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Coffee shop ban idea back on the burner
August 07, 2006, 12:00 AM By Michelle Durand

Erik Oevernkiek/Daily Journal Andrew Gregg and Greta Aasen prepare drinks at a Starbucks in San Carlos Saturday.

San Carlos officials will get another fill of discussion on whether the city should limit or regulate downtown coffee shops when the Planning Commission Monday decides what path to recommend to the City Council.

The proposal of a coffee shop moratorium appeared to lose steam in June after the Economic and Development Advisory Commission declined to back the idea. Instead, EDAC suggested looking at the plan as part of an overall design for downtown.

On Tuesday, however, the matter moves to the Planning Commission for a separate recommendation.

"I think the council wants input from both planning and EDAC before it makes the ultimate decision,” said Planning Commissioner Alex Phillips.

Although the Planning Commission is slated to discuss the matter and formalize a recommendation, it may not be considering outside opinion. The topic is listed under new businesses without a public hearing.

Phillips, for one, doesn’t expect to veer from the EDAC recommendation.

"I don’t think it’s a good decision for the city to pick winners and losers. If we want people to invest in downtown it is not good to add extra layers of bureaucracy,” Phillips said.

Hans Siemers, the owner of Uptown Cafe, proposed the ban and began collecting signatures asking for a moratorium after Starbucks announced plans to open a second outlet downtown. Siemers argued independent coffee shops risked being pushed out by big retail chains.

By May, Siemers collected 1,243 signatures supporting the concept within the 600, 700 and 800 blocks of Laurel Street between San Carlos and Arroyo avenues.

Shortly after, the City Council formally considered the idea and both Mayor Matt Grocott and Councilman Tom Davids unsuccessfully pushed for an emergency ordinance banning the shops for six months. Instead, the concept went to EDAC and now to the Planning Commission.

The commission is asked to consider three things: a moratorium, limits such as distance between shops and retail chains in general.

The EDAC recommended finding a way to give small businesses incentives but didn’t support extra reviews of any national or regional retailers who want to set up shop in downtown. Limiting the number of shops, however, might have financial implications for the city, according to a commission report assessing downtown retail experience. The report also notes national brand chains like Starbucks and Peets could be a boon to the city. The commission believed market demand rather than government should be the deciding factor in business.

The City Council will likely get the coffee moratorium and retail business discussion in fall, Grocott said.

Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this story? Send a letter to the editor:

Info box: The San Carlos Planning Commission meets 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 7 at City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.<

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