When Bette’s Oceanview Diner considered opening a “Bette’s To Go” branch in the sleepy neighborhood of Northbrae, many people who live in the community rose up against the plan.
They wrote impassioned e-mails to the city’s planning staff, and attended the Sept. 13 meeting of the Zoning Adjustments Board to denounce the proposal.
The majority of the opposition feared that because Bette’s would sell pastries in addition to meals, the popular Fourth Street diner would overwhelm the Hopkins Street Bakery, a local favorite.
“It makes no sense to allow a proprietor (whose only motive is sheer profit) to potentially displace a much-loved established,” business wrote neighbor Katie Wenc.
“It would be a terrible loss to the community if (Hopkins Street Bakery) were forced out of business,” said David Tepper. “Let (Bette’s) stay where they are – on Fourth Street – and leave this area free of them.”
Bette Kroening, the owner of Bette’s Oceanview Diner, eventually withdrew her application to the Zoning Adjustments Board. In an interview Wednesday, she said that “it was a painful process,” and that she did not want to cause division in a neighborhood that she loved.
Now, with the Bette’s project dead, it appears that a different establishment will go into the vacant storefront Kroening had wanted.
On Tuesday, Jeff Dodge of La Farine, an upscale bakery on College Avenue in Oakland, filled out papers with the Planning Department on the site formerly occupied by Made to Order, a small takeout grocery.
La Farine, which has been at its College Avenue site in Oakland for 25 years, will sell not only pastries, but tarts, cakes, cookies and specialty breads – an offering very similar to that of the Hopkins Street Bakery.
City planning officials said that because La Farine’s scope of operations are similar to Made to Order’s, their application is “by right” – it does not require any additional approval by planning staff or the ZAB. However, the ZAB may choose to hold hearings on La Farine’s proposal to expand the site’s hours of operation.
Made to Order’s permit allowed it to operate from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; La Farine would like to be open between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Sunday.
ZAB member Mike Issel said that the he was struck by the irony of the situation. Issel said that too often, neighbors and ZAB members try to engage in “zoning by intimidation.”
“I hope that citizens in the future, will take a more practical approach to answering their fears,” he said. “We often see problems like those raised at the hearing on Bette’s, and they can often be worked out through dialogue between the parties.”
Reza Jahansouz, owner of the Hopkins Street Bakery, had harsh words for his probable new neighbor.
“I’m going to put them out of business,” he said. “Our customers are very loyal, and if I have to lose money for a while I will. I know their bakery – they’re not as good as we are.”
Kim Criswell, a Northbrae resident, said that she wrote the city planning staff an e-mail in support of the Hopkins Street Bakery when she saw a sign in its window asking customers to aid it in its battle against Bette’s. Criswell said that while she loved both the bakery and Bette’s Oceanview Diner and didn’t want to take sides in the matter, she was concerned about the threat to an established business.
Now, she said, she was saddened to hear about La Farine’s designs on the sight.
“It seems to me to make more sense to locate a new store in a neighborhood that needs it, rather than right next to an existing establishment,” she said.
Jeff Dodge of La Farine could not be reached for comment.