ENCINITAS — City planners have endorsed a plan to open a drive-through Starbucks Coffee in the former KFC restaurant space along El Camino Real.
But a number of residents have expressed concern that the popular coffee chain will snarl traffic as it has done at a drive-through location in Leucadia.
KFC abruptly closed its location in the Camino Village Plaza shopping center in August 2016. Since the space has been vacant for longer than 18 months, the city is requiring Starbucks — which would relocate its current location in the same shopping center into the space — obtain a major-use permit to operate a drive through at the location.
Several New Encinitas residents — including a former planning commissioner — who caught wind of the proposal wrote the city expressing concern about the traffic constraints on the site, likening it to the Starbucks on Orpheus Avenue in Leucadia that has been a sore point for residents since it opened in 2011.
“Many of the concerns raised about this project are based upon the impacts residents have experienced at the existing Starbucks drive-thru located at 905 Orpheus Avenue,” a city staff report stated. “These community members have expressed concerns with the vehicular ‘spill over’ that occurs onto the adjacent public street at the Orpheus Starbucks, and have requested that preventive measures be taken to avoid a similar condition for this project.”
Former Encinitas Planning Commissioner Ruben Flores-Saaib was more blunt in his assessment in a letter dated March 18, 2017.
“We all love and support our local Starbucks. But you also know the distress the drive-thru in Leucadia causes,” Flores-Saaib wrote. “No need to say anything other than no amount of traffic studies can mitigate the real impact that a drive-thru sitting along El Camino will have for the residents of New Encinitas the communities to the North and East from us. If this project is coming to you for review, I request that you consider denying the project, for the benefit of our community.”
Starbucks created a website “www.starbucksencinitas.com” urging supporters to email the city, by either filling out a form letter on the website or using one of their own.
“The proposed Starbucks drive-thru will provide our customers with new convenience and help reduce crowding at other Starbucks drive-thrus in the area,” the company writes on the website. “Through careful planning and a dedicated commitment to environmental responsibility, we look forward to bringing a convenient and sustainable Starbucks to your community.”
City planners said that the company’s proposed traffic-mitigation measures are enough to address concerns about vehicle queuing, spillover onto El Camino Real and circulation within the shopping center’s parking lot.
The Planning Commission is expected to vote on the project at its Feb. 1 meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. inside of City Council chambers.