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.
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