Coronado City Council Adopts Parking Policy For Counter-Oriented Food Establishments - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

Coronado City Council Adopts Parking Policy For Counter-Oriented Food Establishments

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Posted: Friday, March 15, 2019 3:03 pm | Updated: 3:06 pm, Fri Mar 15, 2019.

Nearly 100 minutes of the two hour and 45 minute Coronado City Council meeting of Tuesday, March 5, 2019, was devoted to the discussion and eventual adoption of an administrative procedure that would address parking for counter-oriented food establishments in the city. The council was seeking to define and clarify a gray area in the city’s Orange Avenue Specific Plan.

At the heart of the issue is the city’s requirement that retail establishments have one parking per each 500 square feet of space they occupy. Restaurants are required to have one parking space for every 100 square feet of space. In theory, more relaxed city parking requirements for restaurants might tip the balance of the number of retail establishments vs. restaurant operations currently doing business in Coronado. 

Several businesses in Coronado have become hybrids, retail stores that have added a small food and beverage service component to their offerings, out of economic necessity. One noted example of this concept is Bay Books, who according to owner Angelica Muller, is the largest independent book seller in San Diego County. With profit margins from book sales declining, as far back as 2015, Bay Books expanded their inventory from books and magazines to include greeting cards, and general gifts including jewelry, purses and a line of educational toys.

In addition, an integral part of the Bay Books operation and a direct contributor to the store’s bottom line, is Café Madrid operated by owner Luis Madrid. A coffee stand located directly in front of Bay Books, Café Madrid has been in business for 26 years. As part of a City Council action taken at their session of Dec. 4, 2018, eight local establishments which sell food as part of their business operations were deemed to be retail and ‘grandfathered’ so as not to be subjected to the additional parking requirements for restaurants. Café Madrid was one of the eight locations to be grandfathered.

However, Bay Books is now in final negotiations for the retail space formerly occupied by Bullshirt, which would mean the location will move to 1007 Orange Avenue, three store fronts to the north from its present site. According to city policy, locations are grandfathered, not the business itself, which placed Bay Books in food operation limbo.

Intertwined with the discussion of the Orange Avenue Specific Plan, were the additional elements of small, food-only operations and their required parking; the fate of Bay Books; prognostications relating to the future of brick-and-mortar businesses; retention of the Village atmosphere in Coronado; and the amount of space a retail business could use for food and beverage sales and still be considered retail.

In his remarks to the city council prior to consideration of the proposed administrative procedure, City Manager Blair King said, “We are seeking policy to guide staff for a definition of what is retail and what is a food-eating-drinking establishment. We believe we are attempting to facilitate the survival of retail business and not necessarily incentivizing a food and eating establishment, as much as insuring retail establishments can survive in 2019 in an era of Google and on-line sales.”

The City Staff recommendation, as presented by Director of Community Development Rich Grunow, called for counter-oriented eating/drinking uses, with 250 square feet of customer area or less, to be treated as a retail use for parking purposes. In turn, “customer area” was defined as,

“The interior space dedicated to seating, standing and consuming food/beverages, not including the back or prep area.”

Opinions on whether or not the staff recommendation would benefit the business community varied. Rita Sarich, Executive Director of Coronado MainStreet Ltd. said to the city council, “The MainStreet Board of Directors respectfully cannot support the staff recommendation to classify counter-oriented eating and drinking establishments, as somehow different than other food service establishments. They do not support removing parking requirements. The parking requirement for dining establishments was an important tool used in the development of the Orange Avenue Specific Plan to regulate and maintain a healthy retail/restaurant balance. In addition, the underlying mission of the Orange Avenue Specific Plan was to retain a Village atmosphere. To remove the parking requirement from any food service business would impact that balance and indeed add an incentive to do so. In the last six months, two retail businesses which have been in the Downtown for years, have converted to eating establishments. The Board agrees with the need for Code and Use clarity and consistency. We also hope that retail businesses who want to expand their customer service experience by adding food and/or beverage options can be incorporated as long as it remains a very minor part of their business model. Please protect our Downton business mix and our Orange Avenue Specific Plan.”

Nine members of the public spoke on the general topic of the new parking policy, with six of the nine having a direct affiliation to Bay Books. City Councilmembers spoke next, starting with Mike Donovan, who endorsed the policy of some food operations within retail stores, but he wanted to limit the size of the operation to 250 square feet, including all prep areas and inside seating. Provisions for up to 18 outside seats, which are currently exempt, would not change under his proposal.

Donovan added later, “We’re looking at a balance here. And I don’t think we want a lot of the larger restaurants. That’s the major concern from everyone I have talked to. If we’re not careful, we’ll just have a big food court on Orange Avenue. So I’m sensitive to that and I’m sensitive to what has already been put together in 2003 with the Orange Avenue Specific Plan. But we obviously need to address this.”

