City Council Passes Compromise on Fast Food Ban

Photo: A ban on carry-out restaurants is being reconsidered at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.
David Herschorn/Photo
A ban on carry-out restaurants is being reconsidered at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

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Correction Appended

By a narrow vote, the Berkeley City Council reached a compromise Tuesday night to lift a ban on carryout and quick-service restaurants on upper University Avenue.

In a 5-3 vote, with one abstention, the council decided to amend the city's zoning ordinance and lift the ban on quick-service restaurants, while keeping the moratorium on carryout food shops intact.

"I think it was a very good compromise and I'm very happy the council voted to support the compromise," said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, whose district is impacted by the ban.

Carryout restaurants are establishments at which the food is picked up at the counter, whereas quick-service restaurants also provide seating.

The ban, designed to limit the number of national fast-food chains entering Berkeley, was created in 1999 and was intended to be temporary.

Councilmember Linda Maio said she voted for the modified plan because she could not support carryout restaurants that often lead to people littering food packaging in nearby neighborhoods.

Arreguin said seven out of about 87 businesses on upper University Avenue are vacant, excluding office space in the Golden Bear building.

While merchants on University Avenue are generally open to lifting the moratorium, some problems from 10 years ago that led to the ban's creation are still unresolved, Arreguin said. These include a lack of restrooms and health impact concerns about national fast-food chains.

The Planning Commission voted on Dec. 10 to advise the council to lift the ban on both types of restaurants. However, at the meeting Tuesday night only one of the two bans on food service restaurants was removed.

According to Michael Caplan, the city's economic development manager, there is little negative economic impact to lifting the ban, which will allow more vendors previously turned away by the moratorium to start businesses in the area.

"There is no downside to this, from a revenue point of view, and quite possibly an upside to lease spaces that have not been able to be leased in the past," Caplan said.

Deborah Badhia, executive director of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said the moratorium was created to limit the number of fast-food establishments on University Avenue. However, this is no longer a major threat, she said.

"The biggest fear people (had) on the moratorium was the goal to prevent fast food," Badhia said. "And (now) we don't have fast food, we have a shrinking establishment of fast food."

Berkeley resident Gianna Ranuzzi, who represented the Le Conte Neighborhood Association at the meeting, said the compromise adequately addressed her concerns about restricting fast-food chains in Berkeley.

"I think it's reasonable," she said. "(The council members) wanted to encourage unique small businesses and we wanted to protect small businesses."

Arreguin said he was happy the council's decision addressed his main concerns about limiting fast-food chain restaurants, which typically fall under the carryout category.

"I think it was a very good compromise and I'm very happy the council voted to support the compromise," he said.

Tags: CITY COUNCIL

Correction: Friday, February 27, 2009
A previous version of this article stated that the council decided to amend the city's zoning ordinance and lift the ban on quick-service restaurants, while keeping the memorandum on carryout food shops intact. In fact, the moratorium was kept intact.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Carol Yur covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]



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