To drive through or not to drive through

April 3, 2014
Julie Tacker

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.



The self-appointed elitist liberals who insist that the owners of the old bank building “turn it into an educational center or museum” may want to consider the dollar menu after their monthly bill for their 45 years of sewer obstructionism (Los Osos could have had a sewer for FREE in the 70’s) kicks in. The obstructionism was a anti-development tool cloaked in environmentalism to have the state slap a moratorium on construction for environmental reasons. The game is now officially up. Mickey D’s may lose this one but when Caren Ray is replaced in November they can come back.


Actually, I’m the furthest thing from an sewer obstructionist. I have been very vocal for several decades regarding those who opposed the sewer, including the TRI-W site.

My concern is the current lack of adequate infrastructure and deferred maintenance that Los Osos is confronted with, while considering a drive thru eatery, possibly the first of several like endeavors.

I referenced the nature of the McDonald’s type products and the rate of childhood and adult obesity, because there is a direct relationship along with sedentary behavior.

I have nothing against Mcdonald’s or the right to develop ones property, I just think there are better choices available.

fishing village

so , don’t eat at McD’s, I can’t afford the restaurant eating, I cook at home, but occasionally i’ll have a little something out….at McD’s


Ms. Tacker, here you go again telling others they can’t have drive thru convenience, for a mixture of YOUR ideas about “not good fit” and somehow you worked the sewer into it.

1): The line won’t form more than 3-6 cars, often few enough to fit under the existing porte cochiere and likely NEVER enough to obstruct that parking lot. How many McD’s have you driven through in your sheltered local life? Drive a bunch of McD’s statewide and you’ll see that they move FAST and keep the line down. That’s how they make money.

2): Modern vehicles emit so LITTLE hydrocarbon pollution (98% cleaner than unregulated 1965’s) that idling momentarily in a food line is a minimal nay, de minimus impact. The smog argument against drive thru holds no water.

3): More on smog; When in L.O. we have to drive to Morro Bay for convenient drive-thru McDonald’s. Now THAT is a significant smog and vehicle trip impact. This new McD would obviate that need when a Los Osian craves the “Golden Starches” drive-thru.

4): This discussion should include NOTHING about the calories of food sold at McDonald’s. If I chose to eat the stuff, butt out of my food choices, you whining little social engineers.

5): If an outlaw Planning Commission wants to monkey around with killing a dead-bang simple and common concept of a drive thru, they are a robot tool of a small number of NIMBY complainers and social engineers. This county has plenty such people. Too many on the planning commission, that’s for sure.

It is a JOKE that an existing years old drive lane is rejected by the PC and opposed by the vocal autocratic few, such as this opinion piece. Butt out of public food and access issues, Ms. Tacker and those who think alike with you; your whinings about food, competition, vehicle pollution and property-specific traffic flow ALL ring hollow in my opinion.

The supervisors should vote convenience, property rights, and common sense, and allow the McD with full drive-thru convenience. Los Osos isn’t Mayberry.


Our community should be able to choose if they want to have this franchise where they live and call home. Me thinks your lameness, you’ve been drinking the koolaid or Mc shakes for too long. You label caring thinking folks as “whining little social engineers” while sniveling your personal tale of hardship and woe, must…drive…five …minutes to get to the closest Mc Donalds. Here’s some Kleenex. Some of us whiners think it’s important to keep a good quality of life, most of us like Mayberry and the idea of community. Obviously you haven’t been listening to the citizens, the majority do not want it here period. FYI, your lame comment that “they are a robot tool of a small number of NIMBY complainers and social engineers” is laughable. What is more robot toolish than a Mcds franchise. That ringing hollow sound in your opinion? Perhaps the echoes aimlessly searching inside your Cranium for signs of life? I guess every town needs a Barney Fife.


LameCommenter, the applicant proposes 140 vehicles per hour in the AM and 100 vehicles in the PM will be entering and exiting their drive through. These are not my numbers, these come from their traffic engineer. In reality, do I think that many people will want to go to McD’s in Los Osos, no I do not, but McD’s has to have adequate mitigation for what they propose. The Planning Commission (not me) made it clear that the drive through doesn’t work in that configuration.

