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DPD releases draft of VPC permit

29 Apr

CHS today published the draft of the conditions The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is considering in response to VPC’s application to change the non-conforming use.

The conditions are being imposed by the City.

Every resident has exactly the same power: to make our needs known to DPD through the public process. Every resident was invited to submit letters, to attend the public meeting, and to continue discussions with DPD as they saw fit. As a result of everyone’s input, DPD is making its decision.

  • DPD allowed VPC to operate throughout the entirety of the decision-making process.
  • DPD was within their rights to shut it down. They did not.
  • VP Neighbors never pressed them to.
  • The neighborhood has never had to live without VPC and never has to.

At the public meeting, Ericka stated more than once that she accepts the conditions laid out by the City.

  • She said she will stay profitable under these conditions and that she had no intention to close.
  • She is willing to work with the neighborhood to address our concerns.
  • We are grateful to her for the opportunity to move forward.

Those who wish to support the cafe’s clear efforts to make this right need to follow Ericka’s example.

If those who do make themselves know to us — through this blog, our blog, or in person — we will thank you, as well.


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.

CHS: “Inside Volunteer Park Cafe’s application.”

1 Oct

Subtitled “9 proposals to be a better neighbor,” CHS (aka: the Capitol Hill blog) opens their article with:

CHS has reviewed VPC’s application — and a two-inch stack of support letters the cafe submitted with the application — and has details below as well as information about how you can add your support to the VPC stack, voice your concerns about allowing the change of use, or both.

You can read the full article here.

VPC’s application now public record.

29 Sep

Today, the Deaprtment of Planning and Development (DPD) made public VPC’s Administrative Conditional Use application. In the document, applicant Ericka Burke formally requests a change in land-use of the space VPC rents from ‘grocery’ to ‘an eating and drinking establishment.’

The application is not available on-line. Anyone wishing to review VPC’s proposal will need to truck on down to  DPD’s Public Resource Center at the Seattle Municial Building. You want to read Project #3011437.

In the following days, we will be posting our opinions. You can read our overview here. You can also take a look at what we feel is a somewhat limited analysis by CHS (aka: the Capitol Hill blog.)

CHS: “Volunteer Park Cafe’s paperwork is in.”

24 Sep

Subtitled “Public process on restaurant’s future begins” CHS (aka: The Capitol Hill blog) writes:

We have confirmed that the application has been accepted by the city but not yet posted in the Department of Planning and Development land use bulletins so the clock is not yet ticking for interested parties to submit their feedback on the application. Once the bulletin goes up – and a notice is posted at the cafe – there will be a two week public comment period. During those 14 days, neighbors, community members and Seattle foodies can send in their feedback to DPD …

Once feedback is collected, the DPD planner will conduct an analysis, weigh feedback and write a decision. After the decision is published, there will be another 14-day period for additional public feedback.

You can read the full post here.

King 5 News: “Volunteer Park Cafe’s success not popular with all neighbors.”

2 Sep

Today, Eric Wilkinson of KING 5 News filed this report:

SEATTLE – The Volunteer Park Café is a place where people really do know your name. It’s a place where they sell honey handmade by a 14-year-old neighbor and where grow their own vegetables along the sidewalk outside …  Co-owner Heather Earnhardt says it’s because they’re all about building community.

But the café may be a victim of its own success. For nearly a century it operated as a quiet corner grocery store. Now it’s a full-scale restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week, and leaving neighbors with some unwanted leftovers … People living around the restaurant say a grocery store is grandfathered in to their quiet neighborhood by city codes, but a restaurant is not.

“It’s not legal,” (Cliff Meyer) said … He and others point to evidence of parking problems, noise and a possible expansion that could double the number of customers.

“They really have to work with their neighbors and be good neighbors. They’re burning us right now,” he said.

The cafe’s owners insist they’re trying to do right by the neighborhood.

You can read the full report and view the segment here.

Seattle Weekly: “Morning Food News: Volunteer Park Cafe Plans to Stay Put, Despite Complaints.”

1 Sep

Today, Erica Hobart wrote:

​Regardless of neighbor complaints, the owners of Volunteer Park Cafe confirmed they plan to file a change of use application with the Department of Planning, according to Capitol Hill Seattle. A neighbor filed a dispute earlier this year, citing a violation of zoning regulations, when the restaurant announced plans to add a garden and outdoor seating.

