Beer garden appeal goes to council tonight

Suicide prevention and light rail access also on agenda

Opponents of a proposed downtown restaurant and beer garden may have plenty of frustration directed at them at tonight's (July 3) City Council meeting, if online comments are any indication.

The City Council is set to vote this Tuesday on Steins Beer Garden, a restaurant proposed for a vacant building at 895 Villa Street which has gained much public support. But applicant Ted Kim says his dream of opening a "German-inspired American rendition of a beer garden" was dealt a major blow on May 9. That's when Zoning administrator Peter Gilli – citing noise concerns from a few neighbors – said the restaurant's 64-seat outdoor beer garden would have to be closed at 6 p.m. half the year when the days are shorter and 8 p.m. the other half.

"We cannot have a viable business under these terms," Kim said. He's paid $2,500 to appeal the decision to the City Council.

The neighbors who spoke against the proposal live across the street from the beer garden site, in a 20 unit-condo complex at 230 Bryant Street. They cited existing issues with the Monte Carlo night club, which closes at 2 a.m. and whose patrons and are known to urinate, fight and litter near the condos.

"Until the noise problem at present levels is mitigated, I wouldn't want to expand alcohol licenses," said 230 Bryant Street resident David Lin at the hearing. His wife Michelle Lin added, "I personally don't want to listen to 64 people talking outside my bedroom window seven days a week."

The complaints have caused quite a reaction among other downtown residents and businesses, some of whom say it would be an alternative to the "obnoxious bars on Castro Street." Some are wondering why the opponents moved to "an existing nightlife district" if they were going to be unhappy with it. The condo complex at 230 Bryant is one of downtown's more recent housing projects

"I'm appalled that someone would move into MY neighborhood and then try to bend it to their will," wrote downtown resident on the Voice's Town Square, echoing a common sentiment about the neighbor's concerns. "This offends me. If you don't like it, move."

Kim claims that the opponents actually live in some of the units furthest away from his proposed beer garden, while others at 230 Bryant who live closer to to the beer garden support it.

"A sentiment has grown among both some OMV residents and downtown business owners that this case amounts to a handful of people potentially stopping a new restaurant without widespread consensus, and in evident reaction or revenge for problems from the Monte Carlo, an unrelated business," wrote downtown restaurant aficionado Max Hauser in an email rallying support for Steins among downtown residents.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in City Hall, 500 Castro Street.

Other action items for Tuesday:

Light rail access: Council members are set to vote on spending $240,000 to explore improving pedestrian access to the NASA Ames Bayshore light rail station. Accessing it now from south of Highway 101 requires a "circuitous" route, and some "backtracking," according a city staff report, which adds that a tunnel may be needed.

Suicide prevention: A policy could be adopted by the council which directs city staff to collaborate with the County's Mental Health Department and "gain a better understanding about the causes of suicide," promote awareness of suicide prevention measures and orders city staff to provide public information about suicide in the city. Mountain View's suicide rate is the sixth worst among the county's 16 cities, according to a city staff report.


Like this comment
Posted by Yank
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 3, 2012 at 6:50 pm

1st world problem/issue...we should be thankful.

Like this comment
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jul 4, 2012 at 8:49 am

Since it appears that the MV Voice is taking the day off, I'll note that SJ Mercury News is report ing that the beer garden was approved:

Web Link

last night with a few conditions

Like this comment
Posted by Max Hauser
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

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.)

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