Montana Avenue will welcome Subway as an affordable dining option despite disputed parking concerns and specific permit conditions habitual to new shops coming to Santa Monica.
The “fast food” establishment will replace Patty’s Pizza, which closed in February, at 625 Montana Avenue in a eight-unit shopping center that has seen half of the tenants leave, including the large chain-retailer Blockbuster.
After a painful debate the commission voted to allow a fast food establishment in the high-end and desperately hurting Montana Avenue shopping district. Attributed to the economy, about 25 percent of the district’s storefronts are empty – which allows for a food service like Subway, which may not have been considered during the hey-day of the area, to get approval.
The upscale district is known for destination dining, such as enjoying a gourmet burger at Father’s Office, which that doesn’t allow for much seating for patrons let alone a single designated parking space.
For this location the City required a conditional use permit for the less than 1,200 square foot space that houses 10 seats. The commission feared only four allocated spots for the location (per a City permit equation) would raise the usual parking woes felt by many businesses and residents in the area. The entire parking lot houses 50 spaces.
Husband and wife owners Amir and Hana Yazdi have lived and worked in Santa Monica for more than 12 years and own multiple Subway franchises in Southern California, including a successful branch on Wilshire Boulevard.
Hana Yazdi assured the commission that Subway will service local residents, many of whom will be walking from nearby homes or businesses, with great expectation from local school students. She explained how the City’s insistence on extraneous fees, counting a $15,000 fee for the conditional use permit, is “potentially devastating to small business owners.”
Staff recommended the specialized permit due to the change from an “incidental food service,” meaning a focus on retail sales, to a fast food restaurant means a lot more paperwork and more fees from the business owners. Yazdi said she and her husband worked hard to comply with Santa Monica’s requests with full support from the neighborhood.
“I’m not a gambler, but I feel that the City is gambling on our livelihood and then playing roulette with it,” Yazdi said.
Multiple residents came to support the Subway, including the members of the Wilshire/Montana Neighborhood Coalition, who supported the Transportation Demand Management program designed to increased cycling and walking to the location. The Yazdis are even putting a bike rack inside the building.
The planning commissioners debated a possible solution that would ease the parking congestion without placing the financial burden on a small business to hire a parking attendant to regulate parking.
“This is an example of code that is totally disconnected from reality on the ground,” said Commissioner Ted Winterer.
Winterer sided with Commissioner Hank Koning by recommending short-term parking limiting vehicles up to 30 minutes. Commissioner Jay Johnson furthered that parking attendants or valet options could be discussed once tenants increased at the parking center.
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