Tag Archives: neighbor relations

44.3% oppose VPC’s request to change land-use to restaurant; also oppose patio.

18 Apr

From Sept. 30th through Oct. 27th, 2010, The Department of Planning & Development (DPD) held a public comment period in response to VPC’s application to change their land-use (currently ‘grocery’) to allow for a restaurant. During this period, we canvassed for neighborhood sentiment. 

  • We found that 44.3% of the residents we were able to assess opposed VPC’s request.
  • This same 44.3% stated an objection to the use of VPC’s back patio for commercial purposes.

Our canvassing was separate from the DPD’s comment period. Many residents took part in both.

Let us be the first to say that the results knocked us backward.

From the get-go, the media portrayed us as a single, cranky neighbor who was trying to shut down VPC. Later, VPC’s Web page called us “a small (but vocal!!) minority.” Though VPC had dropped the “trying to shut down,” that was the message which continued to wrongly—and painfully—define the debate.

Going door-to-door, we felt opinion shifting.

  • We did not, however, expect to find that the largest single opinion would align with ours.
  • We recognize that our results reveal a surprising sea change in neighborhood opinion.

Which is not to say that the restaurant finds itself without support. A significant proportion of those whose position we were able to assess—45.6%—favored VPC’s land-use change, compared to 44.3% against.

VPC’s support came in degrees:

  • 12% favored ‘restaurant’ change and patio use; and
  • 33.6% favored ‘restaurant’ but not patio, or said they did not yet understand enough about the patio use to state an opinion.

Finally, 10.1% remained undecided about the issue as a whole.

Primary objection is to patio use

Concern over VPC’s patio expansion originally lead the group now known as VP Neighbors to file a complaint with DPD. In 2010, the restaurant had been operating outside their legal zoning for more than three years. (In May, 2010, DPD found VPC in violation.)

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

We are not willing to live with the possibility of 30 or  more seats on a patio or use of the second floor.

  • The ensuing impacts on our lives and on our families would be too great.
  • For this reason, we ask VPC and the property owner to sign a legal document that would clearly limit commercial use to the first floor of the building.
  • If they can do so, we can support the legalization of a reasonably sized restaurant from which the whole community can benefit forever.

Beyond any concern we have about VPC, we are concerned that any future owner or renter could use the patio without permitting. Maybe the City would do some-thing, maybe not. The neighbors don’t want to find out.

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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: 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: 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.

44.3% oppose VPC’s request to change land-use to restaurant, also oppose patio.

20 Nov

Shocked at robust support, VP Neighbors aims to engage neighbors in productive dialogue.

During the public comment period held by the Dept. of Planning and Development (DPD) regarding VPC’s bid to legalize as a ‘restaurant,’ we canvassed the neighborhood.

  • We found that 44.3% of residents opposed VPC’s request for a land-use change from ‘grocery’ to ‘an eating and drinking establishment.’
  • This same 44.3% is against the use of VPC’s back patio for food service or preparation.

Let us be the first to say that the results knocked us backward. From the get-go, VPC and the media portrayed us as just one “cranky” neighbor. Later, a VPC Web page called us “a small (but vocal!!) minority.” As we went went door-to-door, we felt a shift in opinion. We did not, however, expect to find that the single, largest opinion would align with ours.

We recognize that these results demonstrate a sea change. Thank you, neighbors.

None of this is to say that VPC finds itself without support. 45.6% were for the proposed change, in varying degrees:

  • 18% favored ‘restaurant’ change and back patio use;
  • 27% favored ‘restaurant’ but not patio, or do not yet know enough about patio use to state an opinion;

Finally, 10.1% remained undecided about the issue as a whole.

Our canvassing effort is separate from the DPD public comment period (9/30 to 10/27). Many residents participated in both.

We feel important to note that  our findings affect DPD’s ultimate decision only so far as:

  • DPD responds to concerns raised in residents’ letters; and
  • we offered to support VPC’s ‘restaurant’ if the owners would contain their business to the lease they signed and the zoning restrictions of the neighborhood they chose. VPC refused. {http://wp.me/p13gjT-D7w.}

We stress these points to underline that our goal has always been to prevent commercial use of VPC’s back patio. Instead, we hope that our canvassing result’s clarification of the neighborhood’s position will clear the way for a new and more productive dialogue.

Next step: small-group salons

Our canvassing process

19 Nov

We started at the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) with the file for Project 3011437. From the two-inch stack of letters, we complied a database of names, addresses, and notes on positions. Then we hit the streets.

During the public comment period, we canvassed 112 residents in 70 homes on 16th, 17th, and 18th Avenues E., between Garfield and Highland. Most were in the area defined by DPD as most impacted by VPC’s proposal. In instances where the DPD area stopped halfway up the street, we finished out the block.

