By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
One person’s convenience is another’s annoyance.
Dozens of Rincon Valley residents turned out Tuesday to urge the Santa Rosa City Council not to allow a convenience store selling beer and wine to operate 24 hours in their neighborhood.
“A 24-hour convenience store selling alcohol is not an appropriate business to be operating in our nice residential neighborhood,” Mark Silverman told the council.
The council ultimately agreed to scale back the convenience store hours to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., to the relief of many residents but the disappointment of others who wanted it blocked entirely.
The proposed Montecito Marketplace would be built on the site of a former gas station at the northwest corner of Montecito Boulevard and Middle Rincon Road. The proposal calls for three retail spaces and parking for 25 cars on land long zoned for retail use. A 7-Eleven was first proposed, but that is no longer certain.
The previous owners had spent $800,000 to remove the former gas station and clean up contamination at the property, said Hardeep Gill, son of one of the former property owners, Lukbir Gill. He said that the developer, Ranvir Singh, is hoping to lease the other two spaces to food related businesses, such as a frozen yogurt store, coffee shop or deli.
“These types of stores, while they are not the most glamorous, they do create a lot of jobs for the community,” Gill said.
Councilman Scott Bartley said he has lived close to a 7-Eleven in Bennett Valley for years and never once had reason to complain about it.
“A convenience store serves a purpose. When everything else is closed, it’s the place to go,” he said.
But that was cold comfort to many Rincon Valley residents, who saw little to like about the plan.
Silverman, whose wife Susan appealed the Planning Commission’s approval of a use permit allowing the sale of alcohol, claimed a convenience store would attract crime, increase noise and “the type of person who chooses to buy their liquor very late at night or in the wee hours of the morning.”
He was followed by several residents extolling the virtues of their quiet neighborhood while begging the council not to allow an all-hours convenience store to destroy it.
Many noted the five other 24-hour markets less than a mile away on Highway 12. “I ask you what is this providing that is not already being provided for 60 seconds up the street?” asked Emberli Bogue.
Others saw visions of school children tempted to eat sugary foods, litter fouling gutters and recovering alcoholics being tempted with all-night access to booze.
The site is across Montecito Boulevard from a shopping center that includes a supermarket, bar, gym, restaurants and hardware store, but residents said the all-night nature of the proposal was too close to homes.
Mayor Ernesto Olivares said he was sensitive to the neighbor’s concerns, but didn’t want to “demonize” convenience stores, which he noted he patronized regularly during his 30 years as a cop often working the night shift.
Vice Mayor Jake Ours agreed a store should be allowed, but its hours scaled back. “We have an empty lot here that needs to be developed … but I don’t think it’s appropriate to have a 24-hour operation here,” he said.
The council voted 4-3 to reject the appeal and approve the shorter hours. Council member Gary Wysocky opposed it after failing to convince Olivares to scale the hours back to 10 p.m. Susan Gorin and Marsha Vas Dupre objected to allowing a convenience store on the site.