Archive | November, 2010

DPD asks VPC for study of parking situation

27 Nov

The Department of Planning and Development has requested that Volunteer Park Cafe provide a study that will compare the neighborhood parking impact of the previous legal use (a grocery store) to that of the restaurant.

UPDATE: Due to lack of compliance by VPC, on Feb. 15th, 2011, the DPD gave VPC a firm deadline of March 15th by which to submit the parking study.

The  original request, dated Nov. 17*, 2010, covers all on-street parking within 800 feet of VPC, and states:

“The parking counts should be made during the expected peak time for the restaurant, and counts should be collected on Monday, when the restaurant is closed, and at the same time on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, when the restaurant is open. Additionally, parking counts should be made during the expected peak time on either Saturday or Sunday.

“Please also provide an estimate of the peak on-street parking demand that likely was generated by the prior retail use on the site, and indicate the likely times and duration of this peak demand.”

No due date has been set for the study. In its original application to DPD, VPC doesn’t discuss differences between the parking demand  for a small grocery (the only current legal use for VPC’s space) and the destination restaurant VPC has become. VPC contended that the majority of its clients arrive via foot, bike or bus, but didn’t explain how it arrived at this estimate.

We believe this action demonstrates that DPD values public comments that pointed out the variety of traffic and parking issues VPC has caused. The obvious downside is that this request delays decision-making at DPD.

*The request appeared on DPD’s website on Nov. 27th, but was dated Nov. 17th.

Updated March 28th, 2011.

Canvassing Results: Passenger Load Zone

23 Nov

Customers block driveway (1 house north of VPC)

Participating in our door-to-door discussions, many neighbors shared problems tey felt were a result of VPC’s gradual expansion. Parking and traffic safety issues were primary among their complaints. Several neighbors suggested that VPC establish a Passenger Load Zone.

VPC has no parking lot or passenger load zone. Instead, customers routinely park:

  • in the red zone adjacent to the stop sign at 17th, in front of VPC’s entrance;
  • in front of the neighbor’s driveway (above); and
  • across the street, blocking the fire hydrant; additionally
  • customers regularly use neighbors’ driveways for U-turns (below).

Customers use same driveway for U-turns

VPC customers and vendors routinely commit these parking and traffic violations, even when legal spaces are available.

In their Administrative Conditional Use application, VPC acknowledges that it provides “zero” customer or delivery parking. A common mitigation in such instances would be for the applicant to establish a “Passenger Load Zone” in front of the restaurant. In VPC’s case:

  • A Passenger Load Zone in front is impossible, due to the existing stop sign on the corner of  17th Ave, E, and Galer.
  • An obvious alternative – the north side of Galer St., adjacent to VPC – is also a No Parking zone (though often used illegally for VPC customer parking; see below).

    Corner of 17th and Galer is No Parking Zone; cannot convert to Passenger Load Zone

In other words, VPC has no parking to offer customers beyond residential street parking.

The sheer number of visitors per hour is far greater than the last legal business in the same space.. VPC’s planned expansion will only compound the problem.

44.3% oppose VPC’s request to change land-use to restaurant, also oppose patio.

20 Nov

Shocked at robust support, VP Neighbors aims to engage neighbors in productive dialogue.

During the public comment period held by the Dept. of Planning and Development (DPD) regarding VPC’s bid to legalize as a ‘restaurant,’ we canvassed the neighborhood.

  • We found that 44.3% of residents opposed VPC’s request for a land-use change from ‘grocery’ to ‘an eating and drinking establishment.’
  • This same 44.3% is against the use of VPC’s back patio for food service or preparation.

Let us be the first to say that the results knocked us backward. From the get-go, VPC and the media portrayed us as just one “cranky” neighbor. Later, a VPC Web page called us “a small (but vocal!!) minority.” As we went went door-to-door, we felt a shift in opinion. We did not, however, expect to find that the single, largest opinion would align with ours.

We recognize that these results demonstrate a sea change. Thank you, neighbors.

None of this is to say that VPC finds itself without support. 45.6% were for the proposed change, in varying degrees:

  • 18% favored ‘restaurant’ change and back patio use;
  • 27% favored ‘restaurant’ but not patio, or do not yet know enough about patio use to state an opinion;

Finally, 10.1% remained undecided about the issue as a whole.

Our canvassing effort is separate from the DPD public comment period (9/30 to 10/27). Many residents participated in both.

We feel important to note that  our findings affect DPD’s ultimate decision only so far as:

  • DPD responds to concerns raised in residents’ letters; and
  • we offered to support VPC’s ‘restaurant’ if the owners would contain their business to the lease they signed and the zoning restrictions of the neighborhood they chose. VPC refused. {http://wp.me/p13gjT-D7w.}

We stress these points to underline that our goal has always been to prevent commercial use of VPC’s back patio. Instead, we hope that our canvassing result’s clarification of the neighborhood’s position will clear the way for a new and more productive dialogue.

Next step: small-group salons

Our canvassing process

19 Nov

We started at the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) with the file for Project 3011437. From the two-inch stack of letters, we complied a database of names, addresses, and notes on positions. Then we hit the streets.

During the public comment period, we canvassed 112 residents in 70 homes on 16th, 17th, and 18th Avenues E., between Garfield and Highland. Most were in the area defined by DPD as most impacted by VPC’s proposal. In instances where the DPD area stopped halfway up the street, we finished out the block.

We had no reason to demonstrate a false narrative that did not hold water with the DPD. Our opening question was: “I’d like to sound you out on the café issue.” At the end of each talk—some lasting up to an hour—we asked residents to define their current opinion as one of four options:

  • pro-restaurant and pro-patio;
  • against restaurant and against patio;
  • pro-restaurant but against or undecided about patio; or
  • undecided.

In the event that we were unable to speak with a resident who had sent an opinion to DPD, we recorded that opinion as stated in the letter.

The results:

  • 18.0% pro-restaurant and pro-patio:
  • 44.3% against restaurant and against patio:
  • 27.% pro-restaurant but against or undecided about patio; and
  • 10.1% undecided.

Fully expecting to encounter the ferocity that rages proximal to VPC and in public forums on the Web, we were astounded at the number of residents stating they had no more than a general sense that VPC was expanding and that some neighbors objected. Only one resident shut the door after asking the canvasser’s point of view. The exchange was civil.

The next step: small-group salons.

UPDATED 4/18/11

Next step: small-group salons

19 Nov

The results of our canvassing effort revealed that roughly 70% of the neighbors questioned do not want VPC to use their patio. Concurrently, 45.6% are in favor of VPC legalizing their ‘restaurant.’

Of major concern: patio food service without food "service."

Recognizing that this clearer understanding of neighborhood opinion does nothing to address the situation, and also that people all along the spectrum have valid feelings about VPC’s proposal to legalize, we are setting up a number of small-group salons with as many neighbors as wish to have further conversations.

At each salon, all attendees will be asked to take a privacy oath: What happens in salons stays in salons. Groups self-select, allowing attendees to trust that confidentiality will be respected.

There is only one rule: no yelling. As long as everyone follows the rule, where, when, and how the salons take place is up to attendees.

We suggest four to six residents at a time meet with one or two members of Volunteer Park Neighbors.

  • We can arrange for moderators, or agree to moderate ourselves.
  • We can discuss any aspect of the situation that remains confusing.
  • You can ask us to listen.

Our goal is to better understand each other’s perspective as we move towards the resolution. Our goal is to remain a neighborhood even if we remain somewhat at odds on this particular issue.

Please contact us to schedule a salon.