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VPC again ordered to correct and re-submit floor plans

23 Mar

For the second time, DPD has ordered VPC to correct and re-submit floor plans for its proposed land-use change.

The restaurant’s recently submitted plans (requested from DPD in Dec., 2010) omitted correct building plans for the 2nd floor. VPC set up an office where legal use allows only for a studio apartment or similar residential use. The improper office is still in use.

DPD (Seattle’s Department of Planning & Development) also is reviewing a Parking Study it requested from VPC in mid-November, 2010, (submitted on March 14th, 2011, with the above-mentioned corrections of floor plans). DPD stated it needed such a Study to compare parking impacts of the small grocery (that existed until 2002, as the last legal use for the building) with that of the proposed use (the restaurant now operating illegally).

VPC’s study doesn’t attempt to compare the actual parking demand of VPC to that of the defunct grocery.

  • Instead, VPC cites generic numbers from a guide used by parking planners; which states that
  • in an urban setting, a small grocery or convenience store generates about half the parking demand of a small restaurant.

This important to DPD’s decision regarding the legalization of Volunteer Park Café:

  • the City’s zoning laws are supposed to protect homeowners against a big increase in the impacts caused by a business “grandfathered” into a residential neighborhood.

You can read the most recent correction notice here. The document is public record.

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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.

Next: Building Permit CompliancePlease subscribe to our blog.

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.

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.

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 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.

List of Confirmed Violations by Volunteer Park Café since 2006

26 Oct

Staff not permitted to serve (ie: carry out) anything to sidewalk customers. No alcohol at all is permitted outside 'grocery' space.

Volunteer Park Cafe has been open for more than 4 years without the required zoning permit.

  • This includes nearly one year since the City identified it as a violator.
  • The City is allowing the restaurant to stay open until it resolves it’s current land-use violation.

In May, 2010, VPC stated publicly, “We are not in violation and are legally compliant. We just need to change our non-conforming use.”

  • The statement followed directly VPC’s zoning violation from The Department of Planning & Development (DPD).
  • At that time, we knew only that VPC was operating outside its nonconforming use of “grocery.”
  • We have since learned that  VPC has a long list of land-use violations.

Reading it can be disorienting, especially for those who experience VPC solely as a well-looked-after customer. We have documentation for every claim.

1. No Use Permit

  • VPC opened as a restaurant without obtaining the necessary land-use approvals.  in other words, VPC has operated illegally since the day they opened.
  • Their current location, 1501 17th Ave. E., is part of a Single Family 5000 zone (single-family residences on lots no smaller than 5,000 square feet).
  • City of Seattle Land Use Code allows “non-conforming” uses under certain conditions.
  • The only business approved for 1501 17th Ave E. is a grocery; this non-conforming use applies only to the inside of the first floor of the building.
  • The second floor and back yard are ‘residential,’ in keeping with neighborhood zoning and land-use.
  • VPC is currently seeking a land-use change to allow ‘restaurant’ use of the first and second floors of 1501.

2. No Building Permit

  • VPC made changes to the interior of the building, including construction of a new commercial kitchen.
  • Permits helps ensure that fire safety and other codes are being met.
  • Fire safety is one of our primary concerns, given the occupied residential units above the restaurant, and the proximity of VPC to our homes.

3. No Sidewalk Permits

Sidewalk tables ready for standard but illegal dinner service.

  • When it opened in 2007, had no SDOT permit for sidewalk seating.
  • Soon after opening, the restaurant began serving food and alcohol on the sidewalk front of the restaurant’s entrance.
  • VPC applied for sidewalk permits in the spring of 2010. SDOT turned down the request.
  • In August, 2010, VPC obtained sidewalk permits.
  • VPC now has two (2) Street Use permits.
  • One is granted for the area directly in front of the building’s entry on 17th Ave. East. The second is for the stretch of the building that runs along Galer.

4. Misuse of Sidewalk Permits

  • Both permits (Use Code 14B) have the following restrictions:

¤ A maximum of four tables; two chairs each, open to the public.

¤ No alcohol permitted.

¤ Pedestrian passage of 5’-0” maintained at all times.

¤ No service of food or beverage permitted.

