For the past 14 months, the Mill Valley Planning Commission has been to the city's commercial zoning regulations. Along the way, the commission has made a number of changes to the original set of recommendations from the city's Business Advisory Board "to improve city processes and promote business development consistent with Mill Valley’s character."
Some of the proposed changes (attached at right) have garnered more attention than others, particularly a move to and obtain a conditional use permit (CUP) to open downtown. That proposal, along with one to set a square-footage trigger for a (CUP), have from the , and .
That got us thinking: What exactly is a formula business?
Much of the chain/formula conversation in recent months has centered around the at 29 Miller Avenue. That effort and was and the .
But with more than 37,000 locations across the globe, Subway is a formula business by any definition. There's a lot of wiggle room between a mom-and-pop shop and the Subways of the world.
Where do you think the city of Mill Valley should set the threshold for what qualifies as a chain?
Here's how the city's current proposed changes define a formula eating or drinking establishment:
- An establishment which, along with seven or more business locations, is required by contractual or other arrangements to offer standardized employee uniforms, exterior design, food preparation, ingredients, interior decor, menus, or signs; or adopts an appearance, food presentation format, or name which causes it to be substantially identical to another restaurant regardless of ownership or location.
The city's current proposed definition for formula retail businesses is largely the same:
- A retail business which, along with seven or more business locations, is required by contractual or other arrangement to maintain any of the following: standardized merchandise, services, décor, uniforms, architecture, colors, signs or other similar features.
Fairfax and Sausalito, the only Marin towns with formula retail ordinances, have taken a slightly different approach. Fairfax (ordinance attached at right) did not set a minimum threshold for the number of locations, making any business with standardized branding and products a chain. Sausalito permits chain outlets in five different sections of town, forbidding a new chain to be close to another formula retail in town. In 2010, the Sausalito City Council denied a request for a Peet’s coffee to open near the waterfront because of concerns it would pave the way for other chains.
In its , the San Anselmo Town Council has looked at possibly defining chains as those in the U.S.
So where is the line? How many locations must a business have to be considered a chain? Should number of locations matter? Should they be locally owned? And how do you feel about the standardization of uniforms, menus and branding?
Tell us in the Comments below!
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