Despite concerns about increased traffic, members of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency indicated Tuesday that they are leaning toward approving the world's first drive-through fast-food restaurant in a downtown high-rise office building.
Several agency and city staff members until now had voiced reservations about a developer's plan to replace the McDonald's restaurant at 500 N. Central Ave. with a nine-story office building and an even larger McDonald's on the ground floor.
However, agency members said this week that they like the plan after the city proposed a series of measures to mitigate potential traffic tie-ups, including widening lanes inside and leading to a parking structure, traffic control officers and overflow parking.
City officials said the new plan could even reduce congestion at the intersection of Central and Milford Street, considered one of the worst in the city.
The agency is expected to vote on the development proposal June 27 after minor word changes in a complex owner-participation agreement between the city and the developer, the Howard-Platz Group of Glendale.
At a hearing on an environmental impact report in April, agency members asked city traffic consultants to propose ways to reduce expected congestion, such as assigning police officers to direct traffic during peak hours.
The agreement proposed this week would allow the city to order McDonald's to change traffic patterns or even to eliminate the drive-through service altogether if traffic congestion worsens after the development is built.
The agreement was worked out in lengthy negotiations between the city and representatives of McDonald's, which owns a portion of the development site.
Greg R. Galletly, a principal with the development firm, has argued repeatedly that the restaurant and its drive-through service are integral to the project. The present restaurant, although plagued with traffic problems, is one of the most successful in Southern California, according to officials of McDonald's.
Herb Kurit, owner of the local franchise, said drive-through service accounts for 42% of all sales. The outlet now serves about 103 drive-through customers an hour, while the proposed new facility, which would be almost twice the size, could dish out food to drivers of 240 cars per hour.
Martin Silbernik, McDonald's corporate director of market development, told the agency in December that the Glendale drive-through outlet in a high-rise could serve as the protege of future drive-through restaurants in growing urban areas worldwide. "It is unique. We're looking at a first," he said.
Officials of McDonald's and other fast-food chains say rapid urbanization of once-suburban areas has made land too valuable to restrict development to the traditional single-story restaurant with its large parking lot.
The proposed new McDonald's would share its parking needs with the office building to be incorporated into the nine-story structure and an adjoining five-screen theater complex.
Developers have been planning to begin construction on the $30-million project by late this year.