City Council to consider extending temporary ban on new restaurant drive-thrus

Santa Clarita City Hall

A temporary ban on new restaurant drive-thrus citywide could extend through January 2021 should the Santa Clarita City Council approve an urgency ordinance Tuesday. 

Council members are expected to hold a public hearing and consider adopting the ordinance that would extend the moratorium, which has been in effect since January 14, for an additional 10 months and 15 days. 

If approved, the temporary halt would take effect Tuesday and last through and including Jan. 14, 2021, according to the ordinance. 

The ban was set to help prevent traffic hazards caused by long queuing lines often seen at currently operating fast-food establishments. 

“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, at a previous City Council meeting. “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.”  

City staff did not respond to requests for comment Thursday as of this story’s publication. 

Since the moratorium’s initial term, which is set to expire Feb. 28, city staff “has begun to investigate restaurant drive-thru performance in the city and research standards in other communities,” according to the city staff report. 

The need for a time extension is “for staff to complete their research and be able to make the best recommendation,” said Mayor Cameron Smyth, adding that he “understand(s) the desire for things to be done in an expeditious way, but it’s important that we get things done the right way.” 

Developers that can demonstrate, through a “professionally prepared queuing analysis,” that their restaurant drive-thru projects would not result in “queuing of vehicles in driveway aprons or on adjacent public streets,” would not be hindered from receiving permits and approvals. 

Among those projects under review is a proposed Chick-fil-A location on Bouquet Canyon Road and Newhall Ranch Road at the former Boston Market eatery. Smyth said he had not yet heard whether the franchise has presented a queuing analysis to city staff. 

Current standards require enough space for the stacking of four vehicles between the order board and the pick-up window and stacking for six cars behind the order board with no less than a total wait length of 200 feet. Recent installations of restaurant drive-thrus have “experienced significantly longer lines than 200 feet in length, including restaurants such as Chick-fil-A, In-N-Out and Starbucks,” read the staff report. 

The City Council meeting will take place at City Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. 

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