Archive | June, 2010

SLOG: “Volunteer Park Cafe Faces Closure Due to Neighbor Complaint.”

29 Jun

Today, Cienna Madrid posted on SLOG (the blog run by The Stranger weekly magazine):

For the past few months, Volunteer Park Cafe (VPC), a corner cafe located on 17th Avenue and E Galer Street, has been developing their vacant, weedy backyard space into a small patio with raised garden beds. Eventually, owners Ericka Burke and Heather Earnhardt planned on adding a chicken coop and a few tables for customers. “It’s basically a garden with seating for overflow,” says Earnhardt. “We wanted a few more tables for customers to sit while they wait for their coffee.”

But their plans have been put on hold after Paul Jones, their closest neighbor, complained to owners about their project. “He seemed to think we’re expanding our business, but we’re not,” Earnhardt says. “Frankly, our kitchen can’t support any more customers” … VPC owners allege that Jones hasn’t been happy with them since they moved in three years ago, and now he’s trying to get them shut down.

“He’s about the only person in the neighborhood who’s never been in the cafe—except to complain,” says Earnhardt. “He’s complained from the get-go about parking, about our compost being eaten by squirrels… ” Jones couldn’t be reached for comment.

Now what began as a fight over patio seating has turned into a battle for the entire cafe: If the DPD doesn’t grant VPC a restaurant permit, the cafe will close.

You can read the full article here.

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CHS: “Neighbor puts Volunteer Park Cafe in a pickle over plans for outdoor seating.”

27 Jun
Today, Capital Hill Seattle (CHS; aka: the Capitol Hill blog) posts its version of the events unfolding at 17th & Galer. “jseattle” writes:

A complaint filed by a neighbor with a bone to pick has owners Ericka Burke and Heather Earnhardt scrambling not just to make sure they have the proper permits for their new garden and sidewalk seating plans but also filing paperwork for the restaurant as a whole …

A message posted inside the cafe on Sunday afternoon notified customers that a video was being shot in another effort to illustrate support. Also posted was a fresh DPD permit application notice for sidewalk cafe seating dated June 21.

Photos: CHS

You might have noted that the original complaint was made to the city back in mid-May. In the e-mail, VPC’s owners say they tried to make a “win-win” situation but apparently time has run out. The DPD warning shown above requires compliance by July 1.

You can read the full post here.

VPC publicly attacks neighbor, requests support.

25 Jun

**Updated 10/08/10: In retrospect, it appears that this action  by VPC — posting of the flyer and concurrent e-mail of identical misinformation to the press, customers and friends — lead directly to a spate of inflammatory and ill-informed articles which generated literally hundreds of vituperative posts. The result is a bitter, combative and painfully public fracas, benefitting no one.

Yesterday, Volunteer Park Cafe contacted their customers with a page-long message, beginning:

An unhappy neighbor is making our lives difficult. He is unhappy about the beautiful garden and patio we are building. We have on many occasions tried to make this a win-win situation for both parties, but he has chosen to go directly to the city… {sic} And unfortunately, because he knows his way around codes and the permitting issues, he has uncovered a very unfortunate zoning issue with the cafe.

On an unspecified date, the cafe posted the identical message as a flyer in their window. (Flyer not dated.) Below is an electronic copy of the flyer:

Burke e-mails community with inaccurate information

24 Jun

Again in “Nosh Pit,” Jessica Voelker covers the VPC story.

On June 24 (today), Burke wrote a group email detailing an unhappy situation with a Capitol Hill resident who wants to prevent the cafe from serving outdoors. The neighbor researched the property’s permit history, discovering that it was zoned as a grocery store (the building housed a grocery for many years) and not a cafe. Burke says her lease indicates the property to be a cafe …

Burke asked recipients to help VPC staff see their backyard dreams become reality by sending letters of support, expressing affection for the cafe (and the patio and garden in particular) …

According to the DPD website, a complaint was filed on May 18 with the following note: “The grocery has expanded its use with a cafe.” The complaint is unresolved.

You can read the full article here.

VPC given compliance due date: July 1st, 2010.

1 Jun

Today, Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) issued a warning to Volunteer Park Cafe, as a result of their failed  zoning inspection. On May 27, 2010, VPC was found in violation of their ‘Grocery Use’ zoning. They were given until July 1st, 2010, to come into compliance with their zoning. (Functionally, this is interpreted to mean they must show proof that they intend to come into compliance.)

Alternatively, VPC could file an application to change their zoning from ‘non-conforming use: Grocery’ to ‘nonconforming use: An Eating and Drinking Establishment.’ (VPC operates in a residential neighborhood zoned SF5000: single family homes, 5000 square foot minimum.)

The application must include a development plan as well as their plans to address neighborhood impacts caused by change of use.

Part of the zoning change process includes the posting of a “Land Use Proposal” at the identified site, and a two-week period during for public comment about the proposed project. DPD solicits responses from residence within a 300-foot radius of the proposed site, but the public comment process is open to any resident.

The public process generally takes up to six months from the date the application is filed. VPC is allowed by law to continue operating as it is currently doing. VPC is prohibited to progress the proposed project.

Whether VPC choses to apply for change of use or to come into compliance with existing use, the filing date given by DPD is July 1st, 2010.