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Clairemont Coco’s out, Chick-fil-A in

Some satisfied, some dismayed at approval of "another fast-food joint"

Coco’s closed in April 2015 after being in the same spot since 1999.
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.)

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Coco’s closed in April 2015 after being in the same spot since 1999.
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.)

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Comments
11

Sit-down restaurants are an endangered species as the middle-class shrinks. More fast food, less sit down.

July 23, 2016

Denny's style restaurants seem to be having the most problems. The sit down restaurants like Cocos, Denny's, etc. that are successful are small family owned established restaurants that serve the immediate community.

July 24, 2016

Being different helps, too. Breakfast Republic in North Park does a great business; so does Carnitas' Snack Shack. Meanwhile, Denny's in North Park doesn't have a line of people waiting outside.

July 24, 2016

Coco's was wildly successful in the early 70's for reasons I still don't understand. Back then it was known as "Coco's Famous Hamburgers." In recent years it had attempted to go a bit upscale with some rather creative dishes, and had its executive chef making radio commercials. But now the chain is shrinking, and the food is utterly pedestrian. My most recent foray into our local Coco's was most disappointing, leaving me with the impression that the cook was a definite second-stringer, not even up to the task of finishing preparation of the Sysco fare that it seemed to be.

Finding another sit-down operation to occupy that location would be most unlikely. At least Chick-Fil-A does a big business, and will be successful there. That's better than no eatery at all.

July 24, 2016

Right. That's why the former Coco's in North Park has become a Starbuck's drive-through (in a brand new buidlng, of course).

July 24, 2016

At one time, Coco's had a few locations with Reuben's Plankhouse (a bar and steakhouse) attached. They had one in La Mesa.

I recall going to Coco's many times as a teenager and later in the 80's. I thought they had decent burgers. Their service became very slow and I think the number of ownership changes made things worse. Just like El Torito and Marie Callenders, their concepts became outdated. I few years back, someone who I worked with told me they also moonlighted at Coco's. I asked what the best selling thing was (besides pies) and she said it was steaks. She said for many people, it was the only place they could afford a steak dinner.

Anyway, as dwbat said, the indy type places are far more popular these days. They bring fresh menus and concepts that would not work in large chains.

For those that miss that Coco's there's an IHOP up the street. I'm not a fan of IHOP as I see them promote their breakfasts which look more like giant desserts.

July 24, 2016

From the article: "Chick-fil-A is a real issue for me as they have given millions of dollars to an organization that promotes anti-LGBT activities."

Weren't there big protests 4 years ago about this? I remember seeing local and national TV coverage. Cities Boston, Chicago and San Francisco have moved to block Chick-fil-A as well as universities. The Clairemont Community Planning Group and Clairemont Town Council seem to have totally ignored the issue.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chick-fil-A_same-sex_marriage_controversy

July 24, 2016

And, gasp!, they close on Sunday for religious reasons. Can't have that, can we? (Ask the employees if they WANT to work on Sunday. Betcha they like it the way it is now.) On the whole, I like the food and service at Chick-Fil-A. Hard to see them as anything negative, but who asked me?

July 24, 2016

I like Chick-Fil-A, In N Out and Hobby Lobby. They are good businesses that treat their employees well and have good work environments. Although I may disagree with the positions of their owners (or founders), that is their First Amendment right to free speech. And we should appreciate they are brave enough to state their positions.

By boycotting or denying these businesses a place to trade, we would only hurt employees and customers.

July 24, 2016

I wouldn't give a dollar to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, though. ;-)

July 25, 2016

UPDATE: They got the go ahead to demo Coco's on April 12 from the city.

April 22, 2017

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