Archive | January, 2011

VPC’s Application: The Back Yard – The Heart of the Conflict

26 Jan

VPC is asking neighbors to live this close to its impacts:

View of  patio at lunch, taken from neighbor’s kitchen.

As a reminder, VPC did not open in a commercial or mixed-use neighborhood. We live in a residential neighborhood. VPC rented a ‘grocery’ space in a quiet, residential neighborhood, named itself a cafe, and proceeded to operate an illegal restaurant. For this reason, DPD found VPC in violation and required VPC to submit the Administrative Conditional Use Application.

2. VPC’s application states that “No food or beverage service is proposed for the outdoor area behind the restaurant.”

  • Setting aside for the moment that the not-proposed service has taken place:
  • VPC’s Improving Customer Relations page states, “Our permit application with the city does not include out-door seating in the garden …. Yes, we may have stated we were considering it in past press statements, but mere grousing doesn’t contravene (sic) the actual facts presented in our permit application to the city.”
  • As noted by Capitol Hill blog, “The application doesn’t say people can’t take their food outside. Nor does the application document mention limits on special events that might fill the area on a regular basis. It’s the kind of thing that could well be within a permitted (restaurant’s) rights. It could also drive nearby neighbors nuts.”
  • In their application, VPC states the patio will “provide an outdoor area for the single family residence located above the restaurant, and other activities allowed in single family zones by the Seattle Municipal Code.”
  • Over the summer, VPC illegally used the patio for service (above) and for a special event (below) they claim was “allowed in single family zones by the Seattle Municipal Code.” It drove us nuts:

Second view of  patio from neighbor’s kitchen.
And the party is just getting started:


  • Party in full swing. We will not endure this level of impact.

 

3. VPC has never stated conclusively that they will not apply for patio use in the future. That VPC claims they “do not plan” patio service is simply not believable.

Bricked, tented, and ready for events VPC states are 'allowed in single family zones.'

Bricked and tented; patio service should not be 'allowed in single family zones.'

 

  • VPC did not build a brick patio in order to use it primarily for gardening.
  • VPC never had the legal status to operate restaurant, yet has done so since opening in 2007.
  • VPC has not yet managed its current size in manner respectful to neighbors, yet insists it will operate fine on a larger scale.

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VPC’s Application: Noise/Hours of Operation

22 Jan
In their Administrative Conditional Use Application, VPC contends that it generates noise levels compatible with a residential neighborhood. This claim is not based on any formal analysis.
  • We feel it is unreasonable to expect neighbors to tolerate noise from the restaurant later than 9pm.
  • Staff should endeavor to be out by 10pm at the latest.
  • Our neighborhood is not zoned for commercial use. It is not zoned for mixed use. VPC chose to open and then to expand in a residential neighborhood.
  • Regardless of whether VPC is granted the change in land-use from ‘grocery’ to ‘restaurant,’ it will be held to the limits of the residential neighborhood.

VPC’s application refers to “natural noise buffers” and “physical distances” as mitigating factors.

  • There are no natural noise buffers.
  • The physical distance between VPC and the single-family residence directly to the north is only  6-1/2 feet. The residence is five feet from the property line. VPC is 18 inches from it.

Noise was not an impact when a grocery store, which closed at 6pm, occupied the inside of the first floor.

Next up: The Back Patio. Please subscribe to our blog.

VPC’s Application: Street Use Permits/Noise

18 Jan

The Administrative Conditional Use application requires VPC to demonstrate that noise emanating from sidewalk seating for the proposed use would be no more than that from the previous legal use (in this case, a mom-and-pop grocery).

  • Any business at 1501 is fully accountable for all noise it generates, regardless of whether it operates under ‘nonconforming use: grocery’ or ‘nonconforming use: an eating and drinking establishment.’

In its application, VPC omits any measurement of the interior noise levels, which are certainly far louder than those of a neighborhood grocery.

  • Groceries of this size would rarely have more than a handful of patrons at one time. It is hard to imagine all of them  be engaged in conversations at the same time.
  • Based on full capacity use of the interior seating configuration during a typical Wine Dinner, there are likely to be 15 to 20 conversations in progress (including employees); plus sounds of glasses, plates, etc.
  • When VPC’s inadequate ventilation causes staff to open the front window above the entrance, some neighbors receive a barrage of dining noise. The level can be quite disturbing throughout warm months.

The below information is posted not to further hammer VPC. We post it to underline our objection to their proposed expansion.

Illegal sidewalk service is common; in fact, is one of VPC's key attributes

 

Until late into 2010,VPC operated sidewalk service without any permits from  Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

After obtaining permits, VPC operated outside limitations laid out by their permits.

