Case Against 7-Eleven
Appeal of Planning Commission Decision 05/18/15
Site development permit PSD 791-15, Use permit UP-041-15 and site plan SP-150-15, specifically all 7-Eleven activities at 700 Hickey Blvd, Pacifica, CA 94044
7-ELEVEN…BAD NEIGHBOR FOR FORTY YEARS
Residents of the Fairmont neighborhood vehemently oppose the proposed 7-Eleven at 700 Hickey Blvd.
Residents are not unrealistic, and not even against gas or alcohol resellers who have proven themselves good stewards of their permits, they are against 7-Eleven- which appears unable or unwilling to bring their current Pacifica franchises to bear on the concept of being a good neighbor.
You may have seen read of the comments like these in the local newspapers: “A 7-11 food store in Pacifica received bitter criticism Monday night at the Pacifica Planning Commission meeting”.
“Adjoining residents including Mary Engle and David High, told the commission that the “store contributes to the delinquency of minors and is certainly not an improvement to the area””. The surprise about these statements is that they were made more than forty years ago, at a July 3, 1972 Pacifica Planning Commission meeting in which the PPC unanimously rejected the 100 Clarendon location’s application to provide either 24 hour service or gasoline sales(Attachment B).
At that same July 3, 1972 meeting, a City of Pacifica Chief Building Official Philip W. Mayo presented an inter-office memo (Attachment A) showing that the 7-Eleven constructed was significantly different than what was allowed in their 11/20/1967 application, no landscaping had been installed and significant extra parking spaces had been added, and Mayo recommended that any and all new signage be required to be submitted to the Planning Commission as a condition of their continued operation in Pacifica.
Pacifica's most famous resident, four time Mayor Nick Gust, even wrote a 1969 letter to 7-Eleven regarding 137 Manor, advising their occupancy permit would not continue to be approved if trash continued at the location, citing the permit mandate of three exterior trash cans and their specific locations (Condition7), and pointed out three missing trees which were required to be "continuously maintained and re-planted for the life of this use permit." (Conditions 12 & 13). Forty six years later these conditions persist.
To this day the 100 Clarendon location remains an attractive nuisance, a hodgepodge of signage violations, excessive trash, midnight-4am deliveries, noise, and crime and driven largely by revenues from cigarettes, lottery tickets, and alcohol. The 137 Manor location, whose franchisee will alarmingly also run any potential 700 Hickey store, suffers identical problems, parks three cars on their permit- trumpeted “Iceplant and pyracantha landscaping” 24 hours a day, without permit or penalty.
Rewarding bad behavior has proven itself not a viable long term strategy with 7-Eleven, and rest assured this is unlikely to evolve into a project or projects referred to proudly at the next local election.
THE MONA LISA
While the verbiage on their application attempts to cast 7-Eleven as a corporate Mother Teresa, the applicants’ true pride and joy was their “Mona Lisa”- a stylized painting depicting a slightly industrial-looking building they breathlessly referred to as the harbinger of “Modern Coastal Design”, which bore more than passing resemblance to the Shell station under construction (Hickey at Imperial Way) in Daly City (which Shell refers to as “Modern Industrial Design”). Despite its opposing angles and lack of organic elements typically associated with the term “Coast”, no parking lot lights, cars, people, trash, drought-restrictions or poor weather fouled their Mona Lisa’s loveliness except its central feature, a giant omni-directional billboard of a tower 28’ tall weaponized with dual thirteen foot long logos.
It was certainly a beautiful painting of what an idealized gas station could look like, a fitting descendant of 7-Eleven’s original Mona Lisa 1.0, presented forty-seven years ago at their November 1967 Planning Commission permit application which Pacifica Chief Building Official Philip W. Mayo claimed was not what 7-Eleven actually ended up building (Attachment A).
Like her namesake, a Planning Commissioner or two fell under the spell of “the Mona Lisa”, waxing poetically about her idealized superiority over the reality of the current Chevron station, her crisp clean lines uncluttered by compressors, heritage trees, neighbors’ residences or disability access, some were later saddened when internal nomenclature revealed it to be a rendering of the proposed 505 Linda Mar location (currently Dave & Lou’s Valero on Linda Mar Beach) and not specific to the 700 Hickey location at Gateway.
THE END OF NIGHT
CEQA (passed 1970) does not specifically address light pollution, but nationally many Planning Commissioners and health advocates believe that light pollution is a very real concern that can affect adult and children’s sleep patterns, sea turtle and snowy plover migration and nesting, as well as enjoyment of property.
