Balboa Island merchants and residents, angered by the Planning Department's approval of a Starbucks coffeehouse in their predominantly mom-and-pop business community, have asked the City Council to review a law that allows the agency to issue some food service permits without public review.
"Balboa Island, we feel, is a national treasure. . . . We're looking at, basically, what will it be like in 50 years? Will it be a Nantucket or a Cape Cod, or will it be the food court of Orange County?" said John Noys, a board member of the Balboa Island Business Assn.
He and others complained to the council at its meeting last week that a nationwide chain would change the character of the area.
"Employees are a problem for us, because when they park, they stay all day," Noys said, noting that most island merchants are residents.
Ken Lindahl, president of the Little Balboa Island Property Owners association, said that "unless we tear a building down, we don't even have a place to put a tree" let alone provide for employee parking.
Several residents said they believe that 18 food businesses on the island's two-block commercial district are enough.
The city's Specialty Food Ordinance--designed to cut the red tape for small businesses trying to open in the area--allows planners to approve permits for food businesses that will occupy buildings with 2,000 square feet or less and 20 seats or fewer.
An applicant may appeal a decision if he or she is turned down, but the Planning Commission and City Council have no authority to call a review once a permit is issued, Planning Director James Hewicker said.
Councilwoman Jean H. Watt requested a staff review of the ordinance and a possible exemption for Balboa Island.