On Tuesday, for the second time, the Oakley City Council agreed to continue the discussion for a Conditional Use Permit for a McDonalds at the Laurel Plaza over concerns of the inclusion of a drive-thru.
The project, which is located at Laurel Road and O’Hara has seen opposition from residents, parents and teachers at Laurel School for a variety of reasons including safety concerns, traffic, parking and noise.
Following the April 27 meeting, council discussed the item for more than 2-hour discussion on Tuesday the item was continued, but this time, will be broken down into several more steps to allow for greater discussion.
According to City Attorney Derek Cole, what made this project require a Conditional Use Permit was the fact it has a drive thru—any restaurant that does not include a drive thru would be automatically permitted and would not need to before the council for a permit.
Cole explained they had five factors to consider:
- Site is adequate in size and shape
- Laurel Road and O’Hara Ave able to handle generated traffic
- Project will be designed, constructed, and operated in a manner compatible with intended character of the General Plan and zoning regulations
- Allow for continued growth and orderly development and consistent with various elements of General Plan
- Complies with CEQA
“The issue is not should there be a fast food restaurant at this site, the applicant already has the opportunity to build and provide a fast food restaurant, what they are coming to you for is permission to permit a drive thru,” explained Cole. “Its not McDonalds what you are considering, it’s a drive thru.”
Cole said it would provide traffic, it would be near a school and near residences and people going in and out of the parking lot noting the restaurant has already been permitted—what is under consideration is the drive thru attached to the restaurant and its impact.
“The question isn’t should we have fast food at this site, the question isn’t do we have too many fast food restaurants in the city, people may have very valid and sincere opinions about that but that is not before us tonight and not an appropriate consideration for the council to consider tonight,” explained Cole. “The question is are there impacts with a drive thru restaurant that have not been addressed and that you can relate to one of the five factors.”
Cole said there needed to be specific evidence on a finding in which of the five factors to deny the use—not that there are too many fast food restaurants or its close to a school.
Kevin McAuley, regional construction manager for McDonalds presented to the City Council who highlighted that Howard and Phyllis Goldblatt would run the McDonalds who have been with the company for 49-years.
Brad Goldblatt, who spoke on behalf of his parents, shared how they opened their first McDonald’s in Oakley in 1993 and have employed 100’s of Oakley residents and have remodeled the restaurant three times, including this last remodel of over $1 million which is now state of the art which is like the ones they are proposing tonight—which would including hiring 60 people in the Laurel Plaza Shopping Center.
Oakley Councilwoman Anissa Williams challenged the traffic study saying they have journals and books but questioned if they were ever done in a “real world” study where they are talking about the impact or is it done.
The consultant responded the manuals are based on actual data at these sites the rates are determined based on data collected at various restaurants and land uses and they take that information and compile it to come up with an average—which tries to anticipate traffic by future use and trip generation.
Williams countered if the data compiled was taken from McDonalds across from schools or on roads with already blocked traffic. The consultant admitted that data was unknown because the data came from McDonalds from across the United States. No information was included on what sites are adjacent too.
Councilman George Fuller questioned CEQA. The city attorney, however, said CEQA has already been approved and that was CEQA 101 and had to stick to the five bullet points. CEQA was already approved based on the state guidelines checklist – from environmental to air quality impacts and threshold. Cole further highlighted that the applicate has already met the General Plan and Land Use standards by the city while mitigating to a level below “significance”.
City Planner Ken Strelo further highlighted CEQA is a disclosure document while impacts are mitigated noting the site is designated for commercial land use and will include some level of noise and traffic.
“We are confident both the 2007 and the subsequent study… that those studies address those impacts and mitigated them fully,” said Strelo while believing the traffic study was done with all applicable requirements.
Councilmember Aaron Meadows asked staff about the design after staff suggested it was not what they were looking for.
Strelo said when they first saw the design, it lacked any pyramid roof structures that were on the gas station and bank. McDonalds declined the city request to add that based on their design and requirements for equipment. However, they were making minor tweaks to bring consistency to the shopping center.
Meadows then asked if staff was “okay” with the current design.
Strelo said it was not perfect and wasn’t sure what would be ideal given they got to a point to enable a franchise business to maintain their iconic look they are looking for and that Oakley has honored in the past and Oakley brings in some of their design elements.
Mayor Sue Higgins asked if there was any agreement between the school and applicant to allow for parking on the lot.
Strelo explained there is no agreement with the shopping center to allow the center to use their property as parking for the school.
“People park there and walk across so much so that they have a volunteer crosswalk. So that is their private property and it’s their commercial property, it doesn’t belong to the school, there is no agreement with the school,” stated Higgins. “So this landowner has every right to trespass, tow, or ticket people or cite them for trespassing on their property.”
