Split Planning Commission OKs new Starbucks

ENCINITAS — A proposed drive-through Starbucks in New Encinitas received the blessing of a divided Planning Commission, as the group voted 3-2 to approve the project.

Commissioners Al Apuzzo, Bruce Ehlers and Greg Drakos voted in favor of the proposal, while commission chairman Glenn O’Grady and commissioner Kevin Doyle voted against it.

The new location would fill the former KFC space in the Camino Village Shopping Center along El Camino Real and replace an existing Starbucks in the same center. Staff recommended the commission approve the project over the objections of a group of neighbors who expressed concern that the drive-through would clog traffic circulation in the shopping center as well as on El Camino Real.

Residents cited the example of the city’s only other drive-through location, near Leucadia Boulevard and Interstate 5, as an example of the traffic issues they were concerned would happen on El Camino Real.

The general manager of the Starbucks location said that the coffee giant had taken a number of measures to ensure there wouldn’t be a repeat of the issues at the Leucadia location, which he said is one of the top 10 performing stores in the region because of its proximity to the freeway.

Those measures include a longer drive-through to accommodate as many as 11 vehicles, a left-turn only drive-through entrance and signs directing guests to the entrance, and a proposal to partially block a right-turn exit to the property, which would get problematic.

The planning commissioners who voted in favor of the project included as a condition of approval that the turn be completely blocked, which will require Starbucks to receive approval from its neighboring tenants in the shopping center.

A number of residents spoke at the Feb. 15 meeting in favor of the project, which they said would be more convenient for families trying to get coffee on the go.

“Coffee and drive throughs are the two things that get me through my life and my day,” said Lee Fisher, who lives south of the proposed Starbucks. “I am in strong support of the proposal.”

O’Grady and Doyle cited the traffic, vehicle idling and circulation issues as reasons for denying the project.

“Drive throughs aren’t really good for us, they are too car-centric,” Doyle said.

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