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City Takes Up Chain Biz Changes

Planning Commission tonight continues its ongoing discussions about amendments to city’s new business regulations, from chains to the creation of two new commercial districts.

On April 16, the Mill Valley City Council will be asked by a Subway franchisee and the owner of 29 Miller Ave. to reverse in February to reject a .

But tonight at City Hall, the commission continues its ongoing quest to create a new set of rules for dealing with such proposals in the future, along with a host of changes to the city’s regulations for new businesses in town.

The commission first took up the issue in June 2011 on the heels of recommendations from the now-defunct Business Advisory Board "to improve city processes and promote business development consistent with Mill Valley’s character." Whatever changes the commission agrees to will then go to the City Council for adoption.

The proposals (attached at right) are wide-ranging and span across all of the city's commercial areas. They include the creation of a new downtown-specific commercial district, as well as replacing the existing Professional and Administrative area, which includes parts of East Blithedale Ave., Camino Alto and Miller Ave., with a “Limited Commercial” area that would emphasize office uses but also reflects the fact that many other types of businesses, from hair salons to retail, have popped up in those areas in recent years.

But the proposed changes for dealing with chain or formula businesses, which the city defines as those having seven or more locations and standardization of design, services and products, have garnered the most attention to date.

First, all such businesses would need to get a conditional use permit (CUP) regardless of the size of the space. Current regulations require such businesses only to get a CUP if they are proposing a change of use – going from retail to restaurant, for instance – or if they plan to occupy a space larger then 1,500 square feet. (Despite target a space smaller than that, Subway needs a CUP because the previous tenant, , occupied that space for more than 40 years and the city’s regulations have changed vastly since then.)

The current changes call for all chains to be “in harmony” with specific provisions of the city’s General Plan; not detract from “the existing balance and diversity of businesses” and not create an “over-concentration of similar types of businesses” or detract from the existing land use mix and high urban design standards.

The proposed changes have drawn a great deal of interest from the Parkwood Association of Neighbors, which is adjacent to the southern edge of downtown, including the shopping center that contains Subway. The association has lobbied the city to require all “high-impact” business such as restaurants to get a CUP in downtown spaces that are adjacent to residential areas. They’ve also asked that any business hoping to serve alcohol go through the CUP process, “due to the unique impacts this type of use engenders.”

The 411: The Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 26 Corte Madera Ave. Click here to watch the meeting online.

Bob Reddick April 09, 2012 at 06:11 PM
It is nice to see some interest from the city council in trying to limit repeat business establishments in Mill Valley. How many more hair and nail salons, coffee shops, and " must be seen at" restaurants where chef so and so does wonders with grey pompon mustard and celery juice does Mill Valley need? I wish they would seriously consider commercial rent control. We have lost the General Store and General Hardware to excessively greedy landlords. These people not only doubled rent, but, in the case of the landlord for the General Store, wanted a share of the profits, as well. The current overly business friendly attitude has helped ruin the character of this town. The council is currently dealing with the ridiculous Blithedale Terrace proposed by a developer who lives in Tiberon and does not have to deal with the increase in the already bloated traffic situation in this town. The council also must try to meet the politically correct, stupid guide lines for reducing air pollution set by some Bay Area organization. We had a hardware store residents could walk to for building,repair and kitchen needs. Now, thanks to the greedy landlord for that property, we have to get in our cars and drive to Goodman's. A fine example of helping to reduce air pollution. Of course, not increasing the population of Mill Valley would help everything by saying NO to developers, but that would make too much sense and would not be politically correct. Let's make sure we provide housing for everyone.
Susan Cluff April 09, 2012 at 11:40 PM
I walked through an almost empty downtown MV yesterday, Easter Sunday, and saw fresh parking tickets flapping on the windshields of more than a dozen cars, many of them families and visitors going to church, meeting friends or patronizing the few businesses and restaurants that were open. Small town character? Local business friendly? I say, let's look at everything.... we've lost our way.

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