Our Story

Neighbors' primary objection: commercial use of VPC's back patio

Along with much of the neighborhood, we became good customers of VPC as soon as they opened, on the Big Snow Day of January 2007. We loved what they were doing with the food. The owners seemed community-oriented, throwing a pumpkin-carving party even before they opened, and later treating their regulars like friends. We embraced VPC as a neighbor, not just a business, rarely complaining as they increased their impact: lengthening their hours, spreading out on the sidewalk, generating more car traffic, and mishandling garbage.

In 2007, none of the neighbors realizied the extent to which VPC did not understand their zoning or their land-use restrictions. We have since found that due to negligence, and even illegal actions, every element of VPC’s hard work, good food, charming atmosphere, and low-keyed elegance was (and by and large remains) illegal. The illegalities began before they threw their pumpkin-carving party and continue today.

We knew none of this in 2007. We still believed that VPC was a neighborhood asset with a few operational problems that the owners could address easily.

To our dismay, they did not. To the contrary, the impacts increased as the restaurant became more and more successful. The level of impacts began to outweigh the clear advantage of having a cafe on the corner. A photo of one of the more revolting impacts (rats) follows:.

Warning: photo of dead rat comes next.

Dead rat in VPC's backyard (May 2010)

Then, in early 2010, the owners started building a patio that seemed capable of doubling total seating. Co-Owner Ericka Burke told a Seattle Weekly food writer that she planned to offer outdoors lunch, dinner, and special events. She said she wanted to cook the restaurant’s meat on an outdoor barrel barbecue.
Neighbors had reached their limit.

We asked VPC owners to meet with us, or at the very least, to clarify the ever-changing statements they were making to the press and to their customers about their plans for the back patio. We asked for four months. Month after month, the owners refused to cooperate.

As a last resort, neighbors turned to the City. The Department of Public Development (DPD) suggested we file a complaint.

To be clear: we cited VPC’s illegal conversion of the ‘grocery’ – for which they were zoned and had land-use for – to a restaurant – for which they had neither.

We did so knowing that DPD would order VPC to cease construction on the patio until they addressed the illegality of their land-use. A great deal of misinformation ensued, creating anger and bitterness in the community. We hope this blog can help clarify our position.

VPC missed two filing deadlines for the required Administration Conditional Use application, a formal request to change their land-use, thereby legalizing the restaurant (confusingly: that already existed). Instead of filing on time, VPC used the summer months to complete the patio and begin service. Throughout, the DPD continued to allow them to operate illegally.

DPD is in the process of reviewing VPC’s application and making their decision.

We feel that the building, built in 1905 as a small grocery with an apartment above and a residential yard in back, is at capacity with about 40 indoor seats.

Please see this page for the most concise description of the current situation.

 

 

 

 

 


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