SOUTH PASADENA — Have it your way, goes the Burger King jingle, meaning you can have an assortment of toppings or condiments on a charcoal-broiled hamburger at any of the franchise chain's outlets. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kurt J. Lewin this week took that message and delivered it with a dab of mustard to the City Council.
You can't have it your way, Lewin suggested, ruling Monday that a council vote last October to deny Mike Kassim a permit to open a Burger King outlet on Fair Oaks Avenue was inappropriate. He ordered the city to give Hassim a conditional use permit to operate in the city.
The city had argued that a Whopper purveyor at Fair Oaks and State Street, just north of the Pasadena Freeway, would add to the traffic on an already heavily traveled north-south thoroughfare.
But Lewin said three traffic studies, two of them commissioned by the city itself, indicated that the impact on traffic would be negligible.
"He has ruled that a traffic report was all that was necessary or required," said City Atty. Charles Vose. "He says that any evidence submitted by the public or by traffic engineers or any personal knowledge of city planners is meaningless. I disagree."
The city has not yet decided whether to appeal.
At a council meeting on Oct. 5, dozens of opponents applauded the unanimous decision to deny a conditional use permit to Hassim, a Northridge resident who owns three other Burger King outlets in Los Angeles County.
"The council chose to rely on the remarks of citizens or whoever said there would be a traffic problem, (rather than on the traffic studies)," said Peter Anderson, Hassim's lawyer. "The court decided, in effect, that the council's decision was incorrect."
City officials would not comment on the merits of the city's case pending the council's decision on an appeal.
But some residents said that despite the findings of traffic engineers, Fair Oaks Avenue is a major north-south thoroughfare that often becomes clogged with traffic. Much of the city's commercial property is on Fair Oaks, and motorists seeking to make connections between the San Bernardino and Foothill freeways often travel it.
"I hate to drive up that street during the day, especially at lunch hour," said Robert Sherinian, the owner of a local T-shirt store who has opposed Hassim's proposal to open the first Burger King in South Pasadena. "It gets crazy. This is just going to add to it."
Sherinian contends that because of a concrete road divider at the intersection of State and Fair Oaks, all traffic leaving the Burger King would be forced back into South Pasadena rather than to Pasadena to the north. "I really question whether the engineers went out and looked at the site," he said. "Sometimes I wonder if they're satisfied with just looking at a map."
Juli Jorgensen, co-chairman of South Pasadenans for Responsible Intelligent Growth said her group had not yet taken a stand on the issue. "But I'm sort of confused when they say that putting a fast-food restaurant on an already busy intersection won't have any impact on traffic," said Jorgensen, who owns a women's clothing store on Fair Oaks. "I can't quite figure that one out."