Tag Archives: patio service

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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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.

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.

Is VPC serving on their back patio?

14 Oct

Eating on the back patio at VPC. (10/12/10)

UPDATED 10/21: The City told VP Neighbors it would investigate. They planned to have a response by Friday, 10/22.

Although VPC has been ordered by The City Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to cease patio service, today, again, at least two people enjoyed dining the sun, using VPC’s tableware.

This summer, DPD shut down the patio as VPC did not have the correct zoning. Though VPC’s illegal land use (aka: zoning) also applied to their restaurant, DPD allowed VPC to continue restaurant operations while they rectified their zoning.

In order to stay open in the long-term, DPD required VPC to 1) change their zoning by public process or 2) come into compliance with their current zoning (‘non-conforming use’: grocery). VPC is currently involved in the public process. Should they be denied their zoning change, they can still operate within their existing zoning.

In its application to the DPD for zoning change, VPC says it expects to use the patio for outdoor cooking and “activities allowed in single family zones by the Seattle Municipal Code.”

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.

VPC hosts illegal event on new patio

5 Aug

Illegal event, apx. 20 people; half the number VPC hopes to serve at each dinner seating.

This evening, Volunteer Park Cafe hosted a gathering on their new back patio. Billed as a benefit, the event nevertheless violated their zoning.

UPDATED 10/14th: VPC again seats diners illegally.

Several neighbors complained about the excessive noise. One neighbor complained directly to VPC owner Ericka Burke. A screaming match ensued between Burke and the neighbor.

The back yard at 1501 17th Ave. E. is zoned to the residential upper floor. Only the grocery space on the first floor is zoned for non-conforming use as a business. The split zoning and the non-conforming use status both defer to the primary zoning of the neighborhood: SF 5000 (single family homes on lots of at least 5000 sq. ft.)

If VPC wishes to use the back yard of 1501 for restaurant purposes, they must apply to the city to change that specific land use from residential zoning to non-conforming use as a restaurant.

At tonight’s event, approximately 25 people populated the back patio. Should VPC successfully change the back yard zoning to ‘restaurant’ and serve lunch and dinner, they have stated they expect to be able to sit up to 40. One could extrapolate that nightly dinners would be twice as noisy as this evening’s illegal event.