North Park residents continue legal battle against fast-food chain
Dave Schwab | Uptown News
Care About North Park (CANP) continues to its fight against the Jack in the Box rebuild and drive-thru at the T intersection at 30th and Upas streets.
“We could have said, ‘Oh well, it’s done so just let it ride,’” said Rick Pyle, a member of the ad hoc CANP group, regarding the fast-food restaurant, which was “illegally” reconstructed in the eyes of some approximately one year ago.
Fellow CANP member Kate Callen said the legal and ethical issues involved are too great to let Jack in the Box off the hook.
“They lied to us,” Callen said. “Unless we’re successful in fending off this kind of illegal development in North Park, it will just go elsewhere. We have to deal with it.”
A brief history of the Jack in the Box “Remodel”
North Park residents have filed a lawsuit seeking to close the drive-thru window included in the North Park Jack in the Box, which has been at its Upas Street site since 1961.
Insisting the restaurant’s drive-thru is auto-intensive in the middle of a residential area where it no longer belongs, some residents contend the corporation voided its nonconforming right to have a drive-thru, thereby doing a nearly complete tear down — rather than a remodel — of its restaurant.
“Zoning was changed 15 years ago in that area that no longer allowed drive-thrus, the goal being so that area of North Park could be less auto-intensive and more pedestrian-friendly,” Pyle said.
“People just fly out of that drive-thru,” said Callen, who claims the drive-thru makes that intersection much more dangerous for all passersby including strollers, joggers and families with dogs.
Callen also claims Jack in the Box used a stealth approach to get its restaurant rebuild in under the radar in May 2013.
“They had a 30-day window to do the remodel, and for 26 days, they had heavy equipment outside and did nothing,” she said. “They ran down the clock, and then they the came in and did illegal reconstruction.”
“They came out and said they were going to do an interior remodel, and the next thing we knew that building was demolished and just two or three studs left (for permitting purposes), a questionable tactic that’s been done before,” Pyle said. “They even redid the foundation – it was a tear down.”
CANP contends other rules were violated by Jack in the Box in its North Park remodel.
“There is a stipulation that if they spend more than 50 percent of the value of the existing property on the remodel, that they have to go through a whole different process, then it becomes a public hearing processs,” said Callen.
“They circumvented all kind of rules down at [the City’s Developmental Services] and they still got the green light to do it,” Pyle said.
North Park community planner Roger Lewis, who filed the lawsuit originally on behalf of the community to block Jack In The Box’s drive-thru, previously noted wwin Uptown News that the suit was “about the ability to transition a neighborhood according to the community plan and what the zoning calls for.”
Lewis noted that, in 2000, the community and the City agreed to transition the area around North Park Jack in the Box into a neighborhood commercial zone, which precludes auto-intensive uses like drive-thrus.
The community planner pointed out other businesses near the Jack in the Box drive-thru, including a gasoline filling station and an ice-manufacturing plant, have since vacated because their auto-intensive uses were incompatible “with the way the neighborhood has grown up.”
North Park continues to pursue legal action
Pyle said CANP has engaged local environmental attorney Corey Briggs to represent the residents’ group in its lawsuit filed against the City objecting to the Jack in the Box rebuild and its drive-thru window.
Briggs was out of town and unavailable for comment.
Pyle and Callen both agree that CANP’s lawsuit is about more than one allegedly illegal rebuild in a single San Diego neighborhood.
“We want to make sure it never happens again,” Pyle said.
CANP intends to press on with its moral and legal battle with the fast-food corporation.
“We are raising funds ourselves to pay for the attorney,” said Pyle, noting the grass-roots group raised $5,000 in just four days to retain Briggs at the outset of the lawsuit.
“People have been wonderfully generous — more than we thought,” Callen said.
Pyle said the community will continue to host fundraisers, rummage sales and whatever else it takes to raise the money necessary to continue the fight.
Callen said North Park Cares started as a public reaction to one development, but added it could be the start of something bigger.
“Once the lawsuit is over we’re considering applying for non-profit status,” she said. “Once we get that, we can start to apply for grants. Then we can begin educating people about land-use issues and what their rights are.”
A 26-year North Park resident, Callen said she’s “never seen the community so galvanized – people so furious.”
Callen said what the community’s learned in the process is that “we have to learn more about land use.”
“We’re going to mobilize,” vowed Callen, pointing out that the neighborhood is united now in its message to developers: “If you think you can skirt land-use law in North Park, you need to think again.”
We’re going to be vigilant,” Callen concluded.
Attempts to reach Jack in the Box for comment were unsuccessful.
For more information, visit careaboutnorthpark.com.