Starbucks plan stirs up debate

Most of the roughly 40 people who attended a hearing Wednesday for a proposed Starbucks in Montrose expressed support for the coffee chain, arguing it would generate badly needed foot traffic for the mostly mom-and-pop business district.

Starbucks wants to open a store on the southeast corner of Honolulu Avenue and Ocean View Boulevard. Company representatives appeared before Planning Officer Laura Stotler requesting a conditional-use permit to operate as a fast-food establishment because the store will have more than eight seats.

As part of Starbucks’ plans, the 2,122-square-foot space would be reduced to 1,768 square feet by moving part of the building’s façade back to create a 354-square-foot outdoor seating area. Inside, the coffee shop would seat 23 customers, and another 13 outside.

The company is also seeking permission to have 14 fewer parking spaces than what are required by city code.

In addition to recurring complaints of Corporate America moving into the “small town” district, a group of opponents cited the parking issue in lobbying against the coffee shop.

Starbucks spokesman Mike Abbate said there are more than 400 parking spaces in two city lots near the proposed site, and that during the traditional peak time — between 8:30 and 10 a.m. — most retailers and restaurants in the Montrose district aren’t open yet.

Robert Yoohanna, who owns the building across Ocean View Boulevard from the proposed Starbucks, said the additional customers would force him to hire a parking monitor to make sure his parking spaces are used for his tenants — which includes a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

Terry Mansky, spokesman for Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, pointed out that his company has only one store in the La Crescenta-La Cañada-Montrose area, while Starbucks already has three.

When Coffee Bean moved into its Montrose location nine years ago, it paid a premium for rent because the building provided private parking.

“That is like gold in this area,” Mansky said, adding that the business has grown to make $1 million annually. “And we did it the hard way.”

Still, several Montrose business owners spoke in favor of a Starbucks because it would generate foot traffic.

Mike Moslin — president of Color Me Mine, which is moving into a smaller space next door — said Starbucks would act as an “activity generator” and bring needed pedestrian traffic to the area.

And Janet Vandagriff, owner of Bella Boutique, said she finds there is plenty of parking available in the city lots and on the street.

Melinda Clarke, executive director of the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce, suggested that directional signs be erected pointing out the locations of public parking.

“There is an overall parking problem there,” she said.

Stotler is scheduled to make her decision within the next 30 days.

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