Goodbye, Big Burger Freeze

Long vacant fast food stand to make way for dialysis center

It's not without a bit of irony that the growing number of people with a disease caused by poor diet and sedentary living has finally spurred the redevelopment of a long-abandoned fast food eatery.

The tiny and long-vacant "Big Burger Freeze" on El Camino Real may be demolished soon to make way for a new dialysis center -- where people with failing livers or kidneys have their blood cleaned and treated during regular visits lasting three to four hours.

Though it never comes up when old timers talk about beloved burger stands of the past -- Johnny Macs, Linda's Burgers and Spivey's are much more fondly remembered -- the Big Burger Freeze stands as a sort of time capsule. Its frosty machines, a bouquet of fake flowers and plastic menu board still exist as if the the door was locked one day and no one ever came back.

Sitting vacant for over a decade, it had become an icon for how difficult some shallow El Camino Real lots are to redevelop. Council member Mike Kasperzak noted the place while urging his colleagues to pass measures to encourage redevelopment on El Camino Real in February: "Do we want to do any favors to people" interested in redeveloping these sites "or do we always want the "(vacant) Tasty Freeze to be on El Camino -- and the (vacant) car lot next door?"

Though not clearly marked, the sign on the front actually says "Big Burger Freeze" and a developer called Meridian now has the green light to tear down the tiny building at 412 El Camino Real. The dialysis center will also replace the vacant used car lot next door.

For a long time the parcels lay vacant as the city tried to assemble adjacent properties for larger redevelopment, an effort which apparently lost steam when Baron Park Plumbing Supply was allowed to move into one of the adjacent properties, having been forced out of San Antonio shopping center by its redevelopment.

New land use policies apparently had little to do with spurring the development. "Like everything else, the economy is booming and people are trying to capitalize while money is available for investment," said Kasperzak, noting that he'd learned of the proposal shortly after his February comment.

"This is an interesting application because it's on El Camino Real and it's a really low intensity proposal for such a prominent location in the city," said zoning administrator Gerry Beaudin before he approved the project May 28, explaining that the "low intensity" nature of the proposal was because the "parcel size is really shallow. There isn't sufficient depth or area on this parcel to accommodate any new development without a shared parking arrangement."

The city may have lucked out in finding a dialysis center for the lot, as it is a rare use that requires little parking. Only one third of dialysis patients are able to drive themselves to their appointments because of disease or old age, while the rest are dropped off for their long visits, according to a city staff report.

The shared parking arrangement caused a bit of a tiff with the neighboring Mountain View Physical Therapy office, which was being forced by its landlord to share parking with the dialysis center, though city staff reported that parking arrangements would be "more than adequate."

"We've grown and grown to where we do have staff parking on side streets and El Camino Real," said Amy Fowlkes, clinical director of the Mountain View Physical Therapy. Patients such as those with hip replacements "who were already struggling to find parking places will have a more difficult time."

After removing one large "heritage" tree and saving a few others, the project makes room for 49 parking spaces in a new shared parking lot, instead of the 91 spaces that would be typically required. There are 14 spaces for the physical therapy center and 31 for the dialysis center, with four to spare, according to a city staff report.

Staff at the physical therapy building said they would need 27 parking spaces just for patients coming and going from visits with nine physical therapists, but city planner Eric Andersen said he examined Google satellite and street view images and "over the course of last three to four years there were a dozen available dates to view and the most that I saw in that parking lot was 18."


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Posted by DoctorData
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 10, 2014 at 2:23 pm

DoctorData is a registered user.

I'm glad to hear that something useful will appear on what is otherwise a derelict lot on the main thoroughfare in Mountain View.

I'm disappointed that the author led off with asserting that diabetes is a disease of the sufferer's own making. While it's certainly true that people with type 2 diabetes may have developed the disease through poor lifestyle choices, it's not true of people with type 1 diabetes; at the least, we still have not isolated the causes of type 1 diabetes.

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Posted by Hmm
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 10, 2014 at 2:46 pm

"For a long time the parcels lay vacant as the city tried to assemble adjacent properties for larger redevelopment,"

So this is the reason El Camino is Filled with vacant lots and old buildings.
And not because no one what's to move in, I hear Chick Fil-a would love to move in. Much better on the heart than burgers.

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Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 10, 2014 at 2:49 pm

What ignorance to proclaim diabetes is only caused by bad diet.

Or is arrogance a better word?

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Posted by Captain Obvious
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 10, 2014 at 3:16 pm

They never said it was the only cause, it was you who inferred that. Do you get upset if someone says cancer is a disease cased by smoking?

Mission control, this Commenter station 1, we have confirmation that the nit has been picked. Repeat: the nit has been picked.

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Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 10, 2014 at 5:15 pm

When I moved here in the early 50’s it was a Foster Freeze a chain franchise that sold soft ice cream I think the same people that want to save the Century 21 theater in San Jose should take this up as a project to save the only remaining original soft serve ice cream building on El Camino.

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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2014 at 6:48 pm

It was a Foster Freeze which had parking in front, when street was widening to 6 lanes from 4 lanes, sidewalk was added also business got slower. Lots of businesses along El Camino Real lost parking, lost the front of their building or lost their building altogether.

Some businesses lost quick in and out access from El Camino Real due to the lost of the center turn lane replaced by customers having to make U-turns. Some businesses moved to the locations, other managed to stay but most people would just drive by on a 6 lanes highway

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Posted by UC Davis Grad
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jun 10, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Looks like some get sensitive on the subject of diet and disease -- never mind that the link between diet and the onset of Type 2 diabetes has been established.

But hey, if the thought of having to deal with Type 2 diabetes doesn't keep you away from burgers or Chick-Fil-A, more power to you.

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Posted by Hamburger Lover
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 10, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Yes, lets do what some silly residents of San Jose want to do and declare the site a historical piece of US architecture.

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Posted by Zipclock
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jun 10, 2014 at 11:21 pm

Finally. That little ruin of an ice cream place was so sad and neglected. Now, what about the old Choice Luggage shop location? The whole place looks unstable, like it's ready to fall over. The plywood boards over the windows makes it an even bigger eyesore.

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Posted by Joer
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 11, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I always drive by little places like this (there's another similar hamburger spot in Fremont) and wonder what kind of customers are frequenting the place. I never see anybody eating outside and the parking lot is always empty.

In N' Out is just down the block, I figure most people would choose In N' Out because at least they know what they're getting.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jun 11, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Joer, it has been closed/abandoned for years and years

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Posted by Milk Pail
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 11, 2014 at 3:04 pm

So let's see if I understand this. The city demands shared parking for a site that hardly anyone will use, but they put their heads in the sand for Milk Pail, a community resource that many many use.

Yep, that's our political system working at it's best. Good job city staff, good job.

Like this comment
Posted by Dr Adviceo
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 11, 2014 at 6:29 pm

How old was this building, I'm sure it has used it's useful obsolescence. They should put in a Cannabis Dispensary to supply patients in the area.

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