The San Marino Planning Commission witnessed heated debate on the issue of non-compliance by operators of the Starbucks located at 2265 Huntington Dr. at its meeting on Nov. 28. Despite the feedback from many residents, most of the conditions Starbucks requested—including the ability to sell pre-packaged food—were passed unanimously with the addition of a condition for a one-year review for compliance and for the delivery and operating hours to change. An outdoor seating condition was also restored from a previous agreement, which limits the outside patio area to three tables with two chairs at each table.
Starbucks was enabled to change its operating hours to 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Monday through Sunday. Currently its hours are from between 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. depending on the day, until 8:30 p.m.
Several residents and also a few planning commissioners spoke out strongly against what they view is Starbucks flouting the rules of its conditional use permit that was set in the 1990s, stipulating approved delivery hours and allowable food service.
A representative from Starbucks, Keith Glassman, was on hand at the meeting, requesting a change to their operating hours, delivery hours and to allow the business to legally serve a wide variety of products, including pre-packaged sandwiches and salads. In the Nov. 28 Planning Commission report, San Marino staff noted that “Starbucks has been operating out of compliance with its current conditions of approval and seeks permission to legalize their existing operations and to change their operating hours.”
The decision to accept Starbucks into the San Marino community was a controversial one in the 1990s. In the conditions of approval in 1998, the Planning Commission noted that the only food Starbucks would be allowed to sell would be coffee, cookies and pastries, excluding any sandwiches or salads.
San Marino resident Joan Huang, the new owner of the neighboring Garnish Café, asked the commission to not approve Starbucks’ request for food permits, noting that it also was creating safety issues with parking and people staying longer due to the food offerings currently available at Starbucks.
“Giving them extended hours and allowing them to offer food I think is unfair for small mom and pops like me and also for the other businesses in that location because parking is very, very limited,” said Huang.
Deliveries were also a hot-button issue. At the meeting, Starbucks had requested the ability to accept deliveries from 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight, which was denied by the commission. The commission stipulated that no deliveries would be allowed after 10:00 p.m. to coincide with the new operating hours.
Many residents who spoke at the meeting also presented first-hand accounts and evidence that Starbucks was not holding to their agreement that deliveries would only be conducted between the approved hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
In response to hearing from residents on late night and early morning deliveries, Glassman called them “totally unacceptable” and promising he’d work with vendors on logistical delivery issues.
“Our vendors and our store staff are aware of that,” said Glassman. “We try to mitigate any kind of noise or noise going on with the deliveries, but we can’t always control exactly when those trucks will be there so we wanted a little flexibility beyond 10:00 p.m. to accommodate that legally in our conditional use.”
San Marino resident Hector Gutierrez of Ridgeway Road who spoke at the meeting reminded the commission that in 1994, Glassman stated there would be no late-night deliveries. Gutierrez shared it was “very disturbing” that he has witnessed 18-wheel trucks arrive between 11:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. every night and a box truck often twice a night.
“I want you to absolutely deny any type of approval for an expansion of their conditional use permit,” said Gutierrez. “They are not following their current conditional use permit and they should not be awarded additional terms if they can’t even meet the terms they have now.”
Gutierrez’s wife, Linda Gutierrez, also detailed that she had video evidence of a 12:40 a.m. Starbucks delivery on Nov. 28, 2018, and that they both had corresponded with staff at City Hall about ongoing compliance issues with parking, trash and deliveries with Starbucks going back to 2014. She noted that despite making calls, visits and emails to City Hall, it was stated within a staff report that no resident had disagreed with delivery times.
“My concern is the lack of accountability and constant expansion creeping in under city enforcement from Starbucks,” said Linda Gutierrez. “Their requested changes will only benefit the Starbucks franchise. It will not have any benefit to the homeowners.”
Several commissioners asked further questions of Glassman and thanked residents for their feedback. Commissioner Shelley Boyle agreed with Commission Vice-Chair Jeri Wright that Starbucks had created a “sense of mistrust” in the community due to the violations.
“Like Jeri said, I’m sorry Starbucks, I don‘t trust you guys,” said Boyle. “I don’t think that you’ve shown to us in the community that you really want to work with us and the regulations that we’ve put in place. You’ve shown time and time again you’re just going to do exactly what you want and wait until you get caught. That seems to be what your M.O. since at least ’94.”
Boyle asked pointedly who Starbucks was in business for and pointed out that if Starbucks no longer had their current location, a local mom and pop business would move in and comply.
“As somebody who sits on this commission, I see businesses trying to do their best and you guys are just doing whatever you want and I think that shows you’re not a very good neighbor to us,” Boyle said.
According to Aldo Cervantes, San Marino director of planning and building, the one-year motion to comply presents the opportunity of one year to observe how Starbucks operates, take note of violations that come up, and the results will then be presented to the Planning Commission with the ability to present a motion to make the conditions permanent or remove the approvals granted at the Nov. 28 meeting.
Cervantes also noted that the commission restored a previous condition of approval that addressed outdoor seating at Starbucks. The condition allows three tables with two chairs at each table for the outside patio area. The previous situation of many residents bringing their own chairs for communal gathering does not fall within that condition.
“If someone were to bring in their own chair and we see that, then that’s obviously a violation of their condition as authorized,” said Cervantes.