  • Through the summer of 2010, VPC’s standard sidewalk set-up used all tables and chairs on the front sidewalk (17th Ave. E.).
  • This set-up violated the required 5-foot passage.
  • VPC served lunches and dinners, including alcohol, in clear violation of the SDOT permit.

5. Misrepresentation on application for liquor liscence.

  • VPC stated incorrectly that they were a legally permitted use.
  • VPC failed to disclose their proximity to a school as required under the law.

6. In early 2010, VPC began building a patio area in the backyard with a clear intent to use it for commercial purposes.

  • Again, VPC did not seek the necessary land use approvals.

Oct. 12, 2010: illegal commercial use of back patio.

7. Use of Patio after DPD Warning and Violation Notices

  • Despite full knowledge as of spring 2010 that the patio could not legally be used for commercial purposes, VPC held backyard events on at least 3 occasions over the summer.
  • At this time VPC had not legalized their restaurant, let alone obtained legal land-use for commercial use of the patio.
  • Violations continued even after VPC submitted the application stating that they did not plan to use the patio for commercial purposes.

We have always been willing to live with — and enjoy — a legally compliant 40-seat restaurant, despite VPC’s impacts involving noise, traffic, parking, cooking odors, garbage overflows and more.

We’re not willing to live with the possibility of 30 more seats on a patio or use of the 2nd floor, and the ensuing greater impacts on our families.

DPD responds to latest patio misuse, 10/12.

24 Oct

As updated here, yesterday, Seattle’s DPD responded to our concern that VPC was getting up to its old tricks, serving on the patio for which they are not zoned.

According to the DPD, “Ericka said they had a photo shoot for a magazine. She also said that she asked those young people to leave when she saw them and the tables were removed when they were completed.”

VPC proved long ago that they get their way by getting away with the little stuff first. Right now, they have their hearts set on opening the back patio.

  • Civilians shoot a bunch of pictures. A photo shoot is a commercial activity.
  • VPC does not have zoning to use the patio for commercial purposes.
  • Unless the upstairs residents invited those young people as their guests and VPC did not charge them for their food, they are customers.
  • VPC is not zoned to serve customers on the patio.

VPC is in the middle of a defining public process. Now is the time for them to demonstrate that they understand that mitigating their impact is critical to running a business in a residential neighborhood; that in fact, it is the only way they will be allowed to do so.

Maybe VPC forgot to move the chairs. Maybe they forgot to lock the gates and someone saw the pretty set-up and thought it was OK to eat there. Maybe VPC forgot to mention to a customer who was heading out-doors with their VPC plate settings that dining on the patio was illegal. It sounds like VPC let them finish their meal.

Hold VPC accountable for the business decisions that impact the neighbors.

Perhaps accountability will give Ericka and Heather the motivation to move tempting chairs, to mention to customers that they are not yet allowed to eat outside.

New page: Your DPD Letter

14 Oct

By popular demand, we are launching a page devoted to ideas and language you can adapt for your comment letters to DPD, deadline: Oct. 27th. *Scroll down for information about VPC’s back patio.*

First, however, the neighbors recommend that you read about the core issue up for public comment:

Should VPC be allowed to change their current land use from operating a ‘grocery’ as the single exemption in a residential neighborhood to operating a restaurant, also as the sole exemption in a residential area.

Galer blocked on school mornings

In the close-to-four years since VPC has opened, they have more than doubled the impacts of any previous business in 1501 17th Ave. E. Should anyone wish to gauge impact, compare any time of any day of the week with the comparable time on any Monday, when VPC is closed.

The DPD wants to know if you have experienced negative impacts related to:

  • traffic (there is considerably more of it, leading to unsafe parking and illegal u-turns)
  • delivery parking (there is no place for delivery trucks to park without blocking a street, alley, or sightline)
  • noise (early morning set-up; closing clean-up,; garbage and recycling, city service as well as VPC’s; customers from wine dinners and Sunday Suppers pouring onto the street up to as late as 11:30pm)
  • Cooking odors (meats, garlic, pizza, baked goods; what if you are diabetic, or on a diet?)
  • housing values
  • Garbage and scavenders do not influence DPD’s decision. The city maintains that VPC should be able to address those issue. That they have not and may never does not matter to the City. Those issues should (and are, by Volunteer Park Neighbors) be addressed with departments of transportation, police, etc.