My objections have always been about the water and wastewater use of the bank over that of the intensified impacts for the fast food restaurant. The sewer saga is the reason the Local Coastal Program was not updated and is just now re-engaged. I work in the land use planning field, I cite actual documents that support my opinion.

It’s clear you don’t care for me. No sweat off my brow. If you have a contrary opinion, backed by facts (like I always support my opinion pieces with) then why don’t you ask CCN to post it? You would have to come out with your real name, maybe that’s why you don’t.

BTW, I don’t say anything about the food.

Any restaurant, even one I really like, if it uses more water and wastewater than the bank without adequately offsetting its impacts, I would have to object.


Julie, someone is misquoting the applicant, perhaps those who didn’t want a drive through. Here is the reason why I say this… and it’s a simple math problem which any 3rd grader could solve. 140 cars an hour equals a study stream of orders flying out the drive through window every 25 seconds. Even if the 140 cars was spread over 4 hours, you are looking at 35 cars an hour which amounts to service beginning —> end every ~1 minute 50 seconds.

McDonalds times their drive through as my daughter works there in Morro Bay and is well aware of drive through times. She says average service time is 90 to 120 seconds, with many people taking over a minute just to place an order. She says a “good time” is 75 seconds which can not always be achieved. Even if you spread 140 cars over even 4 hours you are looking at about 2 minutes per car. When have you seen a constant study stream of cars at McDonalds in Morro Bay 4 hours straight? Your numbers are impossible! IT IS A PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY TO SERVICE THAT MANY CUSTOMERS IN AN HOUR. Do the math.


1): The line won’t form more than 3-6 cars.

Wow…when is the last time you went to Mickey D’s at lunch and found less than 6 cars, let alone 3? And, after watching multiple YouTube videos of drive-thru’s, and having worked at a McD’s back in high school, I can assure you….the patrons of the drive-thru are the rudest people ever. Ever. If you were a bad employee….you had to work the drive-thru window.

2): Modern vehicles emit so LITTLE hydrocarbon pollution.

Unfortunately, that same drive-thru is not packed with Prius’s or BMW’s. Usually a 10-15 year old vehicle with bad emissions. Go sit at the drive-thru with your windows down, behind those 3-6 vehicles and let’s revisit this topic, eh?

3): More on smog; When in L.O. we have to drive to Morro Bay for convenient drive-thru McDonald’s.

Maybe….just maybe….living on the coast in the most beautiful state will inspire you to say….ride a bike? Oh…but then you’d suck up some of that carbon monoxide from the vehicles passing you to go to McD’s.

4): This discussion should include NOTHING about the calories of food sold at McDonald’s. If I chose to eat the stuff, butt out of my food choices, you whining little social engineers.

That would be alright….if your over-consumption & bad choices didn’t effect me, but they do. Obesity is a ‘disease’ and insurance companies cover that. So…no, we won’t butt out of you getting a big butt.

5): If an outlaw Planning Commission wants to monkey around with killing a dead-bang simple and common concept of a drive thru, they are a robot tool of a small number of NIMBY complainers and social engineers. This county has plenty such people. Too many on the planning commission, that’s for sure.

Sure….everyone throws old food & their containers in steams, plastic cups & straws & human waste in the ocean, and then complain that they can’t swim. Then they call those “NIMBY” groups to ask for help.

And that argument has no logic; 1st you complain its a “small number” of whiners. Then in the next breath, you state this county has “plenty such people”. Which is it?


