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Proposed drive-through restaurant faces pushback

Neighbors concerned that Amy’s Kitchen will lead to safety issues, car emissions, traffic

By Annie Sciacca

WALNUT CREEK » More than two years after a local developer withdrew an application to open an In-N-Out Burger at the corner of SecondAvenue andNorthMain Street because of fierce neighborhood opposition, the same developer has signed a lease to put a different drive-through restaurant there.

But some neighbors apparently aren’t happy with that proposal either.

Now planned for the 2.42-acre site is a drive-through Amy’s Kitchen restaurant. The North Bay-based chain focuses on sustainable, organic food — “think veggie burgers, shakes and fries made with organic and non-GMO ingredients,” according to its website. Hall Equities Group signed a leasewith the company for a 3,500-square-foot restaurant with a drive-up servicewindow, as well as patio seating and a garden.

The project would require a conditional use permit, among other approvals, to operate a drive-through. And it’s the drivethrough component that has upset neighbors the most.

In a blog post on the website for Larkey Park Neighbors United, a neighbor writes, “While at first read it might seem like a better choice than the In-N-Out we opposed, the issue was never the food. The issue was, and continues to be, the fact that this location is a terrible place for a drive-thru establishment of any kind.” The post says the neighbors will oppose any variance for a drivethrough at the location.

The former In-N-Out proposal had included plans for a Starbucks, and neighbors worried about traffic and safety, as well as pollution from idling cars. Those concerns are just as valid about the Amy’s Kitchen application, according to Larkey Park Neighbors United.

Hall Equities and Amy’s Kitchen have insisted the restaurant would be a good fit for the area.

“Amy’s is a rare d r i v ethrough restaurant that builds a LEED certified building including a green roof, solar panels, and they use all compostable packaging,” said Deb Karbo, chief development officer for Hall Equities. “They offer organic, vegetarian food, are family friendly, and don’t sell alcohol, so we believe they are an ideal use for the community over other more impactful uses we have had interest from.”

A news release from Amy’s about the proposal states that by setting the drive-through lane about four feet below street level, the restaurant “plans to maximize the natural beauty of the area.” It goes on to say the drivethrough lane would be accessible from the center of the parking lot to avoid a back-up of cars and would be designated “idle free.” The lane would also be covered with solar panels to feed power back to the restaurant.

Jessica Clark, a nearby resident and part of Larkey Park Neighbors United, pointed out that the proposed restaurant would go right next to homes and neighbors are worried about toxic emissions from idling cars queued up in the drive-through. Even if the restaurant instructs people to turn off their engines while waiting, she doesn’t believe that’s a viable plan, especially in the hot Walnut Creek summer months when people run air conditioning in their cars.

Clark also pointed to the congestion “nightmare” across North Main Street, where Hall Equities built a Chick-fil-A drive-through restaurant and an adjacent 24-Hour Fitness.

Hall Equities, in its own statement posted online, said it had received interest from other businesses, but “selected Amy’s due to its family friendly culture.”

“Amy’s Kitchen was started to bring healthy, organic food to people of all income levels,” Dave Wolfgram, president of Amy’s Drive Thru, said in a statement. “We aim to expand that mission into Walnut Creek while ensuring our delicious and affordable organic food is readily available to everyone.”

Amy’s touts its menu of organic veggie burgers, shakes, french fries, pizza and burritos, which come with gluten-free and dairy-free options, as well as its compostable packaging and a plan to build sustainably by using “upcycled” materials and solar panels.

Neighbors emphasize that it’s not the menu, mission or the concept that bothers them.

“While we welcome the opportunity to talk to Amy’s as they’ve requested, we want to make it clear that Larkey Park Neighbors United is NOT against development in this area,” the blog post states. “We are NOT against a food and beverage establishment in this area. But we are very much opposed to a drivethru at this location.”

According to the city’s website, a required environmental review of the project is pending. The project would need to obtain several permits before proceeding. Hall Equities’ Karbo said the company recently submitted an application for the conditional use permit and is performing environmental studies that will all be a part of the project application. Contact Annie Sciacca at 925- 943- 8073.

Hall Equities Group has signed a lease with Amy’s Kitchen for a proposed drive-through restaurant in Walnut Creek at Second Avenue and North Main, but neighbors have said they will oppose the plans, citing concerns over gas emissions and traffic congestion.


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