City to Hold New Hearing Regarding Starbucks Changes

By a narrow margin, the City Council voted to hit the reset button on negotiations with Starbucks to modify the conditional use permit that has governed the store’s operation in San Marino since 1994.
Mayor Dr. Steven Huang joined Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey and Council-woman Susan Jakubowski last week in doing away with an agreement, approved by the Planning Commission in November, that allowed for slight expansions to business hours and, more controversially, widened the window for product deliveries. Councilmen Steve Talt and Ken Ude voted against the measure to reset the changes.
The city expects to start a fresh public hearing with Starbucks officials within 40 days of the meeting. It was forced into a decision because of an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision; some residents argued that the changed delivery times would cause a sound nuisance to the nearby neighborhood and claimed that Starbucks doesn’t abide by previously designated delivery times.
The key impediment is determining what is too early and what is too late.
“I think when it is very busy in the morning it is a huge issue for people picking up and going various places in the morning,” Shepherd Romey said. “It is
a very dangerous intersection as it is. When school gets out at 2:50, it escalates dramatically.”
Starbucks sits on Huntington Drive just east of San Marino Avenue, but a side street that runs parallel to and then connects with San Marino Avenue opens up in between. That opening also links to Ridgeway Road, a residential street that forks into both an alleyway behind Huntington Drive businesses and Cumberland Road.
The Planning Commission ultimately agreed to allow the store to open at 5:30 a.m. each day and for deliveries to be allowed starting at 9 a.m. through closing time at 10 p.m. Prior modifications to the conditional use permit have set a current delivery window of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., although the store tries to follow a self-imposed 10 a.m.-2 p.m. schedule.
Representatives of the business said they’re able to work within the current window but were hoping to expand it to allow for unforeseen complications beyond Starbucks’ control, as its product comes from third-party distributors.
“There’s a fleet out there and vendors change,” said Keith Glassman, whose firm, Glassman Planning Associates, assists companies in navigating local red tape. “We’d like to have that flexibility, but we don’t plan on taking advantage of that flexibility.”
Local residents Hector and Linda Gutierrez appealed the commission’s ruling, alleging that Starbucks has already “repeatedly and flagrantly” violated the long-standing permit, particularly since the commission’s decision. Their letter said delivery trucks were at the store anywhere between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. in the two weeks after the November decision.
“I felt that 10 p.m. would be much too late to have an 18-wheel truck roll into the neighborhood,” Hector Gutierrez told the City Council. “If they could make their window by 5 o’clock — at standard business hours — that would be great. It would help with traffic and the noise of the delivery. It is a very noisy delivery. It isn’t a five- or 10-minute thing; it takes quite a while.”
Shepherd Romey thought even that window was too large and said she preferred to stick with the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. timeframe.
“That is a long window of time, and I believe that the residents would be able to tolerate that,” she said. “I think that’s the safest time to have it done and I think there should be a cap. I think 10 to 2 is ideal, but I wouldn’t want to see it go later than 3 p.m.”
Glassman acknowledged that some deliveries had overshot the new deadline and attributed the problem to working out new schedules with vendors.
“Nothing is perfect in operation, but we are making sure,” he said. “In the two weeks after the approval, it took time to tweak our times with our vendors and coordinate through Seattle [where Starbucks is based]. We apologize for the delay in that.”
Ude, whose background is in business management, said he felt it was in the city’s interest to allow some leeway for Starbucks as long as it didn’t interfere blatantly with the community.
“I think this is one where you don’t go to the extremes,” he said. “They’ve shown good faith in trying to work within the 10-to-2 window. Appreciate that corporate policies might change and appreciate that trucks might get flat tires. A reasonable number of 9 to 5 or 9 to 6 makes sense to me. Before 9 o’clock does not make sense and after 7 o’clock does not make sense, but there’s a reasonable window in there that should work for everybody.”
Linda Gutierrez pointed out that no store in town does business on the scale Starbucks does (more than 70 customers per hour during mornings, she said) and often that results in customers parking on residential streets. She added that the Starbucks on Huntington Drive and San Gabriel Boulevard just closed.
“If parking here is spilling out to residential areas now, how will it look when they expand their business further?” asked resident Joyce Gatsoulis.

Leave a Reply