The cafe will continue to operate as always once the application has been received by the department and community members will be able to share comments for consideration in their decision. Once a decision is made, there will be room for the public to appeal as well. In other words, the restaurant’s final fate will likely remain unknown until fall.

CHS: “Volunteer Park Cafe confident as time comes to determine if it stays on Galer.”

31 Aug
Today, reporter “seadevi” at CHS (aka: The Capitol Hill Blog) wrote:

… way back in June when the idea of a cafe suddenly finding itself operating in a development zone it isn’t supposed to be operating in sounded like a big, scary thing. Now that’s it late August, everything is coming up roses, it seems, for Volunteer Park Cafe.

CHS spoke with VPC’s Ericka Burke who confirmed that the cafe will file its change of use application in the next two weeks with DPD and is confident that they have City Hall’s support in continuing in the space where they opened their doors in January 2007.

Once the change of use application is filed, the public will have a two-week period of time to submit comments. Burke expressed confidence in VPC’s continued viability and said that Seattle’s Office of Economic Development has been working closely with her and fellow owner Heather Earnhardt in filing their change of use application.

But there are still some thorny issues to work out and the possibility that the neighbor who originally made the complaint to DPD will get litigious and bring an expensive lawyer to the table.

Despite a “compliance due” date of July 1st, DPD has continued to allow the cafe to operate and the department has said VPC will be allowed to continue operating as the public process plays out.

You can read the full article here.

CHS: “Neighbors have plenty to say about Volunteer Park Cafe.”

31 Aug

As a companion piece to his earlier article, editor “jseattle” at CHS (aka: The Capitol Hill blog) wrote the first news piece showing the conflict from other than VPC’s perspective:

Unlike two other news outlets in the city covering this story, we haven’t mentioned his name on CHS until now. Here’s why. The man who made the original complaint to the Department of Planning and Development about Volunteer Park Cafe’s land-use issues wasn’t the only neighbor to complain to the City of Seattle, a group forming to represent neighbors in the area says.

According to the group, the situation at 17th Ave and Galer isn’t Paul Jones vs. Volunteer Park Cafe. It’s a growing group of residents who live nearby and have concerns about the scale the popular restaurant is trying to achieve …

Jones said he took his concerns up with the cafe in February and was informed that the owners had been advised by a lawyer that their use of the space was legitimate. Jones said he knew better and filed the complaint with DPD in May.

Jones also tells CHS that he didn’t intend to be part of the story. “You’re the first people I’ve talked to,” Jones said. “When I made the complaint, the city said my name would be confidential. ‘We highly recommend you not communicate with the owner and that you allow the city to handle this,’ they said.”

When CHS asked DPD staff to provide names of neighbors who had complained in the situation, we were told the names of complainants were confidential.

You can read the full article here.

SLOG: “Volunteer Park Cafe Faces Closure Due to Neighbor Complaint.”

29 Jun

Today, Cienna Madrid posted on SLOG (the blog run by The Stranger weekly magazine):

For the past few months, Volunteer Park Cafe (VPC), a corner cafe located on 17th Avenue and E Galer Street, has been developing their vacant, weedy backyard space into a small patio with raised garden beds. Eventually, owners Ericka Burke and Heather Earnhardt planned on adding a chicken coop and a few tables for customers. “It’s basically a garden with seating for overflow,” says Earnhardt. “We wanted a few more tables for customers to sit while they wait for their coffee.”

But their plans have been put on hold after Paul Jones, their closest neighbor, complained to owners about their project. “He seemed to think we’re expanding our business, but we’re not,” Earnhardt says. “Frankly, our kitchen can’t support any more customers” … VPC owners allege that Jones hasn’t been happy with them since they moved in three years ago, and now he’s trying to get them shut down.

“He’s about the only person in the neighborhood who’s never been in the cafe—except to complain,” says Earnhardt. “He’s complained from the get-go about parking, about our compost being eaten by squirrels… ” Jones couldn’t be reached for comment.

Now what began as a fight over patio seating has turned into a battle for the entire cafe: If the DPD doesn’t grant VPC a restaurant permit, the cafe will close.

You can read the full article here.

CHS: “Neighbor puts Volunteer Park Cafe in a pickle over plans for outdoor seating.”

27 Jun
Today, Capital Hill Seattle (CHS; aka: the Capitol Hill blog) posts its version of the events unfolding at 17th & Galer. “jseattle” writes:

A complaint filed by a neighbor with a bone to pick has owners Ericka Burke and Heather Earnhardt scrambling not just to make sure they have the proper permits for their new garden and sidewalk seating plans but also filing paperwork for the restaurant as a whole …

A message posted inside the cafe on Sunday afternoon notified customers that a video was being shot in another effort to illustrate support. Also posted was a fresh DPD permit application notice for sidewalk cafe seating dated June 21.

