Domino’s wins approval to open in South Berkeley

A simulation of the façade planned for a Domino's Pizza shop that's coming to Adeline Street in South Berkeley. Image: Acute Consulting

A simulation of the façade planned for a Domino’s Pizza shop that’s coming to Adeline Street in South Berkeley. Image: Acute Consulting

A new Domino’s Pizza shop promising artisan options and a place for customers to watch pizzas being crafted won approval Tuesday night from the Berkeley City Council to open in South Berkeley after a lengthy battle with some of its neighbors.

Owners of the family-run pizza franchise have been trying to open at 3264 Adeline St. since late 2013, but have faced multiple appeals by opponents. City staff initially approved the application in January, but it was appealed by Houshmand Ghaderi, who owns The Vault Cafe, nearby at 3250 Adeline.

Ghaderi took issue with a parking waiver granted by the city to Domino’s and said he didn’t think the corporate chain would be a good fit with the neighborhood, which has been on the upswing in recent years.

The city Zoning Adjustments Board approved the Domino’s application unanimously in April, but Ghaderi again appealed. His appeal was rejected by the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night. 

Opponents of the project said they were concerned about parking impacts to the neighborhood, caused by delivery trucks and pizza delivery drivers, along with concerns about a proliferation of trash from the business.

Domino’s franchise owner Sam Hishmeh told council members Tuesday that he and his family own several other Domino’s shops in the region, and take pride in the business they have built. He said his Berkeley Domino’s would provide 30 local jobs, and that he will aim to hire Berkeley residents as much as possible.

“We are proud of who we are, what we do and what we stand for,” said Hishmeh, adding that his other businesses have received numerous awards for their approach and community contributions.

A handful of speakers who opposed the application asked council to reject it and fill the spot with a more unique business that would be more pedestrian-oriented.

“This type of business is improper for that neighborhood,” said Chris White, who said he lives nearby. “We can do better.”

Supporters of The Vault said they feared the Domino’s business would make it hard for them to park when they visit their local cafe. Two local health care providers said their clients, some of whom have mobility problems, already have a hard time finding parking nearby.

City staff said they conducted two parking studies, which found ample parking in the neighborhood, and Hishmeh noted that his peak hours are at dinnertime, when other businesses raising concerns would already be closed for the day.

Council members said they were sensitive to the needs of drivers who may need to park close to health care offices due to mobility issues, and asked the city to take another look at Adeline to see if more dedicated handicapped parking spots should be added.

But Councilman Max Anderson, who represents South Berkeley, said Hishmeh had “followed the rules.”

“This is an area that is looking for business to come in,” he said, adding that the storefront had been vacant for too long. (Independent bookshop The Other Change of Hobbit reported in February 2013 that it been served with eviction papers. The shop is now located in El Cerrito but has reported continuing financial troubles on its website.)

Anderson said there simply was not sufficient cause to reject the Domino’s application.

“It may benefit the restaurant next door, but it doesn’t benefit the corridor,” he said. “It doesn’t. It’s not a good thing.”

Councilman Jesse Arreguín said the city had been correct to approve the business’ parking waiver due to its proximity to BART — the Ashby station is one-third of a mile away, he said — as well as the findings of the parking studies.

“We have a legal obligation to approve a use that meets the requirements of the law, and this does,” he said. “I hope that this business will be a positive addition to the commercial district.”

A representative from the Domino’s team, Heidi Miller of Orinda-based Acute Consulting, said by email that this particular Domino’s will be “unique in that it is creating the new concept and will be the first of its kind in the greater Bay Area and has proven to be welcomed and successful in other areas.”

She described the shop’s concept as “Pizza Theater,” in that it will “have ‘pizza-making artists’ hand tossing dough and creating custom-made pies behind a glassy display for all guests and kids to watch how pizza is made.”

The shop will have seating for up to 26 people “to create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere for guests to relax and enjoy in house dining.”

The new concept is something Domino’s has been working on for four years to improve the atmosphere of its restaurants, Miller added. But customers will also be able to elect the delivery option if they prefer.

Miller said Domino’s came up with a new pizza recipe this year, which includes an “expanded menu” that promises “artisan” pizzas and better side items, as well as sandwiches. She said 80% of the menu has been revamped since 2008.

Hishmeh said Tuesday night that he’d like to open the new store within the next two months, but that it depends how long construction lasts.

According to project documents, alcohol will not be served.

City documents related to the project are posted here, including a letter from Sam Hishmeh outlining his responses to the neighborhood concerns, as well as his commitment to address any problems that arise.

Berkeley kicks off Adeline corridor improvements push (03.27.14)
Sacramento Street clean-up efforts continue in Berkeley (03.24.14)
Easy Creole: Fun, über-casual Cajun joint in Berkeley (01.27.14)
Berkeley’s Sacramento Street corridor on the rise (11.01.13)
Duo to open Creekwood restaurant in South Berkeley (10.24.13)
Black Panther son opening Rasa Caffe in Berkeley (10.03.13)
Nano-brewpub and lounge planned for Alcatraz Ave. (03.21.13)
New street banners give Berkeley neighborhoods identity (03.14.13)

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  • guest

    I miss Burnaford’s Produce.

