The owners of the embattled Chick-fil-A restaurant on State Street want to eliminate 15 parking spaces, add a third driving lane, build a metal canopy, and cut down five trees at its popular uptown location.
This proposal was its answer to the lingering traffic-congestion problems that have threatened the company’s ability to have a drive-thru at the eatery at 3707 State St.
Chick-fil-A, and its Santa Ana architectural firm CRHO, went before the Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review on Monday evening — and were met with firm opposition to its proposal.
“It seems like what is happening here is we are bringing a lot of cars onto the site, more cars onto the site, and making that allowable, but we’re not opening it up to let them out of the site,” said board member Leon Olson. “I think that is making some sort of congestion that I don’t know meets all of the rules.”
The ABR voted 5-0 Tuesday to continue the project indefinitely, informing Chick-fil-A that it didn’t like the canopy, or the removal of landscaping to accommodate a third lane of cars. The hearing was a concept review, so the restaurant will be able to revise the plan and return to the board.
The traffic circulation was not under the jurisdiction of the ABR, which is charged with an aesthetic review of the proposal. The project must also go before the city Planning Commission and City Council for review of the functionality and traffic circulation of the proposal.
Chick-fil-A is popular among customers, but has run afoul with some San Roque area residents.
The restaurant can get so busy that sometimes motorists back out onto State Street, creating problems for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and people trying to exit the nearby Rusty’s.
Chick-fil-A has until June 7 to remedy the problem, otherwise the city’s legal team will prepare findings for the City Council to declare the restaurant a “public nuisance,” which could mean the loss of the drive-thru.
Chick-fil-A, known for its thick, meaty chicken breasts and waffle fries, is a popular destination for locals, sometimes drawing up to 2,500 people a day. The restaurant replaced Burger King, which was not as popular and did not experience the same traffic congestion problems.
Decades ago, Santa Barbara banned all new drive-thru restaurants, so Chick-Fil-A runs the risk of losing the drive-thru if it cannot work out a remedy with the city.
However, the restaurant may have created a new problem in trying to solve its traffic congestion issue.
Under the proposed plan, Chick-fil-A would create a third lane, with two used by motorists for ordering food. The third lane would allow cars to enter the site and park, rather than backing up onto the street.
“That will help with the backup into the street,” said Carlos De la Vega, an architect with CRHO.
The restaurant would widen the entrance to the site, by eliminating some landscaping at the front. The driveway entrance is 32 feet and it would need to expand to 42 feet. This would also involve moving handicapped parking spaces to the other side of the restaurant.
To add the third lane, Chick-fil-A would have to reduce the number of parking spaces from 45 to 30, and remove five trees. Some of the remaining parking would become parallel, instead of angled.
The board members told Chick-fil-A that it should find a way to add a “finger-planter, and possibly more trees, to provide more vegetation on the site. Board members also were not pleased with the look, color and design of the metal canopy over the drive-thru lane.
“As far as the aesthetics and the structure itself that you have proposed, I don’t know that I would be in support of it as designed,” said board member Steve Nuhn. “Just this big metal canopy. It doesn’t relate to the building. I think that needs work.”
Board chair Kevin Moore said more landscaping is needed.
“I would encourage you to take a hard look at the layout, and see where else you could find areas for planting,” Moore said.
— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.