With the blinding glare of 7-Eleven’s 100 Clarendon and 137 Manor illuminating every blade of glass in the neighborhood, one must question whether 7-Eleven’s vague assurances of lighting sensitivity will be adequate, considering 3’ setbacks from neighboring residential properties, back-of-building lighting, and the 28’ tower-billboard that will simultaneously block existing views and illuminate the bedrooms of almost 23 residential units both North and South of Gateway.
THE TOWER OF BILLBOARD
The 700 Hickey location proposes to raise the new building’s height by 12 feet- the resulting 28 foot tall monolithic tower weaponized with two giant 3’ x 13’ long illuminated “7-Eleven” logos presiding over the landscape. Officially “The tower element is covered with a metal roofline that adds a varied angle to the roofline", but its most impressive characteristic will be how far away from 700 Hickey it can be seen... one might suppose the architects were aiming for the Municipal Pier.
THE LAND OF MILK AND HONEY
7-Eleven’s Katie Sharp described a Utopian menu inventory incompatible with the known history of 7-Eleven: “the store itself… will feature a lot of fresh foods, fresh sandwiches and salads, cut up fruit…”.
7-Eleven has almost a 85% national inventory… all stores carry almost the same items, and those menu items have never been carried by the 100 Clarendon or 137 Manor locations, which instead generates thirty six percent of their revenues from Cigarettes, Lottery Tickets, and Alcohol sales, something the neighborhood children would probably be better off without.
Alcohol is the primary cash cow of the 7-Eleven franchise- in 2012 the LAPD anticipated so many problems with 7-Eleven’s most popular product they successfully petitioned their Planning Commission to cap 7- Eleven alcohol sales at 20% of total revenues after 122 police calls a year in the two-block radius around the new 7-Eleven, a strategy from which the proposed 505 Linda Mar Blvd (Dave & Lou’s) store next to the troubled SamTrans lot might benefit:
7-Eleven’s signage plan was unnecessarily complicated and obfuscated what should have been a straightforward presentation… the signage plan bears no resemblance to their Mona Lisa painting, the realities of the 137 Manor and 100 Clarendon locations, or the poster-plastered windows employed by 7-Eleven worldwide.
Independent of the indecent liberties 7-Eleven has taken locally with its signage permits, the proposed building has a lot of signs, and will bear two giant 3’ x13’ foot long signs floating almost 12’ above the roof of the current existing building.
7-Eleven claims the average 7-Eleven employs 8-10 employees but the two current Pacifica locations average half of that… and with all respects to anyone that works for a living, these aren’t good, livable-wage jobs, these are minimum wage jobs with minimal training, little potential for advancement, and a propensity for exposing workers to violent crime… no 7-Eleven in Pacifica has been robbed only once.
The one “good” job created is that of the franchise owner, who did not appear at the Planning Commission meeting, and is alarmingly the same person currently holding the 137 Manor franchise license (which converted their landscaping into parking). The 7-Eleven representatives at the meeting did not appear to have the authority to attempt remediation of existing franchise code complaints, a quid pro quo strategy that frequently reaps lasting dividends in the Planning world.
A common complaint of neighbors of existing 7-Elevens is the ever-expanding radius of trash created…one trash can is not adequate, and the city should dictate trash cans on the four corners of all convenience stores to prevent 7-Eleven’s neighbors from being forced to subsidize the cost of its trash removal. Both the 100 Clarendon and 137 Manor locations have recurring trash accumulation problems.
One of Pacifica’s first Planning Commissioners Bud Spencer relayed a message to the Commission at the May 18th meeting through his daughter regarding the disability access problem already at that corner. If one tests even the slightest disability by walking at half a normal pace from the proposed 7-Eleven to the Rite-Aid across the street, it becomes an obviously hazardous situation requiring attention.
THE PROBLEM WITH THE "ANNUAL REVIEW"
During the May 18, 2015 Planning Commission meeting, Commissioners settled on the oversight of two consecutive annual reviews combined with the ultimate paper tiger sanction of a license revocation.
Unfortunately these annual reviews are unfunded, unscheduled, unstaffed and unprecedented, with no written procedures or criteria, and they are no match for 7-Eleven. Since 1991, 7-Eleven has never suffered a permit revocation or permit scope-minimization without drawing blood from a lawsuit or settlement, and 7-Eleven attorney Steven Jamieson notoriously stated that “You can't put the milk back in the bottle” once construction has begun and that 7-Eleven appears to vigorously defend every revocation.
