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Fast-Food Plans for New Telegraph Avenue Building Alarm Neighbors

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday May 09, 2006

Neighbors of a new building on Telegraph Avenue will be raising concerns about a proposed 44-seat Quiznos restaurant at 3095 Telegraph Ave. at the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) meeting on Thursday. 

Some of the immediate issues residents seek to address are parking, litter, aesthetics of a fast-food restaurant, hours of operation, quality of life, and increased traffic in their neighborhood. 

According to the neighbors, by creating a 44-seat restaurant, Sam Sorokin, the developer for Quiznos, is requesting a waiver from ZAB’s parking requirements for quick-service restaurants. 

“They should have five spots for Quiznos, based on square footage; they are asking for three because he does not have enough spots to go around,” said Henry Sobel, a homeowner on Prince Street. 

“The few fast-food restaurants that exist within a few blocks of the project (all on the other side of the border in Oakland) have quite a lot of dedicated parking to support the establishment. Jack in the Box has 8, Taco Bell has 8, an d The Smokehouse, because of its corner location has a total of 3 street parking spaces that border the property. One of the original plans for 3075 was for the commercial parking spots to revert to the residents in the evening for overflow. If the resta u rant is kept open at night, these spots will be used. I can’t see how there is enough parking to support this kind of an establishment. As it is, the neighborhood is heavily impacted when it comes to parking because of Alta Bates staff and patients. Fi n di ng daytime parking during a work week is almost impossible.” 

In a letter to ZAB, Howard Lunche, a neighbor wrote:  

“It would be nice to think that Quiznos and its customers would be sensitive to our concerns and the courtesy norms of the neighborho od but having lived in the neighborhood for 10 years and witnessing the behavior and attitude of Alta Bates employees and others coming for medical appointments, it is highly unlikely (truly impossible) that they will be. I can't imagine how the Zoning B oa rd could approve 3 parking spaces for a maximum capacity of 44 people when the psychotherapy office on my street has many more parking spaces at its site.” 

The 3075 Telegraph project has met with considerable neighborhood opposition from the very begi nning because of perceived detrimental impact on “quality of life.”  

Residents are concerned that the height of the building will tower over the small Craftsman homes in the neighborhood.  

“The design of the building is far from being consistent with th at of the neighborhood. The neighbors should at least be able to get behind and support the businesses that move in. A mass market food chain is just another unpleasant chapter in this project, it will negatively impact the rich architectural and small ne igh bor hood character we all love,” said Sobel.  

In the past, ZAB meetings involving the Mokka Cafe at 3075 Telegraph had raised concerns about a “quick service” establishment which were cleared when the neighbors met the owners. 

Vince Abeyta, a reside nt o f Pr ince St., told The Planet, “we realized that Mokka was a ‘mom and pop’ type operation which served organic coffee and pastries. One of the reasons why we love living in Berkeley is because of its eclectic mix of businesses, it’s not because of i ts fa st fo od chains. We cannot understand that even after hearing our concerns about a fast-food restaurant, the developer would again attempt to put up the same thing,” he said. 

Sobel also told The Planet that there were lessons to be learned from the vacan cies l eft behind by mass market chains such as Eddie Bauer and Gateway computer. “A lot of expense went into modifying a historical building, and then they just packed up and left. Studies suggest that national chains lack the commitment to ‘hang in the re’ through a rough patch where as independent stores have more of a personal stake in the business. As our city sees more stores getting empty everyday I think it is important to make sensible choices about what type of business comes in,” he sai d. 

Frank Daar, a homeowner on Prince St., said that apart from the issue of parking, he was concerned that the zoning notice did not indicate any staff recommendation for limits on hours nor any condition on the operator to be responsible for policing the waste left be hind by fast food. 

“I was on the zoning board in the 1970s and there was a continual source of complaints about the trash left behind by fast food chains. This is like a historical pattern. Even today you have cars circling the block way past mid night fo r late night snacks at the Jack in the Box, which adds to not only garbage problems but also traffic,” he told The Planet. 

The Halcyon Neighborhood Association voted this month to oppose the Quiznos parking waiver request. At the Willar d Neighbo rhood Ass ociation monthly meeting last Thursday night, the WNA Steering Committee decided to oppose that parking variance requested by Quiznos and also for a delay of the parking in side and rear yards discussion slated for the May 16 City Council Meetin g. 

Thomas O’ Connell has been living in the neighborhood for the last thirty five years and is a former president of the Bateman Neighborhood Association. He told The Planet that he “constantly picks up fast food wrappers, ketchup packets and other trash” from both Jack in the Box and The Smokehouse. “Soronkin told us that the project would possibly have one coffee house and the rest would all be retail. We are absolutely against another fast food chain.”ˆÛ