With City Hall in the midst of ongoing discussions about how chain restaurants fit into the ongoing overhaul of the city’s zoning ordinances, the so-far conceptual debate is about to get its first real test, and it’s coming from one of the biggest chain restaurants in the world.
A local franchisee of the Subway sandwich chain has signed a lease for 29 Miller Ave., the space occupied by for more than 40 years until it . Lynn Spaulding, whose family has owned the small Miller Ave. shopping center since 1968, confirmed that the space has been rented but declined to name the tenant.
Akki Patel, who has opened a number of Subway franchises in the North Bay and the Bay Area, filed an application at City Hall earlier this month for a conditional use permit (CUP) for 29 Miller. He confirmed that he is looking to open a Subway in the 930-square-foot space. The matter is set to go before the Planning Commission at its Jan. 9 meeting.
“Marin County is health conscious and we certainly fit that profile of healthy food,” said Patel, who isn't the franchisee for . “We hope the town supports us.”
Under the city’s current rules, Subway normally wouldn’t be required to obtain a CUP, as it is smaller than the 1,500-square-foot size trigger for CUPs and isn’t a change of use from Baskin-Robbins. But because the ice cream shop's tenure pre-dated decades of the city’s subsequent zoning regulations, a permit is required, according to associate planner Tom Zanarini.
The application is fairly straightforward. No additional parking is required. Subway seeks to be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Subway’s signage would be regulated by the city’s sign ordinance, requiring it to both conform to the natural wood aesthetics of the other signs in the center and be no more than 31 feet long, according to Zanarini.
Patel said the restaurant would accommodate approximately 10 tables and wouldn’t require major changes to the space itself other than significant updates from a commercial space that had more than four decades under its belt.
Spaulding said she was unsure how the community would respond to the application but said it fits well within the city’s current rules for downtown businesses.
“There’s absolutely no reason it would get denied even if the whole town showed up against it,” she said.
The application comes amidst ongoing talks at City Hall, including at the Planning Commission last month, about how chain restaurants should be regulated under the zoning ordinance changes first proposed by the city’s Business Advisory Board. The proposal includes making it so that only business 3,000 square feet or larger are subject to the size trigger for needing a CUP.
Planning Commissioner Steven Geiszler said those discussions continue next month and that city officials are currently examining ordinances that exist in other Northern California towns regarding chain businesses.
“I’m very open minded about it,” Geiszler said. “The community has expressed an interest in keeping Mill Valley’s unique character, so it’s a question of how those groups of stores or restaurants would fit into that unique character. By no means are we talking about banning them but more about whether they would go through an additional level of discussion.”
The 411: Subway’s application for a conditional use permit goes to the Planning Commission at 7 p.m. at its Jan. 9 meeting at City Hall. The meeting will be webcast live and archived on the city’s website.