It's a problem that's been brewing between the Draeger family and the owners of the property neighboring the family's specialty grocery store in Menlo Park for at least 17 years. On Oct. 10, the city's Complete Streets Commission came closer to resolving the conflict over the market's loading zone, but not in the way either party had favored.
The commissioners voted 6-2 to require Draeger's market to conduct the bulk of its loading in the parking plaza closest to the store, rather than endorse a proposal favored by the developer and store owners to move the loading zone to Menlo Avenue. The advisory commission cited potential dangers to pedestrians and cyclists, and pointed to what it sees as an underutilized private parking lot in coming to its decision.
Commissioners Jonathan Weiner and Michael Meyer cast the dissenting votes.
Draeger's is the heaviest user of a public loading zone on Evelyn Street. (Pharmaca also uses the zone and other Santa Cruz Avenue businesses may as well, according to the Draeger family.)
The Troglio family, which has owned the property adjacent to Draeger's for many years, has recently proposed to build a three-story building with office space and condos at 840 Menlo Ave., at the corner of Menlo Avenue and Evelyn Street in downtown Menlo Park.
The Draegers started using Evelyn Street for its loading zone in 2002, after a lease the Draeger family had on the Troglios' empty lot ended. The lot had been used as the company's loading zone before the lease ended.
The two families couldn't come to a lease-renewal agreement at the time, and the City Council gave conditional approval to the grocer to use Evelyn Street for its loading zone until plans to develop the site were pursued. Draeger's also agreed to try to reduce the number of delivery trips to the store, so owners set up a consolidating facility in South San Francisco. Doing so has reduced delivery trips by about 40 percent, said Richard Draeger, one of the store's owners.
Even so, there are still about 20 delivery trips a day, and where to allow those deliveries without impacting the planned new building – which as proposed would face Evelyn Street, where the loading zone is now – has become the defining question of the Troglio family's development project.
The Troglios' representatives insist that being forced to keep the loading zone on the west side of Evelyn Avenue, near the proposed entrance of the new building, would kill the project, greatly decreasing its value.
The Draegers and their representatives, meanwhile, are insistent that they're not opposed to the development, and presented five options they could live with. Two options call for the Troglios' plan to be redesigned to move its entrance to a different location. The third option calls for placing a short loading zone on the west side of Evelyn Street (not in front of the new proposed building); the fourth would involve a longer loading zone to accommodate larger trucks on the east side of Evelyn Street; and the fifth option is to move the loading zone to Menlo Avenue.
After many discussions, it appears the Draegers and the Troglios had concluded that the fifth option was one they could both stomach.
But the Complete Streets commissioners didn't like that idea because, they said, it wouldn't make the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The commission favored the fourth option, and recommended requiring Draeger's to use its parking lot for the bulk of deliveries and expanding the hours when loading is permitted there.
Commissioners also recommended that additional deliveries outside of the permitted hours should be allowed on the east side of Evelyn Avenue. Changing the timeline to permit deliveries on both sides of the parking lot until 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. would substantially reduce the average number of deliveries that would have to be pushed to Evelyn Avenue, according to Draeger.
Commissioners also said that the Draegers should improve the visibility and use of their private parking lot on the south side of Menlo Avenue at University Drive. The Troglios' representative presented a detailed vehicle count over multiple days and insisted that there is abundant parking available in the Draeger's lot, as there were at least 20 open parking spaces recorded at different times.
The Draegers have expressed concerns about over-reliance of that lot, however. They cite safety concerns over the complex and potentially hazardous Menlo/University intersection customers must cross to get to the store from that lot, noting the number of pedestrian accidents occurring there over the years.
Ultimately, the outcome of the lengthy Oct. 10 discussion yielded only recommendations to the City Council, which will have to make a decision on the matter potentially as soon as its next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 23.