To drive through or not to drive through
April 3, 2014
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
When considering the proposal for the Los Osos McDonald’s drive through in the old Bank of America building at the Vons shopping center, one just has to look at surrounding communities and take note of where their fast food drive through restaurants are — if they have them. Most fast food drive throughs are along highways, where the traveler stops to grab a quick bite with ease and are able to get back on the road to their destination. From San Simeon to the Nipomo Mesa on scenic Highway 1, you’ll only find three fast food drive throughs in Morro Bay (a five minute drive from Los Osos), nowhere near the charming Embarcadero.
Los Osos Valley Road (LOVR) is not a highway, while traveled by more than 10,000 cars a day; Los Osos is a bedroom community and these are the same 10,000 cars, morning, noon and night. McDonald’s suggests nearly 500 of those cars will stop each day at their restaurant. The reconfiguration of the parking lot to accommodate a fast food drive through is a force fit, causing cars in the drive line to impede upon those patrons throughout the shopping center. The queue is designed in such a way that cars may back up onto LOVR. Those shoppers and diners ready to leave the center may have to wait for drive through diners place orders before they are allowed to back out of their parking spaces.
Tourism isn’t a driving economic force for Los Osos, when tourists come to Los Osos are they really looking for fast food; so fast they need to drive through? Don’t we want to encourage them to visit Baywood Park, take in the spectacular scenery at Montana de Oro and enjoy our family run eateries where they can sit and stay a while?
In a well-remembered first, the City of San Luis Obispo banned drive throughs in 1982 based on concerns for air quality and community character. In 1983, in a successful effort to “maintain and promote a more pedestrian – oriented beach community” and “reduce the high volume of vehicle trips attracted by drive-through establishments” the City of Pismo Beach banned drive throughs within their Coastal Zone (west of HWY 101). The City of Arroyo Grande adopted a similar ordinance banning drive throughs based on the historic character of the Village in 1991 as did the City of Paso Robles for the Spring Street corridor in 2004. These types of long range land use policies have positively shaped the character of each of these unique and wonderful communities.
Development in Los Osos was stopped in its tracks in 1988 by a sewer sideshow that took center stage while the far more important problem; seawater intrusion, was taking over its one and only water supply. Still today, as seawater intrusion marches on; if approved, the McDonald’s project will use more water, discharge more wastewater into the fragile groundwater supply and cause more traffic congestion leading to increased air pollution over that of the Bank of America.
When the Los Osos section of the Estero Area Plan Update the Board of Supervisors approved in 2004, it included a Vision Statement that encouraged a “pedestrian friendly, walkable community.” At that time, the Bank of America building had always been a bank, a change in use would occur at that site was not contemplated. Stopped by the uncertainty of the wastewater project in 2005, the Estero Area Plan Update was never approved by the California Coastal Commission.
Today, the community is refreshing its vision for the future and works on its newly named “Community Plan,” over the last six months some 12-plus community meetings the that “pedestrian friendly, walkable community” value remains intact. To allow the McDonald’s drive though files in the face of those values before we can see our Community Plan implemented.
The “pedestrian friendly, walkable community” is a land use principle adopted in the Air Pollution District’s Clean Air Plan and in the Health in All Policies vision for Healthy Communities. Why wouldn’t we want these things for our community?
On April 8, the McDonald’s project will be before the San Luis Obispo County Supervisors on appeal. The applicant is asking that the drive through aspect of the project be reinstated after the Planning Commission wisely removed it. The hearing is de novo, the Latin expression meaning “from the beginning,” “afresh,” “anew,” “beginning again.” The Board will look at the whole of the project, all aspects and impacts, water, wastewater, traffic, lighting, signage, parking and to drive through or not to drive through. The Board has the discretion to add, remove or massage conditions of approval or they can approve or deny the whole project as proposed.
They say, as one door closes another opens. Let the sewer saga door close and let the land use door open; “from the beginning,” “afresh,” “anew,” “beginning again.”
Deny the drive through.
Julie Tacker is a 43 year resident of Los Osos.