Councilmember Marvin Heinze had a different approach, being in general support of the staff recommendation, but asking that the emphasis for the administrative procedure and title be changed from ‘Off-Street Parking for Counter-oriented Eating and Drinking Establishments’ to ‘Retail Establishments With Eating and Drinking Services Included.’

Mayor Richard Bailey said in the first of his remarks, “Do we want more retail, or do we want more restaurants? What I don’t want are vacant storefronts. As we have seen the economy evolve over the past two decades now and we see what consumer preferences have done over the past couple of decades, and where consumers are moving toward more of an experience-type destination. That is why you have seen several of our local retail or service-oriented businesses start offering food and beverage because they are responding to demands within the economy. I think the economy is likely to change, like it already has, much more quickly than we can ever change our Orange Avenue Specific Plan. I think that no matter what we do, what policy we set forth here, if we try to get too cute, the economy and our consumers, which are our constituents, and our businesses will adapt far faster than we will ever be able to enforce or change our interpretations or policies. My preference would be to keep it simple, recognizing the economy will continue to change and our businesses are trying to meet the demands of the consumers, and recognizing that our primary goal should be to have no vacant store fronts. If all store fronts had retail and 50 percent of those locations were vacant, then that would be a tremendous loss to our community. So I would rather have 100 percent of our storefronts occupied with viable businesses providing services and experiences that our residents are demanding. I’m comfortable with the policy that has been put forth by our city staff, recognizing we can always revisit it in the future if problems occurred.”

Bailey added later, “When I visit our Downtown Business District, you know where I see residents? I see them at our food establishments. I don’t see them in retail shops that cater to tourists and I’m not saying anything is wrong with that. I think the reason we want to retain a vibrant Downtown Business community is to enhance our community. I think our residents are far more likely to patronize a shop like Poke 123, than they would be some of the retail outlets that have gone out. Once again, I think it is important that we can get as cute as we want to get regarding the exact right mix of retail vs. restaurants, but at the end of the day the economy is going to do what the economy is going to do. And I think we are already seeing the economy demanding some changes here, that are naturally occurring anyway. They are way out ahead of us and I would like to offer that up for discussion.”

Councilmember Bill Sandke said, “I’m concerned with the size limitation. If the outdoor and indoor space total more than 250 square feet, there’s no room to prepare the food. We would end up with a stall and I’m not a big guy for that. We’re building for our people and I think our people would appreciate something from a physical standpoint as useful as the Poke 123 space, both to a customer and a business operator, more than a 250 square foot stall would be. “

Eventually Heinze made a motion to accept the administrative policy outlined by city staff, which would limit food operation to 250 square feet for inside customer seating, with the provision that the title be changed. Outside seating, already addressed by the Orange Avenue Specific Plan (up to 18 seats) not changed. The motion passed 4-0, with Councilmember Whitney Benzian not in attendance at the meeting.

The new administrative procedure should allow for Café Madrid to incorporate a counter inside the proposed new location of Bay Books, with the possibility of an indoor/outdoor component with seating.

In other City Council actions:

• The City Council agreed to extend the emergency powers given City Manager King relating to the repairs to the storm drain manhole at Eighth Street and Coronado Avenue. King said of the process, “It’s a three-part solution. We need to de-water the area, remove the existing manhole structure, and then we need to replace that entire piece. The estimated cost is between $100,000 to $150,000. Phone, water, and sewer lines, are all there and we can’t allow the void (sinkhole) that developed to get any bigger and compromise those.” The council voted 4-0 to concur with the emergency declaration.

• As part of the Consent Calendar, the Council authorized King to enter into negotiations for a contract to prepare a review of the potential for relinquishment of SR 75 and/or 282, for an amount not to exceed $100,000.

• City Director of Administrative Services Jim Krueger presented a five-year financial forecast through Fiscal Year 2024, which finds city revenues growing from $57 million in FY 2019 to $66.3 million in FY 2024. Total annual expenditures will continue to trail revenues slightly, increasing from $57 million in FY 2019 to $66.2 million in FY 2024. Over that same period, property tax revenue will increase by 5.2 percent, while sales tax and transient occupancy tax revenues will remain essentially flat.

• The final piece of business before the City Council was the approval of a $1.4 million expenditure to purchase an integrated financial management system and an additional $250,000 professional services agreement for implementation of the system. Krueger characterized the system as a, “Backbone accounting system that would replace the current system that is 20 years old and difficult to support.”

The next meeting of the Coronado City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19, 2019, at 4 p.m. City Council meetings are held at Coronado City Hall, located at 1825 Strand Way in the city.

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