It was not a good day for Chick-fil-A.
The restaurant went before the Santa Barbara County Board of Architectural Review on Friday with a conceptual plan to open a new establishment at 4765 Calle Real.
The board’s response: Not in my backyard.
“We are not going to be very receptive of corporate architecture in this community,” said Josh Blumer, vice president of the board. “You are going to get a lot more out of this board if you depart from this corporate architectural identity. It’s not something we want here on the coastline.”
Chick-fil-A submitted an application on Monday and was on the ARB agenda by Friday morning. The plan that it presented showed a reconfigured property, with the driveway aligned with Dexter Drive. People turning into the fast-food location would not be doing so near the Starbucks property at the end of the street.
Chick-fil-A wants to demolish the entire building, remove the trees and install new plantings. The drive-thru queue would hold 32 to 35 cars on the property and about 50 spaces on the property.
The board acknowledged that the drive-thru configuration was solid and that it did not appear to present the same problems with queuing as the Santa Barbara location.
However, other problems existed.
The board said the design didn’t look like something that belonged in Santa Barbara and that it was automobile-based instead of pedestrian-based. The board wanted more landscape planters to break up the long row of parking spaces facing Calle Real. The site wasn’t walkable, they said.
Board member Alex Pujo said the site should be more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly and that the current configuration is “swimming against the stream.” An American flag planned for the site was too big, he said.
“Flags are wonderful, but the flag is almost twice as tall as the building,” he said, adding that “the automobile aspect of this development is troublesome for me” and “that the whole concept itself doesn’t seem to fit the community plan.”
The project is proposed to replace IHOP, which plans a move to Western Goleta later in the year. . It’s also next to the Starbucks drive-thru, which sometimes experiences vehicles lining up onto Calle Real. Across the intersection is In-N-Out Burger, which regularly has a line on its own property.
Board member Valerie Froscher said she wanted to see a landscaping plan. Chick-fil-A did not provide a landscape plan at the meeting.
“It does not reflect the local character of what the community would like to see,” Froscher said. “It is going to change the quality of life there.”
She added that “the building is very corporate and does not reflect an homage to Santa Barbara.”
Board member Robert Richards said he didn’t like the canopy over a part of the drive-thru lane and that it needed to be made of a different material.
“The whole site right now feels like it is a restaurant on an island in the middle of a parking lot,” Richards said.
The application comes amid a hailstorm of controversy over the Chick-fil-A in Santa Barbara. The restaurant at 3707 State St. gets about 2,500 visits every day, and the vehicles sometimes back up out of the driveway and into the street, enraging some local residents.
On March 1, the city and Chick-fil-A agreed to spend three months talking about an elaborate plan to reduce traffic out into the street, although the problem already has subsided. Chick-fil-A has hired a security guard, extra employees to direct traffic in the drive-thru lanes, and posted signs telling people not to back out into the street.
The City of Santa Barbara won’t ticket the Chick-fil-A motorists who queue out into the public right of way, so it is leaning on Chick-fil-A to solve the problem. Police Chief Barney Melekian said the only motorist who theoretically could be ticketed would be the first driver blocking the street, but doing so is not a practical use of the city’s resources.
If the issue isn’t resolved by June, then the city could declare the restaurant a “public nuisance,” a move that ultimately would lead to the loss of its ability to have a drive-thru.
Santa Barbara no longer allows new drive-thrus. Chick-fil-A, when it opened in 2013, entered a building previously occupied by a Burger King restaurant.
Chick-fil-A proposed the new restaurant to help alleviate the pressure at the Santa Barbara restaurant.
Ed Hale, who represented Chick-fil-A at the meeting, said they would return with a revised conceptual design, after hearing the feedback. The project needs a conditional use permit and still must past several layers for approval.
Hale expressed concerns about losing parking spaces: “We are sensitive to having as much parking as we can.”
He also said he wanted ample outdoor space for dining.
“Santa Barbara is such a beautiful place,” Hale said. “Everyone wants to be able to enjoy the weather there while they are having their sandwich.”
— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.