Palm Desert council delays decision to lift drive-thru ban on Highway 111
The decision whether or not to allow drive-through restaurants on Highway 111 in Palm Desert has been delayed, although at least three council members say they could support the relaxation of a long-standing ban if the staff fine-tune the recommendations on where they would be allowed.
Staff initially recommended that drive-thru be allowed at the city’s nine largest malls, zoned for regional commercial use – or PC3 – including Desert Crossing, Palms to Pines, Westfield Mall and Waring Plaza.
But associate planner Kevin Swartz said Thursday that some, including Town Center Plaza, whose mainstay is Trader Joe’s, are too compact and cluttered to accommodate a drive-through restaurant.
Council members have requested that staff return with an overlay area that identifies shopping malls in the city where drive-through restaurants would operate. Palm Desert currently allows drive-thru fast food outlets in the north end of the city in shopping areas near Interstate 10.
“It’s not about whether Palm Desert allows them (drive-thrus) or not, because we already have them. It’s about whether we change what we have, ”said board member Sabby Jonathan in making the motion to continue the article to date TBD.
Mayor Kathleen Kelly and Pro Mayor Tem Jan Harnik voted against continuing the discussion, saying they would listen to the staff’s refined proposal, but reiterated their continued opposition to installing drive-through restaurants on the highway 111.
Both said the drive-through restaurants do not match the city’s goals for Highway 111, as outlined in the general plan, and undermine the city’s uniqueness.
“Going down this road takes us away from things that are city goals,” Kelly said. “Our goal, which we’ve talked about a lot, is to find underutilized buildings that could be converted to mixed-use to bring residents into the neighborhood who become integrated customers for the rest of the retail business there. “
Harnik also reaffirmed his opposition to drive-thru due to the impact that idling vehicles can have on air quality.
“For me, getting drive-thru is like stepping back in time. It is not about moving forward; it’s not progress, it’s a flaw, ”Harnik said.
Council member Gina Nestande replied that dust blowing in the desert is a bigger health problem than emissions, especially since today’s cars are cleaner and more environmentally friendly.
Council member Karina Quintanilla said the city needs to find common ground and allow drive-thru.
“I fully support the search for changes and the search for a common sense solution. Something sane, something middle ground. We can’t say everywhere, but we can’t say at all, ”said Quintanilla.
The decision to pursue the matter at an upcoming meeting followed more than 75 minutes of discussion and public commentary for and against the relaxation of the ban.
Of the seven people who spoke, four were in favor of relaxing the ban, including the owner of the Palms to Pines West shopping center where a Baton Rouge-based fast food chain Raising Cane wants to demolish the old building. of 12,000 square feet. which housed a Chase bank which moved near the Westfield shopping center.
The restaurant would bring 70 to 80 jobs, including three to four full-time managerial positions and an estimated turnover of $ 8 million per year, which equates to more tax revenue for the city, the owner said. Matthew Bush Shopping Center.
The city has received more than 110 emails for and against lifting the ban.
“Please vote to change zoning ordinances to allow drive-through food pickup. My life – and that of many others, I imagine – would be much easier and fun (!) Senior.
The majority of emails – 102 – were signed by different people claiming to live in Coachella Valley, but the background for each was the same. The emails urged the council to allow drive-thru, as it would create jobs and increase business at the Palms to Pines West mall in particular.
Those who wrote and spoke against lifting the ban included residents and three restaurateurs from Palm Desert. Skip Paige, owner of Little Bar on Highway 111, said drive-thru services belong along Interstate 10, where they are already permitted in the city.
Ray Rodriguez, owner of Casuelas Café and Cork Tree California Cuisine, said it’s not about competition but about sustainability and energy efficiency; Rodriguez couldn’t see how idling, window-driven cars would be good for the environment.
“My concern is not the competition,” said Rodriguez. “If you’re in my business, you welcome competition. You learn from each other. Hope you will be friends and work together. It’s about the quality of life here in Palm Desert.