Strelo confirmed the statement.
“So he has been a good neighbor and let Oakley use his property for school,” said Higgins.
Strelo confirmed and has said that multiple times.
Higgins continued saying this property is not the schools, they are not the school district and have no idea what the schools plan is for parking. She further highlighted that if people are not patronizing the restaurant they should not park there.
Strelo stated that the impact studies already took into consideration concerns. He also said today’s project as planned will have “less trips” than the originally approved Laurel Plaza project—so impacts to schools are accounted for and assumed to eventually exists when it occurs. He continued by explaining to the council that under the new project, there are no new impacts assumed to eventually exist.
“When we hear comments that it will be a danger to the children, those are great comments and valid concerns in my opinion, but the traffic study hasn’t found any evidence that the McDonalds and Quick Quack would add any impacts or dangers that were not already expected to exist within a commercial center next to Laurel Road and next to a school,” stated Strelo.
Councilmember Fuller requested that residents be given more than 3-minutes for public comments. City Attorney Cole explained the city has a resolution that does not allow for an extension of time, however, it does allow for public comments that will be more than 90-minutes, the mayor may reduce time for speakers—Cole suggested the council could vote to suspend the rule on a case-by-case basis.
According to city staff, there were 64-people on the call.
Vice Mayor Randy Pope stated he was against the idea given they had potentially 50+ members of public who could speak. He called it not reasonable and not respectful to peoples time.
Fuller argued the public has been patient and waiting while doing a lot of work on this project and should get an opportunity like the applicant.
City Attorney clarified to Fuller the applicant is given 10-minutes by rule which does not include the question and answers. He also said this applicant has not exceeded their time by rule. The mayor opted to continue with the 3-minutes for public comments.
Many residents spoke out against the project citing the proximity of the school, traffic, safety and how McDonalds is not healthy food. They called on better planning, a better traffic study while urging the city attorney not to be biased.
After public comments, City Attorney Cole told the council even if the council rejects this applicant, it didn’t mean a fast food restaurant would not go there in the future—noting Chipotle who does not rely on drive-thru who in theory could locate there and the city would not have the ability to say no. Along with a Peet’s Coffee. Both businesses would generate a lot of traffic in the same location. He noted these were only examples and the city could not stop the developer from having those restaurants locate at this site—this was in response to some of the public comments. He reminded the council the discussion is around the drive-thru, not the restaurant.
Pope said he believed the council was not ready to hear this topic tonight and asked for a continuation.
“We heard a lot of comments tonight during public comments about this traffic stud, multiple traffic studies which none of it was on the record, none of it was in the packet or included with the agenda,” said Pope. “So, I cannot make a quasi-judicial ruling on an item which is not in evidence. I can’t approve this based on a piece of evidence which I have not seen.”
He requested when the item comes back it include the traffic study and an analysis of pedestrian impacts. He also requested when the study is done, they have a public workshop to allow them to “digest” the information and the document. He also requested the design review be split separately from the conditional use permit.
“We spent so much time tonight talking about a drive-thru, nobody has talked about that this restaurant design looks like some redneck just took the tires off its single-wide and parked it there,” stated Pope. “The design of this restaurant is horrid. Nobody has even talked about design review tonight.”
Pope made the motion to continue the item which Williams seconded the motion.
Attorney Cole said the continuance would be for the traffic study along for a workshop to be provided to the public so they can digest the study while the design review would be trailed after the Conditional Use Permit—separately.
Interim City Manager Josh McMurray said the earliest the item may come back is in August 2021.
The council agreed to continue the item in a 4-1 vote with Meadows dissenting.
City Council Approves Burroughs Rezone – 208 More Homes
In under 20-minutes, the Oakley City Council approved the application for a rezone for planned development where agricultural land (43.24 acres) will be turned into 208 single-family residential lots. The property is located at the northeast corner of E Cypress Road and Knightsen Avenue.
By approving the rezone, the city can now work with the water district to ultimately supply water to the project site. The project dates all the way back to 2003 and amended in 2015.
Several callers requested the lot size be increased versus high density housing.
Vice Mayor Randy Pope and Councilmember Aaron Meadows said they believed some the lots should be larger.
Councilwoman Anissa Williams said she typically would not vote to get rid of agricultural, but noted the community benefits from this approval outweigh the negative as the city would get a portion of the funding from the sale of the land to help fund the 55-acre park off E Cypress Road.
The council approved the rezone and tentative map in a 5-0 vote.
Staff Report & Background: Click here