Expansion and Letters and Opinion and Zoning

Patachou should respect community

November 21, 2009

At 49th and Pennsylvania, Café Patachou seeks to expand, open a new pizzeria, and use much of the public sidewalk for proposed outside seating. Its brand manager recently clarified the extent of seating proposed in the code-variances petition, which includes a total of 12 variances from the code standards. Total seating would increase from the present 59 to 166 (more if outdoor seating for the pizzeria is included). This would create major parking and other problems for the neighborhood.

The remodeling, re-leasing, and re-branding of the long-successful retail center, which is an investment by Asset Partners LLC, should not be allowed to exacerbate parking problems, take over our public right-of-way and sidewalk, and obstruct the crucial clear-sight triangle at the busy neighborhood intersection. Yet this is what the aggressive Patachou plan would do.

The Patachou brand has developed substantial buzz and a loyal customer following due to appealing menus, skillful marketing and its several recent restaurant additions. Successful as its commercial brand might be, the company does not occupy the civic high ground in the eyes of many neighborhood residents. The company has generally ignored or dismissed the concerns of the many neighbors who would be most heavily impacted and who also question the safety risks. The neighbors asked the developer and Patachou to conduct a traffic and parking study, but this was refused, thus causing the neighbors to bear the expense of commissioning a professional impact analysis.

Places of social gathering are sometimes called “third houses” and are a socially beneficial and popular part of community. Pub, café and restaurant seating on public sidewalks has been readily authorized by city officials for the past 15 years or so. Unfortunately, these right-of-way encroachments have been approved almost as a matter of right, and inadequate space is often left for pedestrian passage.

As David Bollier advises in his book “Brand Name Bullies,” each request for enclosure of the public commons “must be supported by a strong case for exclusive use.” In this case, good planning and engineering practice recommend against outdoor seating, especially in the clear-sight triangle at the intersection, thus creating safety hazards. Also, the sought-after outdoor seating would cause substantial and unnecessary parking problems.

Patachou has extensive brand management, marketing and PR expertise, and many loyal customers. As a result, company officials seem resolute. But the neighborhood would be greatly diminished unless the developer and Patachou agree to scale back their impactful site plan. All neighbors desire a successful commercial center, but there are limits to what the corner can accommodate.

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Clarke Kahlo

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