San Marcos City Council chambers. Courtesy photo
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Council gives nod to new Panera Bread drive-through

SAN MARCOS — It was listed in the public record in advance of the meeting as a request to open a .86-acre drive-through restaurant owned by the company Jump Ball LLC. But a basketball-themed facility will not be opening its doors anytime in the near future in San Marcos.

City Council, instead, voted 5-0 at its Nov. 12 meeting for a land use change that would allow a Panera Bread drive-through restaurant to be located at the northwest corner of San Marcos Boulevard and Bent Avenue. The business incorporation name, however, offered an opportunity for Terry Mathew to explain the byzantine nature of corporate franchise ownership.

Matthew, who works as a planner for the San Marcos-based firm Consultants Collaborative Inc. and represented Panera throughout the regulatory and permitting process in San Marcos, said that this site is actually owned by the company Manna Development Group.

Manna got off the ground in San Diego in 2003 by Paul Saber and Patrick Rogers. Saber is a former McDonald’s franchisee, while Rogers formerly worked as an executive for Ford Motor Company. Under the banner of Manna, Saber and Rogers now operate 133 bakery cafes throughout southern California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Indiana and Colorado, according to the Manna website. Of those 133, 22 are located in San Diego County.

Technically, the council did not approve Panera, Manna Development Group or Jump Ball LLC. Instead, it was charged with deciding whether to grant the owners the right to change the plot of land from a mixed-use land designation to commercial.

Matthew argued that the Panera on this plot of land fits within the character of the surrounding area, one which includes many restaurants, a movie theater and department stores such as Best Buy, Marshall’s and Nordstrom Rack.

“The mixed use, if you put it on that corner, would be an isolated development amidst other commercial developments,” said Matthew. “It’s small for a mixed-use site and the existing commercial on the north side of San Marcos Boulevard is not anticipated to change anytime in the near future, so it will certainly blend in.”

Matthew added that she believes it will add jobs to the San Marcos market, as well, with 10 workers scheduled per shift. She also touted the additional revenue which would come from the sales tax.

While it will also have indoor seating space and 325 square feet of outdoor seating space, the Panera will also have a drive-through. Customers, too, can make purchases online and pick up their orders at the store.

“Expanding now to the drive-through really provides what they deem to the ability to increase their sales revenue,” said Matthew, adding that the Panera parent company has 40% of its sites as drive-throughs, while 25% of Panera sites owned by Manna Development fit that bill.

But Matthew argued that it’s not just an issue of getting a quick bang for the buck in the form of a drive-through. It’s also a matter of logistics of this particular parcel of land, which she argued necessitated that being an option for customers.

“For a larger commercial space, it just doesn’t work because you don’t have the room to do parking, at least surface parking, and a sit-down restaurant would require more parking,” said Matthew, who added that the site will also have three electric vehicle parking stations.

After Matthew’s presentation, Mayor Rebecca Jones suggested that the company apply for grant money from San Diego Gas & Electric to install super-charging stations for electric vehicles, as opposed to the standard stations currently planned for installation.

“I think it would honestly be a draw because there aren’t a ton of them out there,” said Jones. “The infrastructure for electric vehicles is kind of slim and so unfortunately, people don’t invest in them. If they know that there are some faster chargers in the city, it might be something where they go, ‘Oh, well I’ll go and spend some money at Panera and a little bit of time.’”

Matthew said the company had chosen against supercharging stations because they cost a range of $50,000 to $100,000 per station, as opposed to standard charging stations, which cost $5,000 a pop.

City Council convenes again on Nov. 26, with the Planning Commission scheduled to meet on Nov. 18 to discuss and vote on a new condominium housing proposal and an amendment to the municipal code to “allow limited accessory entertainment in tasting rooms” for breweries, wineries and distilleries.

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