Planning Commission nixes Peet’s
PEET’S COFFEE AND TEA applied to open a store at 591 Broadway, but the plan was nixed by the Sonoma Planning Commission.
In a test of the city’s new formula store ordinance, which allows “chain” businesses to be located off the Plaza, the Sonoma Planning Commission voted 4-3 Thursday to deny an application by Peet’s Coffee and Tea to occupy a vacant office building on Broadway.
Citing vehicle and pedestrian traffic concerns, intensity of use and possible loss of revenue for nearby coffee establishments, Commissioners Michael George, Robert Felder, Gary Edwards and Mark Heneveld voted to deny the use permit now required for formula stores in the Historic District. The ordinance went into effect on July 18.
The business was being proposed by Chris Konecny, representing Peet’s; and Henry Mayo, who has owned the building since 1972. It is located on a commercially-zoned parcel at 591 Broadway and is on the southwest corner of Broadway and McDonell streets, next to 599 Thai Cafe and across from Sonoma Ballet.
Speaking against the project was Dave Mock, owner of Hot Shots, a coffee business two blocks south of the project. He said it was not a coincidence that Peet’s would locate near his establishment, and charged that they can afford to force local shops out of business, even if it means taking a loss in the process. “If we allow chains, we are just another town,” said Mock.
Brian Mayo, representing the building owner, said Mott’s business was different. It has a drive through and an indoor sandwich shop. The proposed coffee establishment will have neither. “People’s habits are changing,” he said. “Coffee is popular. There is room for both.”
Commissioners Chip Roberson and Matthew Tippell had concerns about traffic, and had proposed a continuance until a traffic study could be provided. The motion was defeated. City staff, who stated they are not traffic engineers, based their traffic count on the eighth edition of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, which claims that coffee shops generate peak traffic of 94 vehicle trips between 4 and 6 p.m. Konecny disputed the count, claiming peak business is early in the morning. “We get 12 to 15 customers per hour, on the average, over a ten hour period,” he said. “The majority of our business is before 11 a.m. Twenty percent is pedestrian traffic.”
Commissioner Edwards was concerned about pedestrians crossing Broadway, particularly in the early hours of the morning. While parking met the standard, he was also concerned that it might not be enough. Commissioner George said his foremost concern was that the business would not be locally owned and operated, and revenue would not remain and be circulated in the community. “There is also the balance sheet issue,” he said. “Big businesses can lose money until the competitor is out of business. I don’t want to put local businesses out of business.”
Commissioner Heneveld concurred with the statements about economics, but said his main concern is parking and pedestrian traffic. Felder said his major issue was the “cumulative impacts” of intensifying uses, plus he didn’t think the project met the findings. To receive approval for a use permit, the project must enhance the diversity of the business mix and be consistent with the historic character of Sonoma. The staff report stated that those findings could be made as there are a wide variety of businesses in the area and the applicants were not proposing to modify the exterior of the building.
The applicants are considering an appeal.