The Miracle Mile’s other snafu

It’s not in a league with their other troubles, but the design of the Dutch Bros. coffee kiosk is a mistake, in my opinion.

Dutch Bros. drive-thru coffee chain opened in June on the Miracle Mile.

I researched the process that led to the Dutch Bros. only because so many people complain about it.

The long-vacant lot was zoned General Commercial, so a public hearing was not required. Nor was it necessary to send “proximity letters” to neighbors soliciting input. The developer had only to apply for a “ministerial permit,” a permit okayed by a planner in the Community Development Department.

A planner reviewed the site plan and the design and approved them. My contention is that the planner’s review was done incorrectly. You don’t have to be a urban design specialist to see why: the recessed kiosk breaks the “street wall” of unbroken shop fronts bordering on the street. Street walls maintain pedestrian interest.

The ministerial permit was granted just before David Kwong took over as head of the Community Development Department. Kwong said he would not have granted the permit.

“No, I would not have,”Kwong said. “Becuase I didn’t think necessarily it met the pedestrian flavor of that corridor.”

The kiosk should have been moved up to the sidewalk, with the drive-thru behind it, said Kwong.

Of course, the design aspect does not address the other two beefs frequently heard: the increase of traffic in the Walnut Street neighborhood and the proximity of a corporate coffee kiosk to a locally owned and operated coffee cafe.

Both objections have certain merit. But the Miracle Mile Improvement Association okayed the corporate competition. That’s their call.

In the case of Walnut Street I believe if you choose to live within a walking distance of a commercial district you should be prepared to trade easy access for higher traffic and somewhat more noise.

Kwong didn’t want to identify the planner who permitted the Dutch Bros. design. “It is  judgement call, and I respect the judgment call that was done to the extent that it’s a ministerial review,” he said diplomatically.

By the way, though I don’t drink coffee, I stopped by and briefly chatted with the young baristas working at Dutch Bros. They are cool, positive people.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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