Morro Bay has seen the unfortunate result of allowing the franchise circuit into town. This small town of only ten thousand people now is home to at least 6, billion dollar corporate machines. This does not “create” jobs it just shifts them from the mom and pop places that will close down. Don’t buy into the poor seniors who can’t get out of their cars BS. Grocery stores don’t have drive thru service and grandma is still getting groceries. Friends who visit Morro Bay comment on how Morro Bay has lost it’s soul. No longer a small fishing village when it becomes cookie cutter franchise land. Tourists come here to get away from this garbage. The drive thrus are unnecessary and give an advantage to the horrible fast food corporate pigs who don’t invest in the community. Take note, ALL Mc Donalds are required by law to post warning signs, one inside and one at the drive thru, stating that chemicals their food is known to cause cancer. Go see for yourself. By law they have to warn you. Even though the Morro Bay Mc Donalds strategically tries to hide it so when the employee opens the window it is somewhat covered, you can still see it and the one on the inside. Wake up people. Google video of how a chicken nugget is made, yum! This so called food is poison, but it’s cheep, until you pay for your cancer treatments. I’m lovin it! Hang in there Los Osos, fight the good fight!


Diamond’s opinion that locals should have developmental veto power holds some water, but I still think it’s a small minority of opponents. The booming success of fast food outlets speaks the peoples’ will much more CLEARLY than the protectionist/obstructionist crowd.

Let’s see the turn out at the BOS to measure the percentage opposition. As usual, it will be weighted (over represented) with the know it all NIMBY social engineer crowd, so adjust a bit for that.

Fail: The rest of opposition arguments, chemicals in food ? Bunk. Six (?) fast foods killing the soul of MB ? * Right *. Paralyzing traffic in front of Miner’s, heck they’ll LOVE the added flow of people. Food borne illness from McNuggets? Hardly. Just Google our increasing life expectancies, Google our life span versus third world remote places pristine without a McDucks.

So, relax and enjoy the progress, diamond. Those of us in the vacuous cranium set certainly do.

Don’t worry ’bout mom and pop survival, I’m in A-town all the time and often chose much more tasty Sylvester’s over the McDonald’s and both are often packed, BOTH TYPES will THRIVE if you’ll get out of the way and let the public VOTE with it’s FOOD DOLLAR.

(off topic, WHY is L.O. Syl’s so much blasted SLOWER than A-town Syl’s? ? ? ? )


Poor seniors on fixed incomes? Sure….but that is NOT McDonald’s demographic. When I go through the drive-thru to grab a quick drink, it never fails I am sitting behind a new Esplanade filled to capacity ordering $100.00 (plus) worth of food. Making sure everyone behind them waits 15-20 minutes for a quick drink. Initially, drive-thru lines were for folks ordering small, quick meals. Ideally, it was supposed to be an ‘express’ lane for folks who didn’t want to wait behind large families or groups. But that idea went out the window almost upon implementation. The concept would would just fine, if people were considerate….but they aren’t. Not even on the way home from church.

fishing village

Consider the disabled, elderly when you think about ‘drive thru’, it is worth a thought


The elderly did not get to their age by eating at Mc Donalds.

fishing village

Have you eaten their salads?


Good points, fishing village.

Also it’s not just the elderly and disabled who find drive-thrus quick and convenient; families w/children in the car also benefit.

And you’re right. McD’s has healthy salads, grilled chicken wraps, yogurt parfaits and milk for my kiddos.


My parents and my in-laws are both seniors and disabled. They ALWAYS park & go inside. My father hates the drive thru because they never get his order right. And he loves the free refills. One of the reasons they go to the Jack-in-the-Box. And to be social. I see this way more than often. It’s the norm.


We are far, far, far from being a “pedestrian friendly, walkable community!” Will a drive-thru McDonald’s really impact that? You actually can WALK from home to the proposed McDonald’s and go in the front door—if you are able. Some elders can’t do that now to any of our businesses.



Every single restaurant in this town would be happy to walk a to-go order to the car of a disabled or elderly person who simply calls in their order. Happens all over town already, even tonight.

This parking lot/drive through as designed to handle the traffic of a bank, is not designed to handle the projected 140 vehicles per hour in the AM and 100 vehicles per hour in the PM the applicant proposes.

Join us in supporting staff’s recommendation to deny the appeals and uphold the Planning Commission’s decision to remove the drive through from the project.

fishing village

Julie , just one time give someone else’s thought a thought. A drive thru is good for those who can’t get out of their cars easily and the elderly who just want a cup of coffee without a hassle.


fishing village,

Can’t use more water. produce more wastewater than the bank and don’t anticipate 71 cars an hour (as their traffic report states) each morning.


