Commission chairwoman Meg West voiced concern that the traffic study showed the Storke Road and Hollister Avenue intersection is almost at acceptable capacity – 33,800 car trips out of 34,000 now — and the McDonald’s project expects 83 more car trips added to that.
“It’s such a sliver away from the acceptable capacity, and that to me is within the margin of error, so I don’t feel the traffic study has proved this impact is marginal,” she said.
Owner David Peterson pitched the project, which will mean removing nine parking spaces and changing some landscaping.
The design would also add a sidewalk to Storke Road near the shopping center entrance, prohibit left turns out of the drive-through and prohibit left turns into Home Depot from Storke Road.
The commission unanimously voted to continue the project and have city staff come back with more detailed analysis of the traffic impacts. Commissioners are being asked to approve an addendum to the original environmental impact report.
Newly appointed commissioner Terry Dressler wanted to know specifically how the changes within the shopping center’s parking lot would impact busy city streets.
The Planning Commission can only approve the project if members decide the drive-through won’t impact air quality more than the same use without one, Senior Planner Mary Chang said.
City staff concluded that there wouldn’t be significant impacts to greenhouse gas emissions or traffic, but many Goleta residents would have none of it.
They voiced big concerns that queuing cars would block up traffic and idling cars would add greenhouse gas emissions to the restaurant’s current output.
Goleta resident Lynn Kirby said the addition would further crowd the Storke Road entrance into the shopping center.
“Guaranteed, the fries are going to be cold before you hit the road,” Kirby said
However, there were a lot of people who wanted the drive-through for quicker service, convenience and easier access for customers in wheelchairs.
Rob Crawford said youth group leaders with Young Life often take children in wheelchairs out for activities, and it’s much easier to get food through a drive-through instead of pulling down a ramp and getting everyone out and into the restaurant.
Former Third District Supervisor Gail Marshall said the county originally rejected the drive-through because of traffic concerns in the area.
The Camino Real project was approved with explicit instruction not to include a drive-through, she said.
The project was supposed to add transportation options such as electric shuttles to Old Town and UCSB to mitigate traffic impacts, but those conditions weren’t met.
The mitigations were the county’s “solemn promise to Goleta Valley” that never came to fruition, Marshall said.
She asked the Planning Commission to deny the drive through, at least until the original mitigation plans are implemented.
There was a lot of talk about what mitigations were planned and paid for by Camino Real Marketplace in the past, but the City Attorney said the commission’s discussion only concerns the impacts estimated for the area’s existing conditions.
Peterson owns six McDonald’s restaurants in Santa Barbara and Goleta that serve 6,000 customers per day.
He expects more business, but also said he doesn’t expect that many more car trips, since most customers are already shopping in the area.
Other locations have 65 percent of customers use the drive-through, which he expects at this McDonald’s as well.
In response to concerns about lines of cars, he said the location never has more than 90 cars per hour, and the average wait time would be 90 seconds.
Some people who spoke during public comment complimented Peterson’s management thus far, saying it was unlikely he’d break his word and let long lines cause traffic problems.
Among them was his daughter, professional surfer Lakey Peterson.
“My dad really does care about this community, care about this place, and wants to do the best thing for Goleta and everyone here,” she said.
The issue will be back at the Planning Commission at a later meeting, but staff members did not have a specific date in mind when the Monday night meeting adjourned.