|Cotati council to vote to amend fast-food ordinance
Cotati’s City Council on Wednesday, Aug. 14, is expected to vote to amend its formula-based fast food franchise ordinance (FBFFR).
The vote has the potential to change the face of Cotati and the way it does business. Should the proposal gain the council’s approval, there will be three more formula-based businesses allowed in Cotati – one on East Cotati Avenue and two in the Downtown Specific Plan (northern corridor).
Currently, Cotati has five formula-based businesses but there are allocations for three more, as the city has a limit of eight FBFFRs. Cotati’s ordinance limiting the amount of FBFFRs has been in place since 2007.
“We wanted to revisit ordinance to see how it’s working for us,” Cotati City Manager Dianne Thompson said. “As we looked at it, we saw pretty high vacancy rates. We’ve had a number of conversations over the years from leasing agents, property owners, developers regarding FBFFRs, and they see it as an obstacle. So it seemed like it would make sense to reconsider ordinance now.”
In July, Cotati’s Planning Commission heard a proposal from city staff requesting an increase up to 20. But the planning commission voted for an increase up to 11. The council, according to Thompson, has the flexibility to either increase or decrease the number of FBFFRs delegated by the planning commission. The planning commission voted not to have more FBFFRS on Gravenstein Highway because it already has an allotment of four and only one – Burger King – has been filled.
Thompson said the city raised the issue not because it is seeking more fast food restaurants but because the city feels the regulation needs to be more flexible.
“It’s really just a tool for more economic development,” Thompson said.
One of the immediate effects of this proposal passing likely will be a second Subway store in the Apple Valley Plaza on Gravenstein Highway. One of the changes being recommended is to allow more than one FBFFR in the city.
“For last year or so, Subway has been asking to build a second store in Cotati,” Thompson said. “Their store on East Cotati is doing good business so…”
Cotati’s vacancy rate for commercial buildings hovers around 47 percent, but Assistant City Manager Micah Hinkle says that number is inflated because shopping/strip centers in parts of Cotati are not performing well.
“The shopping centers are the ones having the problems,” he said. “Our downtown is doing pretty well, and our industrial land’s doing pretty well. It’s really the strip centers and shopping centers that are not doing well.”
If the council decides to pass the amendments, don’t expect a flood of fast food restaurants to overwhelm Cotati. For one, many fast food restaurants require the availability of drive-through facilities, and Cotati limits its drive through buildings to drug stores and banks.
Also, the ban on fast food restaurants in the heart of downtown Cotati is strictly prohibited. If any were to be built, they would go along the currently undeveloped northern corridor.
Along with Burger King and Subway, Cotati’s other FBFFRs are Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee and Tea and Papa Murphy’s Pizza.