Neighbors within 300 feet of the project received notice of the meeting and about 16 showed up. They expressed concerns about the appearance of a fast food restaurant next to their homes. Some living as close as 30 feet away complained about future exhaust fumes from the drive-through. Vegetarian neighbors balked at the smell of fried chicken potentially wafting through the neighborhood.
To make the project a little more palatable, neighbors asked that the development use solar panels, composting and gray water recovery, but KFC representatives reportedly told neighbors that the company doesn't do any sort of "green building," said neighbor Christopher Bianchi.
Neighbors like Bianchi would like to see something more in line with the city's "Grand Boulevard" concept for El Camino Real — a two-story mixed-use development with housing on the second story. What they are more likely to get is the drive-through restaurant and another new retail building next door.
The city's hands are often tied in this sort of situation, officials said — KFC already owns the property, and the city is required by law to process applications that meet zoning requirements. No council meeting is necessary, only the approval of the zoning administrator.
But when it comes to fast food restaurants, this may prove to be one too many.
Mayor Laura Macias said she might "eat her words," but suggested the city take the lead of southern Los Angeles, where there is a moratorium on fast food restaurants in an effort to combat diabetes and other health problems.
"This isn't the wild wild west," Macias said. "Just because it's zoned that way doesn't mean you can build whatever you darn well please. Neighborhood input is important."
Applicant Hugh Murphy of Vincent and Murphy Inc. did not respond to phone calls before press time.
There is also a KFC on El Camino Real and Castro Street only a half mile away from the proposed restaurant, which Bianchi believes would close. That location doesn't have a drive-through. Drive-through lanes reportedly produce 50 percent more revenue for KFC.
The drive-through, however, is not a certainty. The city will have to decide whether to issue a conditional use permit for the drive-through, and acting zoning administrator Peter Gilli said public input would be considered.
A zoning administrator hearing has not been scheduled, but could happen as early as October, Gilli said.
Another KFC, on Charleston and San Antonio Roads, is apparently being replaced by a drive-through version across from the new Charleston Plaza.