Two months after it looked like vocal neighborhood opposition had put a stop to Starbucks opening its fourth store in Berkeley, it has emerged that the coffee chain is planning to move into the space at 3001A Telegraph Ave. after all.
Starbucks is circumventing the city’s previous requirements — principally the need to offer a number of parking spaces relative to the size of the store — by opening in a retail space significantly smaller than the one it had originally envisaged.
In an application submitted to the city April 8, Starbucks sought approval to build a new “demising wall,” or partition, in the corner retail space of the Telegraph Gardens building at the intersection of Telegraph and Ashby in South Berkeley. In doing so, it would occupy a total of 1,333 square feet (rather than the 2,063 square feet it had hoped to have), which means the conditions of the administrative use permit (AUP) that became the focus of protests from local residents and business owners become moot. Only a building in excess of 1,500 square feet requires an AUP, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko.
The building permit was approved May 8.
In fact, Starbucks had been given the go-ahead by city, parking waivers included, back in March of last year. And an appeal lodged by a local neighborhood group was subsequently denied by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board. In November, the council referred the board’s decision to a public meeting, however. And, March 11, after hearing from dozens of local residents and business owners that such a high-customer-volume coffee shop would increase traffic congestion and exacerbate what they described as an already taxing parking situation, the council voted to deny Starbucks an administrative use permit.
Attempts to reach Starbucks were unsuccessful at time of writing.
Jim Smith, who, with Andrew Johnson, filed the March 2013 appeal on behalf of the Bateman Neighborhood Association, said he had not heard of Starbucks’ new plans.
“I’m not aware of any notice given to our neighborhood of any new proposal,” he said. “If Starbucks is going ahead, I think it’s unfortunate given all the information we put before the Council about the negative impacts of this particular use in this particular location.”
Smith said he still considered the local residents’ considerable efforts to stop the coffee chain to be a victory, however, “because we were able to reduce the size of the proposed use.”
Chakko said four parking spaces would need to be made available for a 1,349-square-foot building. The April 8 application shows four designated “Starbucks” parking spaces.
Michael Iida co-owns the Mokka coffee shop at 3075 Telegraph Ave., two blocks south of Telegraph Gardens, many of whose customers opposed the new Starbucks. Meetings were held at his café to discuss what many saw as the threat of Starbucks coming in to the neighborhood. On Friday, Iida said his concerns remain the same.
“If they are going into that same facility even though the space is smaller, it may affect their ability to serve customers, but I doubt that it really changes the demand that will be driven to that corner,” he said.
A note in the planning documents approved by the city last week makes it clear that, should a business wish to occupy the second part of the space at 3001A Telegraph once it is divided, they will have to jump through the same hoops as Starbucks did. It reads: “No new retailer can occupy this space unless more parking is provided or a parking waiver is granted.”
Op-ed: Starbucks vote makes Berkeley seem unfriendly to business (03.23.14)
Neighbors stop a new Starbucks opening in Berkeley (03.12.14)
Berkeley City Council’s Nov. 19, 2013 meeting: the highlights (11.20.14)
Berkeley neighbors bid to halt Starbucks stumbles (07.02.13)
Starbucks planning to open a new store in Berkeley (03.15.13)
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