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City Council Supports BevMo, Legislation to Ban Plastic Bags

Support of the proposed beverage store on State Street comes with conditions on parking and delivery traffic

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to give Beverages & More Inc. — commonly known as BevMo — the final green light for its proposed store on State Street after denying a community group’s appeal.

A BevMo store will open up at 3052 State St. after the building, formerly Thomasville Furniture, is remodeled, its detached warehouse is demolished and the parking area is redone.

City staff said the project would have no substantial adverse affects, and supported the BevMo plan going forward. The council mainly agreed, but set conditions on the approval that called for enforcement of employee-only parking spaces that would keep staff out of the neighborhoods, and to look into delivery truck loading procedures and routes.

Since the building is located in a commercial zone, the use is allowable and doesn’t need a land-use hearing, even though a BevMo store would be a more intense use of the space than the previous tenant.

As evidenced by the conditions of final approval, traffic impacts were the top concern, including clogged intersections and additional delivery trucks in the area. The example of nearby Trader Joe’s, 3025 De la Vina St., was used repeatedly by project opponents, who criticized the store’s parking lot, parking space sizes and delivery truck procedures — all of which they feared would be repeated with BevMo.

Marc Chytilo, attorney for the community members who filed the appeal, said the approval process should have included more environmental review.

“This is not a simple reoccupation of a commercial building,” he said. The project’s specifics changed after the city’s Architectural Board of Review approved it in May, without further public or board review, which he also took issue with.

Chytilo said more palm trees will obstruct the view of the mountains, traffic created from customers and vendors will affect nearby intersections, and the possible negative economic impacts on local businesses could cause more empty storefronts and urban blight.

BevMo project team members emphasized that the store is not a liquor or convenience store and serves a different kind of customer.

“Our best customer comes every 60 days,” said Jeff Sealy, BevMo’s vice president of real estate.

In addition to wine, beer and spirits, the chain sells glassware and selected food items, but does not sell lottery tickets, adult magazines or malt liquor like the typical “liquor store,” Sealy said. Instead, he talked about the chain’s commitment to having a wide selection, value and customer service.

The company expects to have 12 to 15 employees total and 28 deliveries a week — four of them involving tractor-trailer rigs. Approval conditions address truck routes, but Sealy said smaller trucks would enter through the alleyway and back into the loading dock, while larger trucks would enter the parking lot from State Street and leave through the alley.

Members of the public expressed concerns about the twice-weekly tasting periods the store would host, but Sealy said the 10-by-10-foot area was meant for those who want to taste before buying.

Of the 104 BevMo stores, the nearest one is in Thousand Oaks, leading some people to worry a regional draw would create even more traffic.

Having delivery trucks and additional cars maneuver around already busy intersections, neighborhoods and near Peabody Charter School was the leading concern. The San Roque and Samarkand neighborhoods are friendly to walking and biking, and one resident the project could jeopardize that.

The possibility of having employees parking in nearby neighborhoods could be rectified with employee-only parking and decals so that BevMo staff cars would be easily recognizable — and reportable — to residents, Sealy said.

Local business owners expressed concerns about economic impacts, and businessman Michael Winthrop said there are nine stores within 500 yards of the site that sell wine, beer and spirits.

Others supported the project as it passed requirements and seemed an appropriate use for the vacant building.

“It’s not really the City Council’s job to dictate how our economy works,” Bank of Santa Barbara CEO Eloy Ortega said during public comment.

Single-Use Plastic Bags

The council was not so in sync with the next agenda item: sending a letter of support to Sacramento for Assembly Bill 1998, regarding single-use plastic carryout bags.

A majority vote means the letter will be sent, but with the caveat that it be amended in certain areas.

“If this shifts people to paper bags, this is really missing the mark,” Councilman Das Williams said.

The bill attempts to provide a statewide standard instead of a “patchwork of regulations from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,” said Kristy Schmidt, acting as environmental services manager.

Plastic bags given out in supermarkets would be banned beginning in 2012 and in convenience stores by 2013, she said. Paper bags could be offered, at a cost, and reusable bags must be available to customers.

The council agreed to revisit a planned survey on a local plastic-bag tax in September. The survey would measure support of a tax and what level of support people would go to, since the legislation could preempt any local action. The council approved up to $23,319 for a contract with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates in December.

Members of the public supported the legislation, saying plastic bags make up 2 percent of Santa Barbara’s waste weight and affect the marine environment, creeks, landfills and economy.

Council members Michael Self and Frank Hotchkiss voted against the letter of support, as they oppose a ban on plastic bags.

In response to a comment that plastic bags are “immortal garbage,” Hotchkiss said that, like everything else in the world, even plastic bags eventually go away and their benefits are evidenced by their popularity.

He said he saw the offering of bags — for a fee — as a “coercive tax trying to get people to do things they don’t want to do.”

Self questioned the environmental rationale of favoring paper bags over plastic, and wondered rhetorically if this legislation is “a good thing or a feel-good thing.”

Mayor Helene Schneider said she supports the legislation and that the goals require a statewide approach, although other council members expressed concern over a loss of local control.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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