City Council approves temporary ban on new restaurant drive-thrus

Santa Clarita City Hall is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. File photo

New restaurant drive-thrus are temporarily banned in Santa Clarita unless applicants looking to build can demonstrate their projects would not result in an extensive queuing of vehicles, the City Council voted Tuesday. 

Their unanimous vote immediately established a 45-day moratorium on permitting the installation of restaurant drive-thrus in an effort to prevent traffic hazards caused by long motorist lines as seen at some currently operating fast-food shops. 

“This will ensure that future restaurant drive-thru installations continue to be efficient and do not create a public safety issue,” said Tom Cole, community development director for the city. “Although restaurant drive-thru locations are not new, the recent trend in Santa Clarita and elsewhere is for increased drive-thru use and the historic drive-thru queuing standards appear to be falling short in some instances.”  

Current standards require sufficient space for the stacking of four cars between the order board and the pickup window and for six vehicles behind the order board. Some establishments have experienced significantly longer lines than 200 feet in length, according to city officials. 

Of five pending applications before the city, concerns over increased traffic at a shopping center on Bouquet Canyon Road and Newhall Ranch Road revolve around a proposed Chick-fil-A at the former Boston Market location in the area. 

“The primary concern is with traffic and safety conflicts created by the anticipated long lines in that location,” said Cole, adding that there is a way for projects such as these to receive approval. “While city staff is developing new standards, if that applicant can demonstrate they have onsite capacity to deal with their particular proposal, then staff believes the applicant should be able to move forward with their project.” 

Such should be the case for a Starbucks at The Plaza at Golden Valley, which Stephanie DeHerrera, an attorney for the applicant, asked the City Council to exempt from the moratorium. 

The project, which is in its final stages of approval, provides more queuing capacity than is required by the existing requirements and has completed a traffic analysis that shows the project will not create traffic or pedestrian hazards related to queuing, she said. 

If Starbucks demonstrates the analysis to the city, “staff would have the ability to move forward with those building permits,” said City Manager Ken Striplin. 

The matter is expected to return before the City Council at a future meeting in City Hall on Feb. 25, according to City Attorney Joseph Montes. 

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