When Augustine, FL revoked 7-Eleven’s permits last year, the town was eventually delighted to settle with 7-Eleven for double the value of the parcel in order to avoid multi-year litigation.
Likewise, San Mateo paid a settlement when it revoked 7-Eleven’s permits in 2013 at their North San Mateo Drive and East Bellevue Avenue location:
The 7-Eleven chain's stated “growth strategy is to build market concentration in metropolitan areas so it can increase efficiencies and leverage its scale, particularly in regards to its daily delivery infrastructure.”
Make no mistake, they’re coming…the 700 Hickey location isn’t the culmination of 7-Eleven’s Pacifica expansion… it’s the beginning, with three additional stores in Pacifica being negotiated.
7-Eleven is truly the-partner-Pacifica-does-not-want-to-be-in-business-with, and nationally there have been no permit revocations without a bloodbath. 7-Eleven has 6,526 stores generated 2014 revenues of $15.5 billion –roughly 575 times larger than the City of Pacifica’s annual budget (just under $27 million). If a single well-heeled individual like Charles Keener could bankrupt Half Moon Bay, 7-Eleven could disembowel the City of Pacifica… once 7-Eleven begins construction at each location in Pacifica it will likely remain a 7-Eleven for our children’s lifetimes.
THE MISSING PERMIT
The 7-Eleven permit application specifically applied for:
"A. Retail alcohol sales in conjunction with a service station (PMC Sec. 9-4.1001(b)(2));
B. Mini-market in conjunction with a service station (PMC Sec 9-4.1001(b)(3)); and
C. Change of use adjacent to a residential district (PMC Sec. 9-4.1002(i);”
Curiously 7-Eleven appears to have neither sought nor received the required non-transferable (on demolition) basic permit to pump gas in Pacifica, on which permits A, B, and C piggyback upon:
D. "Service Station" (PMC Sec. 9-4.1002(b)(1)).
For a period of time some Pacifica businesses appear to have manipulated their Census Tract numbers in order to gain an advantage in the ABC licensing process, and that manipulation has accumulated to falsely represent that pending 7-Eleven license applied for on February 24, 2015: #554717 will not be in an overconcentration area.
License #554717 will technically be on the absolute border of the 6027 and 6028 census tract, and ABC database searches on those tracts omit two licenses for which the wrong census tract has been recorded:
1. Lucky (Type 20 license: 449781 incorrectly recorded as census tract 6029) and
2. Ernies Wine and Liquor (Type 21 license: 545821 incorrectly recorded as census tract 6030).
A neighborhood tour shows three licenses in addition to the February 24, 2015 pending 7-Eleven including two extremely large beer and wine displays of several thousand bottles at Lucky and Rite-Aid.
The legacy Chevron license that 7-Eleven seeks to obtain through transfer has almost been abandoned, and in the last 24 momths stocked a very limited inventory of a mere 20-30 cans of beer.
1. 7-Eleven, Inc (Type 20 license: # 554717 census tract 2027- currently Chevron).
2. Rite Aid (Type 20 license: #311516 census tract 6028 ~400 feet away).
3. Lucky (Type 20 license: #449781 census tract 6028 ~400 feet away).
4. Ernies Wine and Liquor (Type 21 license: # 545821 census tract 6028 ~ 450 feet away).
Thirty feet away, the Shell Station diagonally across the street at 679 Hickey Blvd Pacifica has repeatedly been denied the exact Type 20 license: #289377 that 7-Eleven seeks.
This concentration of extremely high-volume off-sale liquor licenses in a High Density Residential area requires a finding of convenience and necessity by the Planning Commission or City Council.
7-Eleven has been a bad neighbor to Pacifica for 40 years and can’t or won’t maintain or police its existing properties and permits.
Why would we ever give them another chance after what they’ve done at the 100 Clarendon and 137 Manor locations?
Neighbors in 1972 didn’t want a 7-Eleven next door and they don’t want one now. The sheer candlepower, crime, all-night deliveries, and exploitive signage combined with Cigarette/Lottery Ticket and Alcohol sales make them a nightmare for their immediate community.
This will never be a project Pacifica is proud of, and once 7-Eleven gets its foot further in the door these locations will be 7-Elevens for the lifetimes of our children.
Mary Engle and David High said it best at the July 3, 1972 Planning Commission meeting:
“The “store contributes to the delinquency of minors and is certainly not an improvement to the area””.