Summer Kitchen and Elmwood zoning: A follow-up

Following our post yesterday on the Summer Kitchen and the Elmwood business district’s “quota system”, Berkeley council-member Gordon Wozniak, whose remit includes the neighborhood in question, wrote in with his view:

“While I agree with Jon that there should be a balance between food service and retail in the Elmwood, whether or not the Summer Kitchen has a few tables does not change this balance. The Elmwood quota system is an anachronism which reflects the business mix three decades ago. It is the most complicated of all the Berkeley quota systems and makes it difficult for a business to adapt to changes in the market.

“In the last decade Berkeley residents have shown a strong preference for what are called ‘quick-serve’ restaurants, which provide food to be consumed either on site or ‘to go’. The Elmwood has three types of food service quotas (full serve, quick serve, and to go). Unfortunately, the quick serve category is full. It is true that an owner can ask for modification of his/her quota, but the process takes time and is costly.

“Several years ago, many Elmwood Merchants, including Jon supported combining all three food categories into a single food category. If this proposal had been accepted by the City Council, the Summer Kitchen would have been allowed to have tables, since it has a valid food service permit. Unfortunately, due to opposition from supporters of quotas, the Council did not accept the Merchants’ proposal.

“It is my understanding that the City only initiated the zoning action against the Summer Kitchen after repeated complaints from a merchant. I believe that it is unfortunate that someone would use the quota system to hurt another merchant. I don’t believe that Berkeley residents understand that there are three different food service categories or particularly care whether the Summer Kitchen is labeled ‘to go’ or ‘quick serve’. What they like is that Summer Kitchen provides quality food.


“I suspect that there are other examples of zoning violations in the Elmwood. Should the City crack down and risk putting some of our local merchants out of business? In these difficult economic times, we should be supporting all local businesses, not making their lives more difficult.

“Finally, I feel that the present quota system is an anachronism that should be repealed or modernized. However, for the Council to change the Elmwood quota system would take strong support from both the merchants and neighbors.

“For complete disclosure, I serve on the Berkeley City Council and represent most of the Elmwood Business District.”