20 Aug 2014
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Fresh & Easy to Enter Mid-City More Easily

After hearing objections from some neighbors, the market drops plans to sell liquor and to under-provide parking. It also refashions its blueprints for a smaller store.

Fresh & Easy to Enter Mid-City More Easily

When Fresh & Easy opens at the former Magnolia Audio Video in Santa Monica's Mid-City neighborhood, there won't be booze on the shelves, and the size of store will be smaller than what was initially proposed.

The market—known for affordable produce, pre-packaged meals and self-checkouts—has withdrawn its application with the city for a permit to sale beer, wine and liquor. It's also withdrawn its request for a variance to offer fewer parking spaces than what's required by the city's zoning codes.

Its being welcomed by by residents who look forward to having a market within walking distance. "It'd be nice to have new local market," Tweeted bicycle advocate Gary Kavanagh.

But to the dismay of some others, opening the store will presumably be easier now. Without the need for the permit and parking variance, the company won't have to go before the Planning Commission.

The Santa Monica Daily Press reported in an article on Thursday that by withdrawing its applications, Fresh & Easy is "avoiding any kind of public discussion."

Company spokesman Brendan Wonnacott said representatives would continue to meet with future neighbors and other stakeholders, who still have concerns about the excess traffic the store could bring to their neighborhood. "We’ve had a very open process from the start to alleviate as many concerns from our neighbors as possible," he said.

Wonnacott said the new plans call for a 9,800-square-foot store. The original blueprints were for about 13,000 feet and were lacking 10 parking stalls.

What's to be done with the remaining space? Mid-City Neighbors President Gregg Heacock said it might be rented by the city to store emergency management supplies and equipment.

He challenged Wonnacott's assertion that there's been an open public process until this point, saying the company has not heeded suggestions about how to resolve some of the potential parking problems and did not warn residents during a community meeting that customers would be able to purchase alcohol using self checkout stands.

And, he's still waiting for a traffic study, he said. "We understand that such a study was conducted but that it was incorrectly designed," Heacock said. "[Councilman] Kevin McKeown wrote [Friday] to various neighborhood leaders, saying, "My request for the traffic study is still pending. [City Manager] Rod Gould says the study would have had to be revised for use in an EIR, because the consultant's methodology was off."

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