We had no reason to demonstrate a false narrative that did not hold water with the DPD. Our opening question was: “I’d like to sound you out on the café issue.” At the end of each talk—some lasting up to an hour—we asked residents to define their current opinion as one of four options:

  • pro-restaurant and pro-patio;
  • against restaurant and against patio;
  • pro-restaurant but against or undecided about patio; or
  • undecided.

In the event that we were unable to speak with a resident who had sent an opinion to DPD, we recorded that opinion as stated in the letter.

The results:

  • 18.0% pro-restaurant and pro-patio:
  • 44.3% against restaurant and against patio:
  • 27.% pro-restaurant but against or undecided about patio; and
  • 10.1% undecided.

Fully expecting to encounter the ferocity that rages proximal to VPC and in public forums on the Web, we were astounded at the number of residents stating they had no more than a general sense that VPC was expanding and that some neighbors objected. Only one resident shut the door after asking the canvasser’s point of view. The exchange was civil.

The next step: small-group salons.

UPDATED 4/18/11

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.

Final advice for DPD letters

25 Oct

Letters to Seattle’s Deat. of Public Development” are due Wed., Oct. 27th. Volunteer Park Neighbors encourages anyone who misses the deadline to submit, regardless. We are engaged in a public process that includes a number of phases, any of which can be influenced by your opinion.

Your letter to DPD doesn’t have to be a definitive statement about the situation or an up-or-down vote. DPD wants to hear your questions, observations, and suggestions as much as they want your opinion about impacts on the neighborhood. For example:

VPC’s inability to accept their responsibility in addressing the impacts of their business on our neighborhood and on our lives is why, at this time, we do not support their request to legally operate the restaurant they have been operating illegally at our expense.

Click here for additional information regarding VPC’s misuse of their illegal back patio and how that might influence your letter.

Volunteer Park Neighbors is asking the City to deny VPC’s zoning change on the grounds that:

  • they operate at a shocking level of illegality; and
  • they are clearly intent on expanding to include a patio, which, according to our data, the majority of the neighborhood feels would cause too many negative impacts.

Rather than expanding, VPC should put their energy in to legalizing their existing business.

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.

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.)

Neighbors, VPC meet for second time.

12 Sep

This evening, a group of neighbors met at VPC with the cafe owners, one cafe employee, and Roque (pronounced: “Rocky”) Deherrera, from the Office of Economic Development at the City of Seattle. It was 4 days before their deadline for submitting the application to legalize their restaurant.

Neighbors were hoping VPC owners would demonstrate a serious effort to rebuild the trust they lost during the months they defamed their next-door neighbor and ignored concerns of others

At the meeting, we covered the following points:

  • The cafe intend to submit for conditional use application on September 17th.
  • They plan to include the current restaurant area and the small office upstairs and the basement (for storage) in their submittal.
  • They don’t plan to pursue permission to use the backyard for outdoor activity.
  • They intend to continue to use the sidewalk.
  • They stated that the building owner is on board with their plans.
  • They volunteered that they are not going to apply for a hard liquor license.

Responding to specifics from our letter:

Garbage: they say they have increased pickup to 3 per week, which the neighbors maintain is not adequate.

  • The cafe plans to construct a garbage enclosure, and offered to dump all bottles before 8 pm.
  • They listed Terminix as their contractor for pest control.

Odors: discussed non-compliance of their current exhaust fan and the odors wafting into neighbors’ yards.

  • Cafe asked if neighbors would be supportive of barbequing in the backyard for occasional events.
  • Neighbors said, “No.”

Noise: neighbors clarified concerns about reflected noise and noise at clean-up; reiterated that they would not support sidewalk seating of any sort.

Traffic: cafe acknowledged issues with deliveries.

  • Said that, three weeks prior, began working with SDOT discussing a 30 minute Load Zone (which may be located on the south side of Galer).
  • Discussed Galer, Auburn, Garfield, and 17th and possible mitigation efforts that could be initiated by SDOT.
  • Discussed VPC policing illegal parking in their immediate vicinity.

Covenant: VPC didn’t feel a covenant was necessary, that landuse permit would address the issues. Neighbors disagreed.

Timing: cafe agreed to respond to our letter in one week, which might be a copy of their application


The meeting ended with the neighbors suggesting that more frequent and regular meetings occur between the neighborhood and VPC. Neighbors suggested quarterly meetings.

In summary, the primary disagreements appear to be 1) sidewalk seating and 2) the covenant. The cafe owners appeared willing to work with the neighbors on the remaining issues.

Bike parked on neighbor’s plants.

15 Jul

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

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:

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?