La Cañada commission votes against drive-through businesses

La Cañada Flintridge has a few drive-through businesses, but the Planning Commission may not want any more.

On Tuesday the commission voted 4-0 to recommend against a change to the Downtown Village Specific Plan to allow drive-throughs. The change would benefit Bill Koury, owner of the Shell gas station on Angeles Crest Highway, who sought to bring a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to the station at the shoulder of the Foothill (210) Freeway.

Koury told the commission the coffee franchise had expressed interest in opening next to the station, but only if it could put in a drive-through.

“We envision it as a state-of-the-art facility,” Koury told the commission. “It could be the city’s gateway to the freeway. More and more people want to pick up their coffee get on the freeway and continue on.”

Mayor Steve Del Guercio and City Councilman Donald Voss had recommended that Koury seek the change in zoning law.

Del Guercio said he thought the city should look at accommodating drive-throughs when they’re a good fit, such as with the Goldstein’s Bagel Bakery on Verdugo Boulevard.

“The thought process there would be you’re not next to a residential area, there’s no conflicting uses, there’s no problems with stacking on site,” he said.

La Cañada is home to several establishments with drive-throughs, including McDonalds, Wells Fargo, Taco Bell and Jack in the Box. All were built before the ban was enacted in the late 1990s.

The proposed zone change would only affect the Downtown Village Specific Plan area, which stretches along Foothill Boulevard from Angeles Crest Highway to Oakwood Avenue.

Planning Commissioner Rick Gunter said he is a frequent drive-through customer when he’s traveling for work, and that is why he doesn’t think building more drive-throughs in La Cañada would be beneficial.

“You get off freeway and use the drive-through and don’t interact with city,” he said. “It’s good for person that owns that lot, it’s not good for the city it’s in.”

Gunter said there might be a way to accommodate the Shell station’s proposal, but that retooling the specific plan would be a mistake.

“We value retail uses, and value a pedestrian usage where you can wander around,” he said. “I think a drive-through is the opposite for what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Commissioner Jonathan Curtis said letting new drive-throughs in would present the city’s Design Commission with the impossible task of fitting menu boards in with the more upscale sign aesthetic the city has focused on. Curtis also said allowing drive-throughs would be a step backward in the city’s environmental efforts.

“We’re supposed to be working on air quality, and here’s a situation that’s promoting idling cars and making air quality worse,” he said.

Del Guercio said that the City Council would take the Planning Commission’s recommendations into consideration and make its own decision on the issue.


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