Planners shoot down Point Richmond sandwich shop proposal
By Katherine Tam
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 01/20/2011 10:50:55 PM PST
Updated: 01/20/2011 11:11:46 PM PST
A proposal to bring a Subway sandwich shop into quaint Point Richmond has been derailed -- at least for now.
The Planning Commission deadlocked in a 3-3 vote Thursday night on whether to approve the proposed restaurant. There is one vacancy on the 7-member commission. A tie means the proposal is denied.
The bid to open a Subway shop at 217 Tewksbury Ave. has sparked debate in Point Richmond, a neighborhood in Richmond with a small-town feel and a historic downtown populated mostly by mom-and-pop businesses, except for two chains including a busy Starbucks.
A number of residents and business owners fear a Subway would compete with small restaurants and take away from the neighborhood's charm. They say the Subway does not fit in the proposed space; lacks enough parking, storage or room for trash; and would become a health hazard and an eyesore.
Resident Brith Clerry likened it to a "square block in a round hole."
More than 200 residents recently signed a petition urging the City Council to approve a one-year moratorium on new chain restaurants in the neighborhood.
But some property owners say that mentality is hurting their ability to fill vacant buildings in a tough economy and interferes with their land rights.
The property at 217 Tewksbury Ave., which includes apartments, was owned by Douglas Pryne, who lived in Point Richmond for 30 years before his death in 2005 when the property passed to his children.
"We own the apartments. Why would we want to impair the quality of life in Point Richmond?" co-owner Mary Pryne-Mankowski said in a telephone interview. "We rely on the nice ambience to attract tenants."
Because the Planning Commission's tie vote essentially nixes the Subway, the Pryne family and fellow applicant Manoj Triphati have 10 days to file an appeal at City Hall.
A one-year moratorium on new chain restaurants in Point Richmond appears on track to becoming reality. The City Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday night and will consider final approval next month.
If passed, the ordinance would go into effect 30 days afterward and sunset in January 2012 or when officials come up with new laws regulating the kind of businesses allowed. It would have no effect on the proposed Subway, because that application was submitted in August 2010.
Landowners, neighbors clash over chain restaurants in Point Richmond
By Karl Fischer
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 01/19/2011 12:29:33 PM PST
Updated: 01/19/2011 01:35:03 PM PST
Though sipping Starbucks coffee feels natural to Point Richmond residents, noshing Subway sandwiches definitely seems wrong.
Residents and business owners of the highbrow Richmond neighborhood lent the City Council an earful about it Tuesday night. In addition, they delivered a petition signed by more than 200 supporters of a proposed one-year moratorium on chain restaurants in the commercial district.
The first reading of an ordinance to do that was approved 6-0, with Councilman Tom Butt absent for the vote. If it passes a second reading at a future meeting, no new chain eateries would be allowed to open in the neighborhood before January 2012.
"Financially, we're struggling. It's very difficult for business in Point Richmond right now, especially the restaurant business," resident Brith Clerry told council members. "To have a franchise move in, it would have a devastating impact on Point Richmond."
The Point Richmond Neighborhood Council entertained a full house of spectators drawn by the issue at a recent meeting. At issue: A Subway sandwich franchise that applied in August for permits to open on Tewksbury Avenue.
Though the Planning Commission has rendered no verdict so far, residents want more direct say. Neighborhood leaders think chain stores will undermine mom-and-pop businesses and warp their upscale shopping and dining area.
Point Richmond property owners, meanwhile, angrily replied that they wanted more say in that local say, but nobody asked them.
"It's not a question of the community wanting more control over where they live," said Josh Genser, who with partners owns much of the neighborhood's commercial real estate. "It's a question of a small group in the community wanting to exercise control over other people's rights."
Tough economic times have taken a toll on landlords, Genser said, and keeping storefronts filled in Point Richmond seems challenging enough without additional regulation.
Besides, property holder Kevin Pryne pointed out, at least two chain eateries already factor prominently into Point Richmond's business landscape, including a heavily patronized Starbucks franchise.
However, a Subway franchise would directly compete with small, deli-style restaurants already in the neighborhood.
Councilman Corky Booze, noting Pryne's current Santa Rosa address, made the inclinations of the council clear.
"When you lived in Point Richmond, did you want to have control over your area?" Booze asked Pryne. "Or did you want someone in Santa Rosa to have control over your area?"
Councilman Jeff Ritterman, who introduced the ordinance, also noted that he pulled the issue from a previous council agenda because of the same complaints from the same residents. Parties in conflict apparently made no effort to iron out their differences in the interim -- so the council needed to act, he said.
The ordinance would halt applications for any "formula restaurants" in the neighborhood; it includes language describing their hallmarks, including standardized menus and decor. The moratorium would last until Jan. 3, or until the city enacts new zoning regulations regarding such businesses.
Contact Karl Fischer at 510-262-2728. Follow him at Twitter.com/kfischer510.