Health & Medicine

June 20, 2012

City Council nixes planned McDonald's in Oak Park

Not even the promise of new jobs during a recession could push McDonald's over a heap of neighborhood opposition from Oak Park residents fighting a proposed restaurant with a drive-thru.

Not even the promise of new jobs during a recession could push McDonald's over a heap of neighborhood opposition from Oak Park residents fighting a proposed restaurant with a drive-thru.

After hearing from dozens of residents on both sides, the Sacramento City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to deny a special permit for the drive-thru, which would have been built next to a residential neighborhood.

Several council members spoke of voting to block McDonald's not because the restaurant would be a bad neighbor, but specifically because of the drive-thru. It was not an approved use for the 1-acre empty lot at Stockton Boulevard and Second Avenue, adjacent to the largely gentrified gateway to North Oak Park.

The vote essentially reaffirms the city's general plan for the Stockton Boulevard corridor and supports an April decision by the city Planning Commission to deny McDonald's a special permit.

Councilman Jay Schenirer made the motion to deny McDonald's appeal of the Planning Commission decision.

"It's not a question of the quality of your food; it's a question about the right land use," Schenirer said. "People have choices about their neighborhood, and the energy in Oak Park, the positive attitude of the people who live there is really critical in a community."

The Planning Commission had found that the McDonald's proposal left unresolved the issues of "site layout, building design, traffic, quality of life, air quality, noise and proposed hours of operation."

Franchisee John Ritchey said in an interview last week that certain aspects of his proposal were flexible, but the drive-thru was not negotiable. According to McDonald's business model, the restaurants need the draw of the drive-thru to be profitable.

The drive-thru was the main point of contention in the nearby neighborhood because it would have routed about 1,000 cars daily from Stockton Boulevard onto Second Avenue, a residential street with bike lanes.

Oak Park residents spoke for the 50 jobs that would have been created and the other side spoke against the proposed drive-thru, with about two-thirds of the packed council chamber representing Healthy Development of Oak Park, a coalition focused on blocking the McDonald's because they said they wanted healthier choices for their community. That meant safe walking and biking, as well as healthy food choices.

Holding up yellow and green signs saying, "No Drive-Thru," the residents came armed with 1,700 petition signatures, numerous letters of opposition to the drive-thru and dozens of speakers against the proposed restaurant.

One resident, Joy Moore, said it would be a shame to allow a McDonald's to build across the street from UC Davis Medical Center's Cancer Survivors Park.

"I'm asking you to consider the patients who gather there for solitude and inspiration," Moore said. "It's about preserving the integrity of a place for understanding, accepting and enjoying survivorship," she said, explaining her point of view as a breast cancer survivor.

Council members noted the decision harkened back to the city's general plan, which discourages drive-thru restaurants in residential areas.

Ritchey, who is president of the Sacramento region's McDonald's Black Operators Association and a supporter of the Ronald McDonald House charity, was proposing to build his fifth McDonald's in the Sacramento region.

In an interview last week, he said that the restaurant would have drawn from existing traffic, not created new traffic.

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