Exactly one week after the San Carlos Planning Commission gave a downtown nightclub owner the green light to expand with an outside patio and live music, a majority of city councilmembers took the unusual move of appealing the decision.
The 3-2 vote to appeal the approval at a future meeting is a rarity for San Carlos as residents rather than elected leaders are most often the ones seeking reconsideration of a planning decision. However, Mayor Andy Klein — who has previously called the Planning Commission approval an affront to public safety and the city’s top law enforcement official — and fellow councilmen Mark Olbert and Ron Collins said they want to further vet the matter.
Councilmen Matt Grocott and Bob Grassilli disagreed, as much over the process as the decision.
"We’re setting a precedent here ... and I don’t necessarily think it’s a good one,” Grassilli said.
Grocott suggested The Carlos Club’s one-year permit granted by the Planning Commission stand and, if problems arise, revisit the matter at renewal time.
"If they fail that, then they fail,” Grocott said.
But Councilman Ron Collins said he wants more information and to hear from Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Rothaus, head of the San Carlos Patrol Bureau.
The appeal hearing is scheduled for the first meeting in April.
The decision to hold an appeal was quick in comparison to often-lengthy Planning Commission hearings which culminated in last Monday’s 4-0 approval of the permit. Vice Chair Scot Masters dissented. City Manager Jeff Maltbie agendized the item to discuss whether the council actually wanted an appeal — a majority is required for a council to do so — but both Klein and Councilman Matt Olbert last week were ready to make the move themselves.
Despite the council majority wanting new consideration, all but a few public speakers last night supported club owner Fred Duncan and asked the council to leave the decision alone. They called the club’s makeover under Duncan’s ownership a great improvement over the previous dive and said his plan will actually help prevent the safety concerns that worry the council.
Duncan wants to turn an empty parking lot behind the 612 El Camino Real club into an open air patio with a food truck, live acoustic music and seating for 96 patrons. Duncan received a parking exemption last year with little fanfare but hit some hurdles requesting a conditional use permit after Rothaus worried that expanding the night club could also expand what he said are public safety problems. Rothaus reported 131 incidents from the club; a later breakdown by the Sheriff’s Office showed that 69 were spot checks initiated by deputies and seven were more specifically alcohol-related like driving while under the influence.
In calling for an appeal last week, Klein said the Planning Commission was remiss in not speaking with Rothaus again before taking its vote to clear up any lingering concerns or questions about the data and overall public safety issues. Rothaus had made a presentation at a meeting in the fall when the permit request first came before the commission and several members last Monday said that was sufficient.
Michelle Durand can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.