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Divided Santa Rosa council OKs Chick-fil-A, with drive-thru


The Santa Rosa City Council approved a Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurant on Mendocino Avenue Tuesday, dismissing the planning commission’s concerns about the impacts a drive-thru might have on the neighborhood.

The council voted 5-2 to uphold the Atlanta-based company’s appeal of last month’s decision by the Planning Commission to deny a permit for a 4,400-square-foot restaurant on the site of a vacant former Burger King.

The future site of a Chick-fil-A on Mendocino Avenue.

Councilman Scott Bartley said concerns expressed by planning commission members about greenhouse gas emissions from the drive-thru were overblown.

“As a politician, we probably produce more greenhouse gases here during one of our meetings than a drive thru does,” said Bartley, who voted in favor of the project.

But Councilwoman Susan Gorin said she was troubled that the company — which has more than 1,600 restaurants around the nation — refused to adapt the design of its restaurant to address local health and environmental concerns raised by neighbors.

“Here is a national restaurant trying to come into the community, and saying to Santa Rosa, ‘We don’t really care what your sensitivities about drive-thrus are. This is part of our business model,’” said Gorin, who voted against the appeal.

The debate and vote reflected stark differences between council members over how to strike a balance between being welcoming to businesses while also being sensitive to neighborhood concerns.

The project has stirred passions on both sides in part because the location is both commercial and residential. It is located on Mendocino Avenue, a busy commercial street, but the site also backs up to a residential area.

The Santa Rosa Neighborhood Association came out strongly against the project, claiming the drive-thru is inconsistent with the pedestrian and bicycle friendly values of the neighborhood.

Neighborhood resident Jayne Rosenberg said she didn’t believe drive-thrus belong in residential areas, which she said are “reserved for walking and bicycling and encouraging people to get out.”

Rosenberg said she hoped the restaurant, which she noted would back up to a pre-school, wouldn’t become as popular as the In-N-Out Burger off Steele Lane, which she called “gas fume city.”

Several council members voting for the project stressed it would create about 60 jobs, would be locally owned, and would remove the blighted vacant building.

Mayor Ernesto Olivares said there is no prohibition against drive-thrus in the city, only design guidelines that the company followed.

“Nothing evil or nothing bad is coming to Mendocino (Avenue) or Santa Rosa,” Olivares said. “What is happening is Santa Rosa is open for business.”

Olivares apologized to the company for “having to go through this extra step and extra expense” of an appeal to the council.

Vice Mayor John Sawyer stressed that the issue was one of fairness.

“I’m of the opinion that if a business jumps through the hoops that we place in front of them, they should have a reasonable expectation of success,” Sawyer said. “That’s the kind of reputation I want Santa Rosa to have.”

Supporters of the project warned that rejecting it would deepen the city’s reputation as a difficult place to do business.

Real estate agent Bobbi Beehler called it “ridiculous” to not allow a fast food restaurant with a drive-thru on the site of what used be a fast food restaurant with a drive-thru.

Others argued times have changed. Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre said one decision “is not going to cause the oceans to rage into our backyards,” but the council ought to consider the impact on global warming.

“Let us not just think that just because there was drive-thru there before that this a mandate to have another drive-thru. I don’t get that,” she said.

Councilman Gary Wysocky, who voted in favor of the project, wondered whether the city is serious about meeting the greenhouse gas reduction targets it pledged to in 2005.

“Is it just a feel good deal?” Wysocky asked.

Community Development Director Chuck Regalia responded that the city’s Climate Action Plan comes to the council for approval soon. The city will not meet its 2015 target, but could by 2020, even with drive-thrus.

“There are no measurable impacts from drive-thru restaurants,” he said.

17 Responses to “Divided Santa Rosa council OKs Chick-fil-A, with drive-thru”

  1. Gabrielle Wylie says:

    How silly for this to be a problem! It was a fast food drive through already.
    Years ago Chic Fil a was located in the Santa Rosa Plaza. I visit fast food places very rarely, but this one will definitely be one I will once again eat at.
    Also a side note,Thank you Chic Fil A for standing your ground on traditional family values.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. Ken says:

    And now we have this:


    All the liberal gay-friendly people won’t be eating here. Hehehe

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  3. SeeJay says:

    I have found the lack of informed opinion associated with this issue to be kind of embarrassing.

    First of all, I could care less about having a chick-fil-a restraunt in Santa Rosa… I have never even eaten at one in my life. I do, however, care about the decision making that goes on in our city’s government.

    This project should have never been shot down by the planning commission in the first place. The applicants have complied with regulations in every way they could… Yet they still got drug through the streets. Why? Because of drive thrus. Because of GHGs.

