By Christy Scannell
SDUN Senior Editor
A plan to demolish and rebuild the Jack in the Box restaurant at 30th and Upas streets in North Park has raised concerns from the city, the local planning group and nearby residents.
The project calls for a 2,491-square-foot building—about 500 square feet larger than the existing structure—and seeks code deviations to allow 24-hour operation, a drive-through and reduced parking. Built in 1961, the restaurant is currently open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., including a drive-through open 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. that was added prior to establishment of the location’s city code.
The deviations require Jack in the Box to apply for a Planned Development Permit, a discretionary application that will ultimately be decided by the city’s Planning Commission. Meanwhile, the proposal is being evaluated by the city’s Development Services Department, which issued its first Cycle Issues report on the project Aug. 13, finding 22 outstanding review issues, including the need for a number of studies on impacts such as traffic, greenhouse-gas emissions and water quality.
“We look at the underlying zone regulations, the community plan and all the applicable policy documents and we look for the recommendation from the planning group. It’s a public process,” said Michelle Sokolowski, a DSD development project manager.
About 30 residents attended a meeting of the North Park Planning Committee’s Urban Design/Project Review subcommittee on Aug. 30, where the Jack in the Box proposal was discussed. Neither officials from the city nor from Jack in the Box attended the meeting.
“The burden is on the applicant to revise their plans and resubmit them,” Robert Barry, subcommittee chair, said during the meeting. “I’m curious to see how they will overcome [the various issues].”
Barry noted that the houses to the south of the restaurant are zoned commercial, releasing Jack in the Box from mitigation for residential impacts. But those who live near the restaurant say the effects of having a fast-food restaurant in the neighborhood go further than the immediately adjacent homes.
“Jack in the Box does not fit in our neighborhood the way it is. Thinking about it being 24 hours a day is a nightmare,” said Jerry Thiebolt, who has lived at 3347 Dale St. for 25 years. “It is a nuisance to us because of the constant traffic. They bring their semi in for deliveries and block traffic. And then there are all the fumes from cars waiting to get into the drive-through.”
Ignacio Orduno and his family have lived at 3354 Dale St. since 1968. He said the restaurant was never an issue for the neighborhood until the last few years.
“It got worse after the (Bluefoot) bar opened. It seemed like people just came out of the woodwork then,” he said. “I don’t want to see anybody lose their business, but if they are open for 24 hours we will have all that noise all the time. Maybe they should find another place (to move the restaurant).”
Maria Sosa owns and rents out the two houses closest to the restaurant at 3375 and 3377 Dale St. and has lived about a block from there on 30th Street for 50 years. She said she has happy memories of seeing children and others enjoying themselves at Jack in the Box but that the restaurant has caused numerous problems with her properties.
“They don’t keep their bins locked so we get bugs and I have to have someone spray and exterminate monthly,” she said. “I’ve called and called to complain. Their solution was to hide the bins.”
She said she has also asked the restaurant to repair the fence separating it from her rental homes but has not received action on that request either. Water from where restaurant workers wash down the building’s deck washes into the street, causing craters and “a mess,” she said.
“We need Jack in the Box to share with the community and be a good neighbor,”’ she said.
Brian Luscomb, spokesman for Jack in the Box, said the rebuild is intended to improve the overall experience for the neighborhood.
“We want to provide an environment that the local community will embrace and support,” he said. “But we’ve been serving the community at that location for 50 years and the restaurant’s age is showing.”
Luscomb said although plans are “in the very early stages,” he believes the new facility will be embraced by the community once they see the benefits.
“Other than the menu, everything will change. This isn’t just ‘a fresh coat of paint,’” he said. “We will have upgraded amenities from seating to restrooms, tile flooring, landscaping, a more attractive exterior and a more comfortable dining environment.”
He said the plan is part of a company-wide overhaul that has seen many of the 2,100 locations refurbished or rebuilt.
“We want this location to reflect the enhancements that we’ve made throughout the system,” he said.
Luscomb said projected sales have dictated the need for a 24-hour drive-through at that location.
“In that community, people don’t have a lot of late-night dining options available to them,” he said. “But we hear the (residents’) concerns and we want to be empathetic. We are proceeding with extreme caution.”
At the subcommittee meeting, North Park resident Roger Lewis said the city’s handling of the 2008 Kentucky Fried Chicken rebuild at 2829 University Ave. makes him apprehensive about the process. Although the North Park Planning Committee recommended several changes to the plan, city staff did not support those suggestions.
“DSD has shown the propensity in the city to let places like KFC build in non-conforming ways rather than enforcing the code,” he said. “It seems like they opt to punt to some other division in the city.”
Sokolowski acknowledged that discretionary permits are subjective since city staff only recommends action to the Planning Commission for decision. However, she said public input is valued and encouraged, both at the local planning committee level and in writing.
“E-mails are great because I can forward them off to (topic) reviewers so they can see what concerns are and incorporate those. Then we compile them and include those in our report to the Planning Commission,” she said.
Content is key, she said.
“Address the specific findings, don’t just say ‘I don’t like it,’ ” she said. “For example, tell how the project does or does not fit with the land-use plan.”
E-mails can be sent to her at email@example.com.
The North Park subcommittee will discuss the Jack in the Box application at a future meeting after the city issues its second report. Sokolowski said the timing of that second report depends on how quickly Jack in the Box submits its responses and findings, although Luscomb said the company expects the process to take at least two years.
The Urban Design/Project Review subcommittee is open to the public and meets monthly on first Mondays at 6 p.m. at the North Park Recreation Center/Adult Center, 2719 Howard Ave. Agendas are e-mailed about a week prior to meetings. To be added to the mailing list for agendas, e-mail Robert Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org.