The Wave Restaurant & Bar, a new bistro on Santa Monica's trendy Main Street, may be too popular for its own good, according to city traffic and planning officials.
Owners of the 3-month-old restaurant, at Main and Ashland Avenue, have been warned to reduce seating inside the pink establishment and to speed up the valet parking service outside.
City planner Suzanne Frick said that the city, in approving plans last year for the new restaurant, had restricted seating capacity to 49 and insisted on valet parking to avoid adding to the street's parking and traffic problems.
"It is a very popular restaurant, and that can be a problem on Main Street," Frick said. "We cannot allow violations of zoning and parking regulations or we will not be able to keep the problems in check."
Investigator Counted Seats
Frick said that a planning investigator sent to check the seating in the restaurant stopped counting seats when she got to 60.
Raymond E. Davis III, Santa Monica parking and traffic director, said that investigators in his department have found an abuse of parking privileges in the three-minute passenger-boarding zone on the south side of the restaurant.
"Cars have been left there at least as long as 15 minutes," Davis said. "We also have observed encroachment from the passenger-loading zone into the red zone, endangering the safety of drivers seeking to get off Main Street and into the public parking lot behind the Wave."
Davis and Frick said this is the first time that the city has had to crack down on a Main Street business owner for violations of the street's zoning and parking plan.
Unlike other parts of the city, the Main Street development plan is very specific on permitted uses, such as restricting the number of restaurants per block to two and prohibiting the development of hotels along most blocks of the street.
The plan was developed more than five years ago by business people and representatives of nearby residential neighborhoods to end continual strife over what many residents charged was overdevelopment of high-intensity establishments such as restaurants and singles bars.
City officials said that there has been relative peace since then between merchants and the residents. "But the only way for the Main Street plan to continue to work is to make certain that every business abides by its regulations," Davis said.
Richard Condon, one of three co-owners of the restaurant, said that the city "seemed to be singling us out" in making the parking and seating complaints.
"We have done everything the city has asked and more, at great expense," Condon said. "Yet, now the city says it does not like it. That seems unfair."
Condon said that only a person "with a stopwatch" could find more than a few of the 1,000 cars visiting the restaurant weekly parked longer than three minutes in the passenger loading zone.
Restaurant Parking Spaces
He said that his restaurant provides more parking--22 spaces in a lot on the same block--than the four spaces required by the city. "So you tell me who has got it in for whom," Condon said.
As for the seating, he said the restaurant occasionally puts out extra chairs but that it usually abides by the seating rules. "We believe we have not been violating that regulation, but we certainly are willing to work with the city" to make sure we are in compliance, he said.
Other co-owners of the restaurant are Condon's brother, Michael, and Steven Fargnoli, manager for Prince, the music and motion picture personality. Condon said they spent more than $500,000 in building the restaurant.
He said that people on the street have called the new facility a welcome addition on Main Street.
Davis denied that the city was singling out the Wave for special action. "We only moved against the restaurant after having received a lot of complaints, mostly from other business owners on the street," Davis said. "We did not go out of our way to investigate the restaurant."
Davis said that the Wave is the only one of at least three other high-volume restaurants on Main Street to have problems with its valet parking service. "I mean, we have not received complaints against Josephina's, Fish Enterprise Co. or Chinois, all of which have valet parking," Davis said.