    I am an environmental scientist who was educated with a focus in economics. I do have an informed opinio about the changes the council wants to make with regard the prohibition of drive-thrus in the climate action plan. The truth is, I exhausted the resources of the California State University with as many literary reviews I could, and I could not find any evidence which would give credence to the claim that greater amounts of green house gas emissions are brought with the use of drive-thrus in fast food resteraunts. The truth is, I could only find one study that was done in Canada to suggest the opposite. Although this was a private study, it suggested that greater amounts of GHGs were created from the cars PARKED while people went inside the resteraunts to eat. The explanation provided, was that catalytic converters were allowed to cool while they, and so they were less efficient at filtering GHGs when the cars were initially started.

    Such a study has far too many variables though. I mean, what were the different sizes of the cars? The level of technology (I.e., electric cars)? Etc…

    Although I am educated with the environment, and I understand the precautionary principle associated with the adoption of this plan… I can’t, in good conscience, support something like this that lacks any form of substantial evidence.

    By prohibiting the implementation of projects with drive thrus, less projects will be implemented. Why? Because there are already similar business’s that do have, and will be allowed to keep, their drive-thrus. These latter businesses will out compete the new ones, and the prospective/potential business owners will eventually, or already do, realize this. With this taken into consideration, they’re simply not going to bother with the rigorous application process we’ve created. Why would they?

    Inhibiting drive-thrus won’t solve our GHG problems. That issue is much bigger than drive-thrus. We need to fix this problem with sustainable development. If you don’t know what that is, then I will tell you that it involves new technologies. It’s important to emphasis new technologies… (more later)

    Personally, I don’t like to see us to deny these projects based off of precautionary or hypothetical principles. Why? Because we’re inhibiting job creation. By inhibiting job creation we are limiting circular flow in our economic system. By limiting circular flow, we are limiting economic growth and development. As neo-classical economic theory explains, by limiting economic growth and development, we’re reducing the potential and/or capacity to create new technologies.

    As an environmental scientist, I am actually concerned that decision-makers may not be solving the issues associated with GHGs, but actually making it worse with the decisions they make.

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  4. Vowel Movement says:

    “Just remember who the anti-Christian bigots on the City Council are and vote them out at the next election.”

    ~ (Billy) Graham Wellington

    What twaddle you speak, Sir. Kindly present something in the way of evidence that someone… anyone has been anti-Christian in their dealings with Chick-fil-A. Your repeating it ad nauseum on this forum does not make it so.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  5. Just Me says:

    Seems to me if they were really concerned about greenhouse emissions, they would open up the carpool lanes and make them straight through town lanes. More traffic could move from one end of the City to the other without dealing with the idiots driving 40-45 in a 65mph zone, the idiots who don’t understand how to merge onto a freeway and cut in front of traffic at 40-45 mph doing 55-65 mph and the idiots who forget where they are going and cut in front of big rigs and trucks pulling trailers to make that last minute exit.

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

  6. good one says:

    Susan Gorin’s vote helped me make a decison on whom to vote for supervisor. And it will not be Ms. Gorin although I do think she does her very best. Sorry to say that I will vote for the candidate that supports responsible business growth. Not many candidates to chose from…

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  7. Billy C says:

    Modern cars produce very little emissions.
    That is why the city’s own expert said the impact would be insignificant. If we where that concerned about CO and HC emissions
    we would target lawn mowers,leaf blowers,
    Harleys and revert unused bike lanes to traffic lanes. A drive through may actually be more efficient in some cases.
    I suspect the big protest by the progressives has to do with their visions
    of converting that section of Mendocino to a bike boulevard. It would be easier to do so if all the commercial building where vacant.

    Thumb up 28 Thumb down 6

  8. Canthisbe says:

    “As a politician, we probably produce more greenhouse gases here during one of our meetings than a drive thru does,” However it is a grammatical train wreck. People voted for this fool?

    I do not believe this is a correct quote. I think that what Councilman Bartley said was “I probably shouldn’t say this as a politician, but we probably produce more greenhouse gases here during one of our meetings than a drive thru does.”
    We’ll have to review the tape when it becomes available.
    Based on the laughter of the audience, many, if not a majority of the people thought it was funny. But that is beside the point. If you review the research on the topic, you will see that there is little (I did not say none) research that says that there is meaningful studies that show that drive-thrues do or do not create any measurable amounts of CO2 compared to non-drive-thrues.
    That does not even begin to address the issue of whether or not man-made global warming (AGW) is occurring, which I assume is your real issue with Bartley. Way too much to cover here, but if you read more you will find that there probably in no significant AGW, that most of the so-called research (like Mann’s Hockey Stick Graph) is fraudulent, that there has been no warming in the past 10 – 20 years, that the number of polar bears is increasing not decreasing, that that glaciers in general are not shrinking, that the ocean is not rising, that we are probably entering into a long-term cooling cycle, that humans are insignificant as relates to long-term climate and that the major peddlers of the global warming rant are hypocrites that are making money off of it and driving suvs and flying all over the world in private or government jets (think Gore, Pelosi) and that, if there is global warming, that it would benefit many parts of the world.
    Finally, if your best argument against someone or some issue is that someone on the other side may have used poor grammar (or mispelled a word) then you do not any argument worth hearing.
    eaince ment is not funny clever or intelligent: “As a politician, we probably produce more greenhouse gases here during one of our meetings than a drive thru does,”

