaurants on San Pablo. 

The proposal originated almost a year ago, when a group of residents along the San Pablo corridor successfully defeated a proposed development at the corner of San Pablo and Ashby avenues that included a Carl’s Jr. restaurant. Councilmember Margaret Breland, whose West Berkeley district includes the corner of San Pablo and Ashby avenues, supported the drive-through ban.  

The Planning Commission’s action Wednesday is in keeping with the larger plan to revitalize San Pablo by encouraging pedestrian traffic and mass transit through the corridor. 

Ted Burton, project coordinator for the city’s Office of Economic Development, has been closely involved with the effort to improve San Pablo Avenue. He commended the Planning Commission’s action.  

“(Drive-through restaurants) make a break in the streetscape, increase traffic and aren’t that nice to look at,” he said. 

The commission also voted to impose new restrictions on new “quick-service” and “carry-out” restaurants on San Pablo. In the future, such establishments will have to demonstrate that they are designed on a “pedestrian scale,” and are congruent with the residential character of the neighborhood. 

In addition, the commission recommended that proposals for new “quick-service” restaurants – which, unlike “carry-outs,” have tables – will have to be approved by the Zoning Adjustment Board, rather than city staff.  

Rob Wrenn, a member of the Planning Commission, said that the proposed rules will enhance the character of the neighborhood. 

“It allows greater scrutiny of design-related things,” he said. “People can open new restaurants, but if something like a McDonald’s or Jack-in-the-Box comes along, it would be difficult to get that approved.” 

“Drive-throughs are inherently detrimental to the kind of development we are trying to do on San Pablo. We don’t want to see it become more of a suburban, strip-mall, car-oriented area.” 

John McBride, a member of a Delaware Street community group that supported the proposal, said he was “very pleased” by the commission’s action.