I will not be joining to deny the appeal by McDonald’s.

But thank you for posting something I’m sure many do not know, that local restaurants will take a to-go order out to the car. Can you list for readers here just which restaurants those might be, as the seniors I have listened to do not know this information and would be glad to find out.

At the onset, I was just bummed that it wasn’t an In-N-Out. I really had no strong opinion one way or the other. But the hysteria over this project with so many uninformed opinions flinging arrows really pushed me against joining the fight against McDonald’s. What I see is an overestimation of just how precious people see our little rag tag town, with all of its un-walkability and lack of sidewalks but mostly I see a HUGE fear that McD would be a big hit.

I do not see the traffic being a big problem if it would even be a problem at all. People will just learn to enter the big parking lot from one of the other three entrances instead of the one closest to the drive through.


You can do the research on the restaurants that will walk a meal to the car, I’m not going to bother them.

As for the traffic, there’s only ONE WAY into the drive thru, that’s the problem Lynette, the traffic will back up as 71 cars per hour each morning (their number) try to go through the LOVR access.

Have you looked at the traffic report? Clearly you haven’t, perhaps you should before you suggest coming in through one of the other ingress points.

In-N-Out is smarter than McD’s, we simply don’t have the demographics to support the volume of sales they need….again without water and wastewater…NO NEW RESTAURANT.


Gee Julie, you are the person who brought up the restaurants that would walk a meal to the car. Why did you even make that statement if you can’t back it up with even one example?

There are 60 minutes in an hour and 71 cars. This is FAST FOOD. There won’t be a line-up of 71 cars all at once. Cars have wheels, they roll along the line, they pick up the food and pay and then they exit! Go to McD’s in Morro Bay and watch how it works.

It seems obvious to me that you are actually TERRIFIED that Los Osos CAN and WILL support a McDonald’s, otherwise you would not oppose it so vehemently; you would simply watch it come and then go.

Why are you not campaigning against the homes with the new lawns in town? Are you telling the farmers that they can only plant cactus not lettuce anymore?

Without wastewater? What the heck does that mean? In any case, we are FINALLY getting a sewer to take care of that, no thanks to the many delays caused by you and your cohorts. Oh, you better be counting heads on the rentals in town too, just in case a vacancy once occupied a single person is filled by a family of five.


Ever lived near a McDonalds? We did. Up in Eureka for almost 5 years while we were in college. The smell of the food gets old in about 6 months. Then there is the garbage dumpsters & that area. Always a sick sight, and the smell will make you vomit. But that does not deter the homeless, no sir. Then there’s that wafting odor of used cooking oil. And it’s not fresh. That should improve the neighborhood. That smell. And the people. And the traffic;cars that break down, motorhomes that should NOT be there to begin with, and buses, both commercial & personal. The noises. Our nice neighborhood had to deal with endless horns, blaring car alarms, fights, EMS, and music. Hope you all like rap music. The teenagers loitering in the parking lots. The homeless people wandering around asking for food (ha…kidding. It’s always $$$) The hippy kids sitting on the sidewalk with the puppy on a rope asking for a handout or a cigarette. Did I mention the animals at night? Cats…and their lovely marking behavior is awesome. Then there is the rats, racoons, and skunks.


I know they must of done considerable research before trying to start the process, but does anyone out there think that Los Osos can support a McDonald’s?


Why would our monikered blog-posting opinion matter one way or another in terms of a business decision based on projected customer numbers?


BayOsos has 17,000 people, 70% more populous than Morro Bay, twice that of Pismo, a little bigger than AG, a lot bigger than GB and Nipomo.


