Archive | December, 2010

VPC’s Application: Building Permit Compliance

28 Dec

This post continues a series of posts analyzing VPC’s application to change their land-use to legalize the operation of their restaurant.

VPC’s “Improving neighbor relations” page states:

“From day one, our commercial kitchen was inspected and approved by the city to meet all regulations, including exhaust. As part of the current permit process with the Department of Planning and Development, we will again work with the city to ensure we meet all regulations for cooking exhaust.”

VPC passed the inspection by the Seattle-King County Health Department. There is no evidence of VPC having filed for or received Building Permit Compliance to allow construction of the kitchen, the exhaust system, or other related components. Separate City department oversee health inspections and building code compliance.

Both are critical. They are not interchangeable.

Any change in land-use comes with a retroactive compliance. VPC’s request is no exception. This stipulation is posted on the Notice of Proposed Land-Use Action (photo) that The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) placed on VPC’s fences during the public comment period.

The City takes seriously the life safety impacts associated with a restaurant occupancy, as seen in:

  • building code provisions that use fire-rated construction, barriers; and
  • additional measures to reduce risk to firefighters and adjacent properties.

With an apartment above and close proximity to single-family residences, VPC’s restaurant creates a significant risk that was not present prior to the creation of a commercial kitchen in the 100-year-old wood frame structure.

Click here to read additional critique of VPC’s application.

Coming Next: Odor ImpactsPlease subscribe to our blog.

Updated 3/5/11.

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VPC’s Application: Errors in Written Submission

23 Dec

Our comments about basic errors in VPC’s Administrative Conditional Use application are framed by the following two elements of the code:

  • “The proposed new use must be no more detrimental to properties in the zone and vicinity than the existing use.” {Note: existing use is: ‘nonconforming: grocery.’}
  • If the new use is permitted, the Director may require mitigation measures, including but not limited to landscaping, sound barriers or fences, mounding or berming, adjustments to yards or parking standards, design modification, or limiting hours of operation.”

1. Applicant states that existing retail use extends to the second floor.

The entire upper floor is a dwelling unit and not part of the retail space previously permitted by the City as a non-conforming use. Currently, VPC uses a portion as an office.

2. Existing use is documented as retail and no change is proposed to the dwelling unit on the second floor.

VPC is proposing to formalize the second floor office use. Their statement that “no change” is proposed upstairs is incorrect. The entire upper floor is a dwelling unit.

3. ‘Number of Clients’ is stated as rarely more than 45, which VPC contends is rarely reached. They also state that 45 is the maximum occupancy.

  • It is quite common for more than 50 customers and staff in the space.
  • The restaurant is often packed in this way on weekends or for special events.

4. Preamble: The applicant compares retail uses that have accessory food or beverage service to a restaurant use.

  • This is irrelevant. VPC is a full-service restaurant and functions as such.
  • We are unclear as to their reason for mentioning drug stores and flu shots.

5. Applicant states that there will be no changes to the existing kitchen.

  • Although the improvements such as the kitchen, toilet, restaurant areas, etc., are “existing” the applicant built them without a permit and for a use not properly permitted.
  • Any changes made at the time that the VPC began occupancy of the space should be considered, under the Seattle Building Code, as a change in occupancy.
  • The provisions under the applicable code should be complied with retroactively.
  • The proposal as submitted fails to address very serious life safety concerns associated with the restaurant use operating under a dwelling unit.
  • Furthermore there appear to be issues related to the compliance of the kitchen exhaust and possibly other areas not as readily visible or apparent.

6. Applicant states in various instances that the new use is no more impactful than current. It appears that VPC is comparing  to their own restaurant use and not to the grocery use.

As is the case with other aspects of VPC’s application, they state opinions as facts. VPC offers no data that is grounded in analysis.

Here is a PDF of the Volunteer Park Cafe and Marketplace – Conditional Use Application

VPC’s application: Overview of our critique

20 Dec

In addition to the more technical critique of VPC’s application found here, we are concerned that VPC continues to operate outside of compliance with City and State legal requirements. They do so with the attitude that a large following of supportive patrons provides them permission.

Much of the language in their application implies that they have communicated effectively with the neighborhood and that they have been thoughtful and considerate in their proposal.

This is not the case.

Updated 4/8/11.

DPD asks VPC for additional corrections: floor plans, etc.

15 Dec

The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is requiring Volunteer Park Café to submit additional corrections to their Administrative Conditional Use application. The DPD seeks information that VPC neglected to provide in the original filing by VPC, requesting a  change in the land-use of the space they rent from ‘grocery’ to ‘an eating and drinking establishment.’

UPDATE 3/23/11: DPD issued a second corrections notice for upstairs floor plans.

The “Corrections Required” notice, issued Dec. 15th, states:

Please provide existing and proposed floor plans for ALL floors of the structure and please label all rooms and existing and proposed uses. “Existing” uses are uses that have been established by permit from our Department.

In addition, the Corrections Notice informed VPC that they could not use this ACU process to change the use of the second floor from its current, conforming use {‘residential’).

Please keep in mind that the Administrative Conditional Use application is to convert one nonconforming use to another nonconforming use. Any portion of the structure which has only ever been permitted as residential, cannot be converted to a nonconforming use.

In 1905, the second floor of 1501 17th Ave. E. was designated as a single-family dwelling; ‘residential.’ (The first floor of 1501 has the non-conforming use ‘grocery.) At some point, the upstairs split into two apartments, both also ‘residential.’

At a later point—perhaps as recently as early 2010—Volunteer Park Cafe rented the smaller of the two upstairs apartments to use as an office. The restaurant continues to operate the upstairs office, despite the DPD’s Dec. 15th  reminder that their current use of the space is illegal.

In its application, VPC suggests that their office, 265 sq ft on the 2nd floor, is legally permitted for retail use. Here is the text from the applicant’s Page 1, Question 2:

The proposed change of use is within in an existing two-story, wood frame structure with an unfinished basement. Specifically, the existing use of “retail sales and service, multipurpose” is made up of 1,690 sq. ft. on two floors. The main floor has 1425 sq. ft. and the 2nd floor has 265 sq. ft. The associated basement is used for storage for the existing use. The proposal is to change the existing 1,690 sq. ft. plus basement “retail sales and service, multipurpose” use to “restaurant.”

Clearly, DPD disagrees; as does Volunteer Park Neighbors. Click here to read our our critique of the technical issues in VPC’s application. You can read less technically oriented comments here.

The final element of the Correction Notice asked VPC to: “Please provide dimensions for all structures on the lot and their distances from all property lines.”