Coco’s closed in April 2015 after being in the same spot since 1999.
On July 19, representatives of the Chick-fil-A fast-food chain gave a presentation to the Clairemont Community Planning Group with the latest rendition of the drive-thru proposed to replace the Coco’s Restaurant at 5955 Balboa Avenue.
Coco’s closed in April 2015 after being in the same spot since 1999. This was the fourth time since April that Chick-fil-A presented their project to the Clairemont planning group in hopes of getting approval.
There's not enough space to do a sit-down Chick-fil-A in Clairemont like this one in Point Loma
Leah Lombard delivered a 15-minute presentation that raised the concerns the planning group had voiced in a July 13 subcommittee meeting. She addressed traffic flow, pedestrian access points, landscaping, LEED certification, architectural elements, height, and the replacement of a three-foot drive-thru wall with landscaping. She also addressed concerns about not building a sit-down restaurant.
After the presentation, Naveen Waney of the planning group said, “I think you have done an amazing job of meeting with us and listening to community concerns and coming back with a project I think that meets all of the requests that we have had up to this point.”
Most of the 13 boardmembers voiced their approval for the work Chick-fil-A had done, but some were still troubled by issues such as the possible homeless problem that could be caused by Chick-fil-A not being open on Sundays.
Richard Jensen said, “I agree that every time you come back after our comments, it’s a better project. But I don’t think it’s done yet. All I’ve seen are some nice renderings; we don’t know the details. This [project] is going to affect our community for decades and decades; we want to get it right.”
Jensen then brought up the issue of food odor that might impact nearby residents and a proposed 30-foot-tall pole sign. He also thought the pedestrian access points weren’t enough, only flowing into Chick-fil-A and not into the plaza.
Some planning-group members came into the meeting with a no vote that turned into a yes after seeing the changes Chick-fil-A was able to turn around in one week.
When it came time for public comments, only three out of approximately forty people lined up. Janet Lancaster was by far the most vocal in her opposition.
“I’ve owned my own home in Clairemont since 1992 and I just found out about this project last Sunday," said Lancaster. "There aren’t any meeting minutes from the last two meetings online. The traffic is going to be a nightmare with the new Ranch 99 and the new car wash going in across the street. We don’t need another fast-food drive-thru; we need a sit-down restaurant. Also, Chick-fil-A is a real issue for me as they have given millions of dollars to an organization that promotes anti-LGBT activities. I’m vehemently opposed and I think we can do better.”
It was at this point that Phil Rath, representing Chick-fil-A, said, “I want to make it clear that there are things about this project that are pass/fail kind of things for the city. Can a restaurant be there? Pass. Can you do a drive-thru? Pass. How much parking do you need? Pass. Those have all been resolved. Everything we’ve been working on with you is discretionary. You asked and we said yes; none of it is code, none of it is required. I’m not begging. Let’s be clear about who’s asking who for what and who is doing what — that’s all I’m asking. We are doing this because we want to do it, and we like the project better because of the process we’ve gone through. We like it, we hope you like it.”
At this point, a motion was made to table the vote until September. The vote was 7 to 6 against doing so. Next was the vote on approving the demolition of the old Coco’s structure and the approval for the Chick-fil-A project as is. The vote was 8 to 5 in favor of the project.
Verin Valdez lives less than a mile from the proposed project. Valdez said, “Although I may not be a regular patron of Chick-fil-A, I appreciate their investment in Clairemont. I agree that a more upscale sit-down restaurant would be preferable, however this particular location on Balboa is not the last chance to have a nicer restaurant in the future. In the meantime, Clairemont could use a new building open for business more than it could an old one that remains boarded up.”
Ryan Trabuco, president of the Clairemont Town Council said about the vote, “I'm a little confused, and dismayed, at the support of allowing another fast-food joint plopping themselves in. There's no denying that empty storefronts, blighted corners, and vacant lots are an eyesore for our Clairemont community. However, by just accepting the first business that comes along and waves a bunch of money in front of us, we are no better than a Tinder date as a community.”
(corrected 7/24, 4:30 a.m.)