As Julie pointed out, most McDonalds are located near freeways with easy access to a lot of drive by traffic; the point about the 10,000 daily drivers is that they are the same 10,000 drivers each and every day for the most part. The normal business model is to have a huge number of drivers have an easy way to get to the outlet and that many of them are not repeat customers. Whether or not McDonalds can get enough of the daily 10,000 to stop in and support their business is the crux of whether or not they have researched the honest projection of business to enable them to make a profit. Julie also makes great points about the costs of having such a potentially high volume business operating out of that particular location in the usage of water, sewer, and traffic considerations. It seems like the owner is trying to ram a square peg into a round hole here; he is somehow convinced it will work, but it seems he isn’t facing the true facts of the situation honestly.


Good Lord, some of you provincials have LOST IT completely. I admire your passion but that’s about it. Remodel the freaking bank already; the parking flow and city infrastructure are NOT going to COLLAPSE overnight due to a fast food franchise. As others have observed, let the public have it’s spectrum of food choices and let the building and franchise owners sink or swim based upon free enterprise.

Lynette is correct, there is hysteria and there are uninformed opinions. Julie T thinks I “don’t care for” her, but it’s her frantic perennial insertion of her often-extreme IDEAS into local politics which I disagree with 90% of the time.

You had it right, Obispan. “Self appointed elitist liberals”. We are swimming in them. The problem is, they exercise strong opinions against the reasonable American liberties of others, and many of them have somehow achieved elected and appointed office in this county.


That building was remodeled, the drive-thru window was removed from the bank building as part of the 2009 building remodel (PMT2007-02247). A drive-thru is a new use and approval would be discretionary — oh yeah, the Planning Commission wisely removed the drive through from the approval since the queue would impede upon the shopping center flow.

I am an American too Lame Commenter and I have the right to my “elitist liberal” opinion. That’s what makes this a great country and Los Osos a great community — I am allowed to speak freely and when I do, I back it with history and fact.

I began opposing this project due to its impacts to water and wastewater, the more I learned, the worse it got. Not only were it’s water numbers wrong, so were its wastewater calculations, parking spaces, traffic counts, seat count, and ever fluid project description. There’s nothing accurate in the proposal that is good for the building, shopping center or the community.

If you feel so strongly about supporting it, I’m sure I’ll see you Tuesday at the BOS.


How about an In N Out instead!

Seriously, lets learn from the mistakes made in the 70’s and 80’s and NOT develop that which we can’t support with the appropriate infrastructure. I would rather see real streets, sidewalks curbs and gutters and street lights and of course a sewer in lieu of a drive thru McDonald’s

If McDonald’s agrees to pay for all of that…then maybe.


The developers who created these unreal streets and were not required to install curbs or gutters didn’t pay to do them, so I don’t see why extorting the money from a business wanting to come that is only going into an established building is appropriate.


Hi Lynette,

Do you honestly believe that given all the facts about the current infrastructure issues in Los Osos, and the fact that a McDonald’s drive-thru is the worst choice nutritionally, that this would be a good fit?

Is this really the best choice, when childhood obesity is at an all time high, at a time when parents might just out live their children?

Might I suggest they turn the old B of A (Security Pacific) site into some sort of educational center or museum….God knows we could use one.

It’s a positive starting point.


Pelican1, I don’t know what infrastructure problems you refer to. However, nutritionally, it is up to the eater to decide, I don’t feel I have the right to tell people what to eat even if I don’t like their choices. I sure don’t like people telling me! McD has healthy stuff if you want that (personally I like the unhealthy stuff for a treat, just like when I go into my beloved Carlock’s, I get healthy at home).

Can you name an educational center or museum that has the bucks to pay $8,000/month? I wouldn’t object to that either, but that is not going to happen unless you want to fund that?


Suggest away, Pelican1…but beggars cannot be choosers. Are you going to financially underwrite an “educational center or museum?” Or are there other mystery tenants out there that we don’t know about? Are businesses standing in line, just waiting to occupy the empty B of A building? I didn’t think so.


OK…I give in. But at least could it be an In N Out?


I agree that the ‘Donald’s in the ‘old’ BofA spot is a bad idea. Bad for the other businesses in the complex, and particularly bad for LOVR traffic flow. Who’ll pickup the trash?


The only thing I do at fast food restaurants is use the restroom, hardly need to drive-through.


Gives new meaning to the brand name “STOP and GO”.