Photos: CHS

You might have noted that the original complaint was made to the city back in mid-May. In the e-mail, VPC’s owners say they tried to make a “win-win” situation but apparently time has run out. The DPD warning shown above requires compliance by July 1.

You can read the full post here.

VPC publicly attacks neighbor, requests support.

25 Jun

**Updated 10/08/10: In retrospect, it appears that this action  by VPC — posting of the flyer and concurrent e-mail of identical misinformation to the press, customers and friends — lead directly to a spate of inflammatory and ill-informed articles which generated literally hundreds of vituperative posts. The result is a bitter, combative and painfully public fracas, benefitting no one.

Yesterday, Volunteer Park Cafe contacted their customers with a page-long message, beginning:

An unhappy neighbor is making our lives difficult. He is unhappy about the beautiful garden and patio we are building. We have on many occasions tried to make this a win-win situation for both parties, but he has chosen to go directly to the city… {sic} And unfortunately, because he knows his way around codes and the permitting issues, he has uncovered a very unfortunate zoning issue with the cafe.

On an unspecified date, the cafe posted the identical message as a flyer in their window. (Flyer not dated.) Below is an electronic copy of the flyer:

Burke e-mails community with inaccurate information

24 Jun

Again in “Nosh Pit,” Jessica Voelker covers the VPC story.

On June 24 (today), Burke wrote a group email detailing an unhappy situation with a Capitol Hill resident who wants to prevent the cafe from serving outdoors. The neighbor researched the property’s permit history, discovering that it was zoned as a grocery store (the building housed a grocery for many years) and not a cafe. Burke says her lease indicates the property to be a cafe …

Burke asked recipients to help VPC staff see their backyard dreams become reality by sending letters of support, expressing affection for the cafe (and the patio and garden in particular) …

According to the DPD website, a complaint was filed on May 18 with the following note: “The grocery has expanded its use with a cafe.” The complaint is unresolved.

You can read the full article here.

Seattle Weekly: “From the Gut: Volunteer Park Cafe Blooms in Spring.”

6 May

Jason Sheehan writes:

What’s actually going on is a massive project by Heather Earnhardt and Ericka Burke to make use of the yard behind the cafe … There’s new outdoor seating going in on a patio built from bricks reclaimed from Capitol Hill’s Packard Building. When that’s done, it’ll be set with custom chairs and tables also made from reclaimed wood, padded out with cushions made from reclaimed burlap coffee sacks and arranged around a brand new barrel BBQ made for outdoor prix fixe dinners … served at lunch and dinner.

VPC is going to be rolling out a series of Sunday Suppers: three-course family style meals served in the garden … These dinners are scheduled to start June 27, go off the last Sunday of each month, and run through the end of September.

You can read the full article here.

Seattle Met: “Summer Plans: Volunteer Park Cafe.”

27 Apr

In today’s edition of “Nosh Pit,” Jessica Voelker posts “Summer Plans,” subtitled: “The neighborhood restaurant on Capitol Hill will be ground zero for good times this summer.” Voelker writes:

I went to check out VPC’s new chicken coop, behind the restaurant in a backyard area that is currently being dug up to create a raised-bed garden and an outdoor-seating area made from repurposed bricks … The restaurant will also be introducing a Sunday supper series this summer, to be held on the last Sunday in June, July, August, and September. It will be a three-course, family-style dinner on the patio. The price is TBD but will be in the neighborhood of $25.

You can read the full article here.

CHS: “Volunteer Park Cafe will raise chickens, expand garden.”

19 Mar
Today, CHS (aka: Capitol Hill blog) reports on VPC’s plans to expand service to include their back yard. This is the first time neighbors hear of the proposed expansion. CHS quotes the cafe’s representative, Kristen Graham, saying:
As you have probably noticed, the garden is a work in  progress. The goal is to have chickens in the garden area by April 1. VPC will have three-five hens (Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, and Arucauna) and they will be pullets (layers under one-year). Eggs will be used for special occasion dinners, wine dinners, Sunday Summer Supper (starting in June) and special desserts.
{NOTE: Seattle’s Department of Public Development has no record of VPC filing for a zoning change or building permit for the proposed project.}