I predicted in a July 30, 2012 post that Chick-fil-A is about to become very familiar with how the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) can be an unpleasant and costly obstacle to building and operating anything in California. The first test of this prediction may occur in the City of Mountain View, near San Jose in Silicon Valley.
On July 11, 2012, the Zoning Administrator for the City of Mountain View approved a Conditional Use Permit for a Chick-fil-A to replace a Sizzler restaurant (that refused to pay the rent) after receiving a recommendation from the city’s Development Review Committee and after holding a public hearing, as required under the Mountain View Municipal Code Section A36.60.040.
According to the Mountain View Municipal Code Section A36.60.010, “Conditional Use Permits allow for activities and uses which are not routinely permitted within the subject Zone District and need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the activity or use is appropriate for a particular location, including its compatibility with existing uses. Any Conditional Use Permit granted may be subject to conditions that will ensure that the use as proposed and conducted will be compatible with the intent of the applicable Zone District and other uses in the area.”
Section A36.80.100 of the Mountain View Municipal Code allows someone to file an appeal of the Zoning Administrator’s decision within ten days after the decision is mailed. The Chick-fil-A controversy broke on July 16, and this routine zoning approval on July 11 suddenly received a lot of scrutiny.
Two parties filed appeals. Failing to find these appeals posted anywhere, I asked the Planning Division of the City of Mountain View (near San Jose in Silicon Valley) to email me copies of the two appeals of the Conditional Use Permit. Links to the appeals are below.
The first and primary appeal that will be considered by the Mountain View City Council was filed by David Speakman, a resident who acknowledges to the news media that his appeal is motivated in part on his opposition to Chick-fil-A corporate activities and statements concerning same-sex marriage. His appeal does not mention this motivation, but it lists the typical issues that have also popped up in objections to In-N-Out burgers in several locations in the state: cutting down of heritage trees, garish signage, traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions from cars idling in drive-through lanes, failure to confirm with the city’s general plan that encourages bicycle use, noise, and trash. The appeal concludes with a derogatory reference to “junk food.”
A second appeal was filed by resident Bruce England, who asserts that his objections are based on his concerns about the environmental impact to the neighborhood, particularly to renters in multi-tenant apartment buildings nearby. His appeal also cites greenhouse gas emissions from idling cars, traffic congestion, noise, the glare of headlights at night, production of waste, cutting down of heritage trees, and failure to conform with the city’s general plan, a specific neighborhood plan, and the plan developed by the city’s Environmental Sustainability Task Force.
It will be interesting to see how the Mountain View City Council handles these appeals and if these appeals ultimately result in the need for the City of Mountain View to work with Chick-fil-A in the development of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under CEQA.
LOCAL NEWS MEDIA COVERAGE
Groups Set to Appeal Chick-Fil-A – Mountain View Voice – July 18, 2012
Opponents Can’t Stomach Chick-fil-A’s Plans in Mountain View – San Jose Mercury-News – July 20, 2012
Gay Marriage Supporters File Chick-Fil-A Appeal – Mountain View Voice – July 27, 2012
Chick-fil-A’s Plans for Mountain View Draw More Opposition – San Jose Mercury-News – August 2, 2012