Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Jul 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm
Max Hauser is a member (registered user) of Mountain View Online
I attended both last night's Council meeting and May's zoning hearing whose decision was overturned last night.
In reviewing his May ruling to Council, Zoning Administrator Gilli wrote that restaurateur Ted Kim had, among other changes, reduced his outdoor seating plan from 165 to 64 to satisfy concerns from some 230-Bryant residents, but "the immediate neighbors still did not support the proposal." The ZA failed to explain that this was not immediate neighbors generally, but a specific group in a minority of 230-Bryant condos, who had some history of complaints over Monte Carlo patrons' behavior. I witnessed the ZA receiving other input in May supporting Steins, from another Bryant neighbor. Since then, others came forward: a close Bryant neighbor wrote emphatically to Council supporting Steins, a "very close" neighbor commented similarly here on the Voice online site Sunday, another spoke to me before last night's meeting, and when the 895-Villa property owner circulated a local petition seeking support for Steins, the only two immediate Bryant neighbors who answered his knock both supported Steins. That owner told me recently that he was bewildered by the local outpouring of support from both residents and downtown merchants, with over 300 supportive signatures in a few days. Council members remarked in passing last night that the considerable online buzz including on Facebook and the Voice Town Square essentially all supported Steins. They questioned the ZA over details from comparable situtions such as Tied House (which faces the same condos from Villa St.) but the ZA could not answer questions such as Tied House's seating capacity. Although not called on to testify, the Police Chief attended, and commented to people waiting before the hearing that local restaurants featuring beer such as Tied House and SteakOut had no significant history of police complaints of the kinds associated with Monte Carlo in the past.
In public comment last night, the same group of 230-Bryant residents that I saw at the May hearing repeated concerns over noise, and their past bad experiences from Monte Carlo patrons. Ted Kim's sound engineer consultant testified that the projected sound impact would be very marginal given the strong existing sources he'd measured at 230 Bryant (mostly from traffic). Another speaker commented that most of the complaining group appeared to be related, though they had not said so in their comments. Veteran local realtor Ron Ikebe held up a real estate advertisement and observed that at least one 230-Bryant condo is for sale, advertised as a "quiet" site. Ikebe questioned whether maximizing selling price could be a factor in the objections to Steins from a small group of 230-Bryant residents. In terms of audience reaction, the strongest testimony came from restaurateur Ted Kim at the beginning, who put down his notes and spoke plainly (he received an ovation, prompting Mayor Kasperzak to caution the audience concerning Council meeting decorum). I have the impression that Kim will go out of his way not just to accommodate the few neighbors who raised all the fuss, but if possible to help them become friends.
After public input, Council debated. At least four members remarked to the effect that the complaining 230-Bryant residents were clearly aware, when they moved into 230 Bryant, that it was in a pre-existing commercial area with operating restaurants, so living with restaurant noises was to some extent their own choice. Jac Siegel offered to support Steins in the event of slightly more restriction or later review; but the other six Council members didn't go along with those limitations. The 6:1 final vote overturned Zoning Administrator Gilli's restriction of Steins' hours, so that the outdoor patio will operate until 10PM weekdays, 11PM Weekends, as appelant Ted Kim requested. (Early in the session, the ZA had also stated that under this outcome the City retains authority to re-examine Steins' permit in the event of any major problems associated with the new restaurant.)
I asked Ted Kim afterwards when he expected Steins to open and he said Autumn: November, possibly October. (FYI: In time for wild mushroom season -- a cornerstone of German cuisine.)