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Council Nixes Drive-Thru, Starbucks Pulls Project

First published in the Sept. 16 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

A proposal to create a Starbucks superstore at 2424 Huntington Drive is apparently dead after the local city council refused to make concessions that would allow for a drive-thru lane, which is currently against codes in San Marino.
According to City Manager Marcela Marlow, Starbucks has walked away from the project following last Wednesday’s council meeting, when the panel failed to make a motion for a draft ordinance that would allow for an exception to the prohibition of drive-thrus.
In introducing the agenda item, Aldo Cervantes, the city’s director of planning and building, told the council that it needed to author a code amendment that was narrow enough to allow for the Starbucks drive-thru exemption while refusing all other iterations. Cervantes said the council could allow for the amendment to sunset immediately after its implementation.

But after hearing public comment, no councilmembers made a motion for anything resembling a code amendment and the matter was mute.
“Is this item done then?” Mayor Ken Ude asked after silence met his initial request for a motion.
Many in the community were vocal in their opposition to the project, which would have renovated the building at 2424 Huntington Drive that 10 years ago housed the San Marino Toy & Book Shoppe, which relocated. At the meeting, Cervantes displayed preliminary drawings that show a drive-thru that enters and exits the property solely on Huntington Drive and would also include a sound wall on the south side of the building, near the residential area. Cervantes also referenced a “vast” amount of landscaping that would also screen cars entering and exiting the premises.
The 6,000-square-foot store would have included indoor and outdoor seating, meeting rooms, study rooms for students and a mural inside the building that would be specific to San Marino. Cervantes explained how the coffee giant had shown an interest in preserving “a one-of-a-kind building” and that the store would be what Starbucks considers a “Pinnacle” property, employing solar power, reusing storm water and featuring other components of sustainability.
“These are very high-end and grandiose,” said Cervantes.
Seven community members appeared in person to speak on the matter, with three opposed and four in favor of the project. One of the proponents was Kevin Hsu, who owns the building.
“This will become a community center,” said Hsu. “I envision this as a place where you will feel that small-town environment. I support this and I hope you agree with me.”
Similar input was received from community members who sent emails to the city, with two in favor and three opposed.
But Vice Mayor Susan Jakubowski made the only motion on the item and that was to direct staff to consult with Starbucks officials and make a concerted effort to pursue an option without a drive-thru. The motion died for lack of a second motion, with Councilman Steve Talt reminding Jakubowsi that the panel didn’t need a motion to provide staff direction.
San Marino currently has one Starbucks inside city limits, at 2265 Huntington Drive, across the street and about a half-mile from the proposed location. A Starbucks that was located at 3007 Huntington Drive closed in March 2019 and is now named Klatch Coffee.

Now in his 25th year at The Tribune, Mitch Lehman is Editor and Sports Editor in addition to being the public address announcer for ten sports programs at San Marino High School. Mitch is one of only a handful in the community to receive the ‘Very Special Person Award’ from the San Marino PTA at the annual Founder’s Day ceremony, was acknowledged as a 'Terrific Titan' by the San Marino High School PTSA, was named an Honorary Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of San Marino and received a National Honorary Merit Badge in Journalism from the Boy Scouts of America. He has received two independent Pulitzer Prize nominations and in the past three years, Mitch has won seven awards and is a thirteen-time finalist in the California News Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest. In 2015, the press box at Titan Stadium was re-named 'Lehman's Loft' in his honor. You can reach Mitch at mitchlehman@sanmarinotribune.com.

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