Be as specific as you can.

  • Rather than, “Back in the day, we could (insert issue) and now, because of VPC (insert difference) ” use specific instances: dates, months, seasons and/or years.
  • Rather than saying, “I’m worried about housing values” ask an agent or realtor for an assessment.
  • If you have a photo or video clip of what the street used to be like related to the issue you are describing, include it in your submission. If not, take a photo of VPC on any Monday, when it is closed.
  • It is particularly effective to include an image of the current situation related to your issue.
  • You are legally allowed to take photos as long as you stay on city property (street, sidewalk) or on private property with the permission of the owner, .
  • Although you are legally allowed to enter VPC, Volunteer Park Neighbors does not support this action. We have never done so and do not intend to. VPC gives us ample opportunity to document infringements without unduly disturbing their business.
  • People eating outside understand they risk being photographed in an illegal situation. If restaurant customers are uncomfortable, Volunteer Park Neighbors have long suggested that they eat inside the restaurant. Our goal has always been to keep VPC operations to what is reasonable to ask the neighborhood to support: first floor, inside the building.

Patio used illegally (8/5/10); half the number we can expect for outdoor dinners

In your letter, point to concerns you have regarding VPC’s stated intent to use their newly-built patio for lunch and dinner service, for wine dinners and Sunday suppers, for additional special events, and for out-door grilling of meats.

To be clear: VPC’s current proposal relates only to creating a legal situation for their currently illegal use of the grocery space on the first floor.

  • They wish to change their current zoning to reflect that which they have operated as from the day they opened: a restaurant.
  • In their submission to the DPD, the language regarding the back patio is at the very least, intellectually dishonest.
  • To date. VPC has illegally: remodeled to include a commercial kitchen, operated as a restaurant when zoned as grocery and leased as cafe; expanded menu offerings; expanded use of sidewalk seating; and now, opened a back patio.
  • Their words and actions show clearly that they have no intention to stay off the back patio.
  • Every single expansion of their operation has been taken without permitting, without consultation with the neighbors regarding possible impacts, without pro-actively offering offsets, and without willingness to address anything until neighbors brought down the hammer.

If history teaches us anything, we can count on the following:

  • Once VPC legalizes their first floor as a restaurant, they will serve out back without permitting. In fact, they already have.
  • They will ignore neighbors’ complaints.
  • The back patio could conceivably double VPC’s current impact (which, in itself, is double the impact of any previous business).
  • Many customers will have no problem with the impact on our neighborhood. Approximately 40% drive (and park) here from other parts of the city.
  • Customers will come to expect back patio service. Many in the neighborhood will accept it.

In the words of one concerned neighbor, “We could be talking about a high-end Bennigan’s.”

Please submit your letter to DPD by Oct. 27th.

Parking impact

10 Oct

View from neighbor's driveway.

Cafe customer completely blocks a neighbor’s driveway.

We are shocked that we were able to take this photo during the public comment period resulting from VPC’s request for a land-use change. The land-use change process asks VPC to demonstrate that their business would cause no more impact than the previous legal use of the space: a grocery store.

If VPC cannot try to reduce their parking impact during the public comment period, we have no reason to believe that that would make any attempt during a standard business operations.

Double-whammy parking impact.

16 Aug

12:30pm at corner of 17th and Galer.

Two parking impacts at once: delivery truck blocks “Stop” sign and red zone, while across the street in the shade, two cars block the fire hydrant.

The two parked cars belong to VPC owners Ericka Burke and Heather Earnhardt.

Note all the available legal parking.

Bike parked on neighbor’s plants.

15 Jul

For unfathomable reasons, cafe customers “park” bikes on neighbor’s plants.

Parking impact: truck delivery.

14 May

Is parking so congested on 17th Ave E. as well as Galer, that truck parks in the red zone? Or is it just closer to the door?

Did VPC owners ask the truck to re-park legally? Or is there no space on 17th, Galer, or in the alley behind VPC for a truck to legally park for delivery?