  • Taking orders and serving food: not allowed under their current sidewalk permit (14 B).
  • Allowing alcohol: no alcohol at all is allowed on the patio, not even if customers carry it out themselves (as they are allowed to do with food).
  • Seating: VPC improperly stuffed 16 chairs and 8 tables onto the 17th Avenue E. frontage.
  • We have correspondence in which SDOT acknowledges that the permit for 17th allows half that amount.

Drinking alcohol on sidewalk also common; also illegal

 

After 10pm, neighbors often have to suffer with the noise made by the departure of loud, often tipsy dinner patrons.

  • VPC’s well-attend “Wine Dinner” nights can be particularly loud, and run particularly late.
  • The Sept. 10, 2010, “Charles Smith Wine Dinner” packed the house and ended at 11:30 p.m.
  • VPC’s Facebook page boasts the consumption of 72 bottles of wine.

Given VPC’S poor record of mitigating their impacts, we do not expect that fewer impacts will result from operating a larger restaurant.

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 Application: Commercial Delivery & Parking

13 Jan

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 Administrative Conditional Use application states:

In order to address the potential parking and traffic impacts of commercial deliveries for both the existing and proposed use, the Volunteer Park Café and Marketplace has made a request to SDOT that a 30 minute (sic) load unload zone be placed in adjacent to the restaurant.

Once a solution is identified, Volunteer Park Café and Marketplace will share it with neighborhood representatives to make sure they prefer the proposed solution to the current situation.

Currently, VPC has put no resolution into effect. Furthermore, all other feasible locations for the proposed 30-minute zone would simply move the traffic disruption to that area.

Illegal delivery parking creates hazard. (Sept., 2010)

 

Commercial delivery vehicles park on the planting strip on Galer, immediately west of the 17th & Galer intersection:

  • blocking the sight triangle at 17th and Galer by parking;
  • blocking the view up Galer to the west. (This condition is compounded by pedestrians crossing to/from the VPC as well as pedestrian and automobile traffic due to Stevens Elementary School just one block east.)

Galer delivery: identical parking, luckily no school bus

The intensity of the impact, quantified by the number of daily deliveries, has increased from that of the grocery store.

VPC’s Application: Owners Compound Parking Problems

7 Jan

Photo A: Co-owner Earnhardt blocks hydrant

As noted here, VPC’s owners usually drive their cars to work.

Photo A shows VPC Co-owner Heather Earnhardt parked so as to block access to the fire hydrant directly across from her own restaurant. There are many legal spots available.

Photo B shows a parking double-whammy: one Monday last summer, VPC was closed per its usual hours. Plenty of parking spots. However, a VPC vendor parked in the stop sign “red zone” in front of the VPC. Across the street, Co-owners Ericka Burke and Heather Earnhardt each parked illegally, blocking the fire hydrant.

Photo B: delivery truck in red zone while across the street, both owners illegally block hydrant.

VPC’s Application: Customer Parking Impacts

3 Jan

17th Ave. E., facing north (VPC open)

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

As we state here: “VPC’s application tries to downplay VPC’s success by stating that it rarely reaches full occupancy.” The section related to  “Parking” {page 2, #3} is a classic example.

We experience parking impacts daily, particularly on weekends. VPC relies entirely on on-street parking. Its customers monopolize parking spaces that would normally be associated with residences.

This issue did not exist when a grocery store operated at this location.

17th Ave. E., facing north (VPC closed)

VPC offers no hard data on traffic or customer travel habits, nor does it demonstrate how they know whether or not their patrons drive. Instead, C-owner Ericka Burke offers weak assurances that many current employees walk or bike to work. This is an unsubstantiated claim. It cannot be relied upon to determine impact.

Additionally:

  • any and all of those employees could quit and be replaced by workers who drive to VPC;
  • both owners live far from the restaurant. They usually drive their cars to work;
  • VPC attracts people from well beyond the Capitol Hill neighborhood. They are listed in the worldwide guide, Zagat.
  • The grocery store drew from the local neighborhood.

In October, 2010, Volunteer Park Neighbors undertook a parking study. Photographs and parking counts documented significant differences in parked vehicles on Mondays (VPC closed) vs. Saturday (brunchtime).

Results of parking study (Oct. 4 - Oct. 9, 2010)

Click here to see the zones we established for the purpose of our parking study.

Notes on the Seattle Land Use Code

  • The Code calculates parking for a restaurant at 1 stall/250 SF.
  • For sales & service – general, the requirement is 1/500 SF.
  • The restaurant parking impact based upon this simple measure is double that of a grocery store.

In its application,VPC states that the City Land Use Code excuses it from providing off-street parking. Setting aside for a moment the puzzling fact that VPC quotes Land Use Code while operating illegally, the lack of an off-street parking requirement does not excuse VPC from mitigating its own impacts.

On Nov. 17th 2010: Seattle’s Department of Planning & Development (DPD) issued a Corrections Required notice, asking VPC to provide a parking study comparing the neighborhood parking impact of the previous legal use (a grocery store) to that of the restaurant the are proposing.