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  9. Graeme Wellington says:

    Just remember who the anti-Christian bigots on the City Council are and vote them out at the next election.

    And for the record, Chick-fil-A is not unhealthy fast food. This is the good stuff.

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 11

  10. sue says:

    Would be nice to see something go in and make some jobs for us people who just got there last EDD check
    Thanks you to the Council memebers who voted YES and to hell with the ones who voted NO!

    Thumb up 28 Thumb down 2

  11. Vowel Movement says:

    Mr. Emory… I consider myself to be quite liberal and progressive and offer no apologies for it. I always consider environmental views right along side those of the business community.

    Your comments comparing this fast food drive through with an oil refinery or tannery are quite simply ridiculous. First of all, this building is already configured for a fast food business. There is already a drive through in place. Secondly, this city is already home to literally hundreds of businesses that feature drive through service. We cannot deny this application on the basis of it’s drive through without calling every other drive through into question.

    Somewhere out there is a clue with your name on it. I do hope you manage to find it.

    Thumb up 31 Thumb down 3

  12. Peteygonzales says:

    Councilman Bartley is an idiot. This comment is not funny clever or intelligent: “As a politician, we probably produce more greenhouse gases here during one of our meetings than a drive thru does,”

    However it is a grammatical train wreck. People voted for this fool?

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 34

  13. Bob walker says:

    An oil refinery would be great….nothing more natural than oil.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 14

  14. Richard James Emory says:

    If this drive thru doesn’t kill you with the high fat food it will pump out, the auto fumes will kill you as you walk or drive by the place.

    Santa Rosa just made another big step toward destroying the planet with this approval. What is next, an oil refinery and leather tannery?

    What goes through, if anything, the small minds of the Santa Rosa City Council and Planning Commission people who believe this nonsense. How do these people get elected spouting this stuff?

    Ah, this is California.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 47

  15. Liz says:

    “but the council ought to consider the impact on global warming.”

    Many top level scientists have stated time and again that man made global warming does not exist. Climate change does however exist. The climate will change regardless of what the human population does, and there is nothing we can do to stop it in it’s tracks.

    In the case of this fast-food restaurant I could not be more happy that they finally got approved. It is a blighted area directly across from the high school and college, a prime location for this type of eatery. We need the jobs in this town and it is a great location for college students to work and go to school all in a close area. It could not be a more ideal location.
    It’s time to say yes to business and the american way and no to those who think by stoping this drive through will somehow save the planet.

    Thumb up 42 Thumb down 4

  16. Jim Bennett says:

    It’s noteworthy that a national food chain’s desire to open in the hub of the Wine Country, across from a big Jr. College has become such a bone of oppression, er, contention.
    Afterall, it was a drive-thru, it’s on an AUTOMOBILE ROAD, across from a big parking lot designed to accomadate AUTOMOBILES. That’s all obvious.

    What was; interesting/amusing/sad/angering, was watching Wysocky twitch ‘n squirm.
    See, he doesn’t want to appear anti-business (which he most certainly would),
    but he’s an ICLEI adherant progressive agent of change…humm, what to do?
    Which means he’s anti-automobile.

    Who does he work for?
    The People.

    The next crap commin’ down the bike path is the ‘Climate Protection Plan’.
    Word has it, there will be a restriction on drive-thrus.
    Bartley saw the humor in it, you could see him fighting a big smirk, it was so blantant. The project is a perfect fit.
    The brick work even matches the Culinary Center and the evil parking garage across the street.

    Message to our public officials:
    The only ‘ism’ you are legally authorized to endorse is CAPITAL-ISM.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 3

  17. Kirstin says:

    Council member Gorin’s comment about sensibilities was ludicrous. Chick-fil-A was touted by other city officials for its eagerness to abide by city rules and to design its restaurant and surroundings on the parcel to fit in on Mendocino. Furthermore, as cited by others on the council and by city employees, there is no Santa Rosa prohibition on drive-thrus. So Ms. Gorin was just wrong and unfair to the company.

    Thumb up 48 Thumb down 6

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