Planning Board to consider fate of proposed In-N-Out Burger
Planning Board to consider fate of proposed In-N-Out Burger
The future of an In-N-Out Burger, Safeway gas station and Chase bank branch proposed for a 2.3-acre site near the Webster Tube will be considered by the Planning Board on Monday.
The buildings are part of developer Catellus' Alameda Landing project, which includes a Target store that's under construction and scheduled to open this fall. The board signed off on the design of the rest of the shopping center that Target will anchor on July 8, and has also approved 276 homes; the trio of businesses would sit at the intersection of Webster Street and Willie Stargell Avenue.
Proponents say the proposed businesses, along with Target, will bring jobs to the Island and services Alameda residents will patronize. But opponents insist that building a gas station and fast food outlet at one of the city's gateways is inappropriate. They fear the businesses will generate more traffic and crime, and feel that Alameda already has enough fast food restaurants.
A petition opposing the plan has signed by more than 370 local residents, some of whom plan to be at Monday's Planning Board meeting.
Valerie Villaraza-Steele, who has circulated the petition, said opponents are not against In-N-Out per se but think the restaurant should be located elsewhere.
“We acknowledge that Alamedans are excited about In-N-Out coming to Alameda, but this parcel is not the right location for that," she wrote on the petition. “This is our community’s opportunity to create a gateway to Alameda that is attractive to potential residents, investors, and visitors, and showcases our city as a unique place to visit and live.”
Villaraza-Steele said motorists driving through the Webster Tube will see a gas station and fast food restaurant when they arrive on the Island, and that’s not something that will give people a good impression of the city.
“Is that the message you want to send to people who are coming into town?" she asked.
Other opponents insist the city already has enough of the development proposed by Catellus.
“Building a new drive through restaurant should not be encouraged, especially in a unique city like Alameda,” wrote Zach Kaplan. “When I enter a city limit and see multiple drive through restaurants, I think it is just another Anytown, USA full of franchise autocentric businesses. A real turn off and not something that would be in the long term good for Alameda."
Villaraza-Steele said the restaurant will increase traffic in the area and would encourage students from nearby College of Alameda to cross Willie Stargell to get to In-N-Out. She asked why developers don't consider healthier options than a chain restaurant.
But changes are being made to the plan since it was presented to the Planning Board during a study session last month, according to a city staff report. Safeway has withdrawn a request to sell beer and wine at the gas station, according to City Planner Andrew Thomas - something board members had said they wouldn't approve. And In-N-Out has reduced the hours it is seeking to remain open, from 2 a.m. every day to 12:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
To ensure pedestrian safety - another concern raised by the board - Catellus has created an alternate plan that would move the restaurant to the Mariner Square Loop end of the property. That would discourage pedestrians from trying to cross a "free right" exit from the tube, which lacks a stop sign.
Staff has also been working with Caltrans to put a crosswalk and signal at Webster Street and Willie Stargell Avenue which would allow diners walking across Webster to reach the restaurant safely, according to the staff report.
As for traffic congestion, the restaurant would be closed during the morning commute, Thomas wrote. Most of the traffic will be pass-by trips where drivers are on their way to somewhere else.
“In other words, a resident driving to work in the morning though the tubes may choose to stop for gas on the way to work, but that resident will be driving through the tubes to work even if this project does not occur, so rejecting the project does not remove that vehicle from the tubes,” he wrote.
As for healthy food alternatives, the city does not have laws mandating healthy foods, but officials have been assured that In-N-Out uses fresh meat, real ice cream in their milk shakes and doesn’t use heat lamps or freezers, Thomas wrote.
“These standards reflect a commitment to healthy foods that exceeds many Alameda sit down restaurants,” he added.
Thomas acknowledged that the new businesses - like any new businesses - will generate some petty crime. But he said the developer will hire private security to minimize it.
Residents in the nearby Bayport community have complained about a recent rash of burglaries in their neighborhood and have expressed concerns that the businesses could increase crime there, though police have said the burglaries are a citywide problem.
A Catellus representative pointed to the financial benefits the community will realize once the businesses arrive. The Safeway station and In-N-Out will bring in an extra $250,000 in sales tax revenues to the city annually, said Sean Whiskeman, Catellus' first vice president of development.
In-N-Out was one of the most requested businesses by Alamedans during the dozen years Whiskeman has been working on the project, he said.
Catellus acquired the property in 2008 as part of a three-way deal with College of Alameda to open up a right-of-way at Webster and Willie Stargell way to development.
“We fully respect the responsibility we have in ensuring that the property is developed in a way that enhances the visual experience as you come on to Alameda from the Webster Street Tube,” Whiskeman said in an e-mail.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue. Additional information is available via the city's website.