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Despite Heated Big Mac Attacks, West Covina OKs Restaurant


WEST COVINA — The City Council has overturned the Planning Commission and approved construction of a controversial drive-through McDonald's restaurant.

After two marathon sessions of heated debate, the council early Thursday voted 4 to 1 to approve the restaurant at 3030 E. Garvey Ave., near the San Bernardino Freeway.

Councilwoman Nancy Manners voted against it.

During the discussion, the president of a local homeowners association threatened to "get even at election time" with City Council members who overturned the commission decision. City Council elections are normally held in the spring of even numbered years.

"We want a council that is sensitive to the needs of the people," said Corey Warshaw, president of the East Hills Homeowners Assn., which opposed the project.

Although the property is located in a commercial zone, the McDonald's Corp. needed the city's permission to build a drive-through restaurant, said Pat Haley, West Covina planning director. The Planning Commission twice voted against the project.

During lengthy public sessions Monday and Wednesday, 32 people spoke against the project. Twenty-nine people, some of them affiliated with McDonald's, spoke in favor.

Opponents complained that the restaurant would increase noise, traffic congestion and pollution and would decrease their property values.

"I'm concerned with the increase in crime, or robberies, a fast food restaurant would bring," Yvonne Hillmann said.

But William J. Brutocao, an attorney for McDonald's, countered that the drive-through would provide the city $25,000 a year in sales tax revenue. The restaurant would also provide 100 jobs, according to other McDonald's officials.

In June, the Planning Commission denied McDonald's proposal to build the 119-seat drive-through eatery. The commission said the project was not compatible with the surrounding community.

But at an appeal hearing in July, the City Council referred the project back to the commission for review and revision. On Aug. 15, the commission voted against the revised project.

The revised project called for a wall to buffer traffic noise, restrictions on hours of operation, removal of some roof lighting and an agreement to provide a recycling program.

Even though the commission turned down the project, planning director Haley recommended that the council approve it last week.

The council agreed, approving the revised project on the conditions that McDonald's construct a 10-foot-high noise-buffer wall and conduct a traffic study. If the study shows that a stoplight or sign is needed, McDonald's would pay at least part of the cost.

This is not the first time that residents in the San Gabriel Valley have attempted to halt construction of a McDonald's restaurant.

Altadena residents have delayed construction of a McDonald's restaurant at the northwest intersection of Altadena Drive and Lake Avenue.

The opponents of that project asked the county Board of Supervisors to block it, but because the restaurant plans comply with the site's commercial zoning and local building plans, the supervisors could only ask for a more detailed review under a 10 1/2-month urgency ordinance.

The ordinance requires McDonald's to obtain a conditional-use permit before beginning construction. A public hearing must be held before such a permit is granted.

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