  • guest

    Good news! That space has been empty for too long.

  • Todd

    A step backward for that neighborhood.

  • Demosthenes11


  • southberkeleyres

    Much of the litter comes from customers of M and H Liquors. Empty beer and liquor bottles and cans, cigarette and junk food wrappers. M and H could make regular sweeps of the area around their store to pick up littered empty bottles if they cared about the neighborhood.

  • 63rd st.

    I love how one of the justifications for waiving the parking requirements is the restaurant’s proximity to BART, because so many people pick up takeout using public transportation! Also,the fact that Max Anderson was in favor of this proves how out of touch he is with the renaissance going on in the Lorin district.

  • Devin

    Is this in addition to the Dominos currently located across the street from this location or a relocation of that shop? Maybe I haven’t paid attention and that one has closed, but If they are both going to be operating, it seems like a bit much. Then again, if there’s that many people that eat Dominos, power to ’em – a business of any kind is better than an empty storefront imo.

  • Chris J

    Doesn’t bother me overly. I’m not going to order their pizza but I can envision a whole bunch of poor families ordering this stuff; worse nutrition for kids when they need such crap the least.

    If you’re going to outlaw sugary drinks, is pizza close behind?

  • iicisco

    The Dominos next to the laundromat you’re thinking of closed a few years ago. I welcome the new location as the service and quality of the location on University has gone to complete Sh*t.

  • s berkeley resident

    Very disappointing! Why does city council continue to approve cheap chains peddling cheap non-food to the people in south Berkeley?

  • Lisa

    I’ll continue going to The Vault. They are friendly, generous, and very nice to customers, and their hamburgers are great. There’s no need for more pizza in Berkeley…

  • Amenities

    Because that’s who wants to move into those spots. If you were an aspiring restaurant owner, would you choose south Berkeley to launch your business?

  • Grandma

    I hate Domino’s. They are the ones who started the practice of putting ads door-to-door. Now many other restaurants and other types of businesses are doing the same. Almost every day I have to pick up some useless ad and throw it in the recycle bin. What a waste.

  • guest

    >I hate Domino’s. They are the ones who started the practice of putting ads door-to-door.

    Corner liquor stores have been doing that for far longer than Domino’s.

  • guest

    The Vault and Domino’s offer very different kinds of food marketed at very different kinds of people. I don’t think there’s much need to worry about Domino’s pulling customers away from The Vault.

  • Whoa Mule

    They only approved the issuance of a use permit for a 2,037 SF limited service restaurant. The city doesn’t control the menu. Just think how complicated it would be if the city controlled the actual cuisine.

    Pizza catagory is now filled! No more pizza, the only restaurant category presently unfilled is Etruscan. Crispy fried locusts and Aruspicini filled with tongue in green sauce!

  • guest

    The Etruscans lived in what is now Tuscany (which is named for them), the province of Italy where Florence is. I don’t think there are any Nile crocodiles there.

  • Whoa Mule

    Alas, you are correct. The descendants of the Etruscans eat pizza.

  • marco

    maybe becouse not everybody can afford a 20

    bucks pizza?

  • guest

    Because it is not City Council’s job to determine what kind of food is served at a restaurant, so long as that restaurant meets the legal requirements for opening a business?

  • guest

    >Hoi Polloi
    >a restaurant

    >a real brewpub

    To be a brew pub, as opposed to a taproom/bar, you have to actually serve food. Hoi Polloi doesn’t.

  • ursosarctos

    Pizzas being “crafted” at Domino’s? Give me a break!

  • Mary Rose Kaczorowski

    Gee… not exactly real healthy gourmet food…can’t they do better for South Berkeley?

  • David D.

    Just because you don’t like Domino’s doesn’t mean it should be subjected to a different set of standards than other comparable businesses. Walkability to BART is relevant because workers drive to work; it isn’t just customers driving to restaurants. Besides, one delivery driver can eliminate several car trips that would otherwise occur. If you don’t like Domino’s, don’t eat the pizza there, and the market will work it out.

  • RichardC

    It’s sad that, in a place as supposedly progressive as Berkeley, decisions about whether a business can open in an existing storefront near BART, multiple bus routes, and a bicycle boulevard are still based on how much parking there is. It isn’t the 1950s, and we’re not out in the suburbs – at a minimum, any business should be able to go into a space this close to BART without parking being an issue.

  • guest

    The article says that the city supported the business all along:

    “City staff initially approved the application in January,”
    “The city Zoning Adjustments Board approved the Domino’s application unanimously in April”
    The article doesn’t include the council vote, but all the councilmembers quoted support the application.

    The application was delayed by just a few people:
    “A handful of speakers who opposed the application asked council to reject it”

    The city process allowed a handful of people to delay the project for six months. This is unfortunate, but i don’t think there is any way to avoid it.

  • believe55

    Yes Indeed! well said RichardC