Residents return to city council pleading for reduction in the drive-thru coffee company’s impacts on their neighborhood
By Reggie Ellis and John Lindt
VISALIA – After more than a month of searching for a way to regain some semblance of the peaceful neighborhood they were accustomed to, residents of Beverly Glen in Visalia returned to the city council last week pleading with city leaders for a solution to Dutch Bros.’ impacts to their neighborhood.
“I love Visalia and I love my home that I’ve lived in for 35 years where my husband and I raised our children; however, I don’t love living here under these circumstances,” Laura Duarte said. “This is outrageous and extremely unfair.”
Since the popular drive-thru coffee chain opened at the southeast corner of Myrtle and Mooney Boulevard on Dec. 28, residents say the noise from thousands of cars each day from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., lights glaring into their windows at night and traffic blocking their driveways along Beverly Drive and sending cars speeding down side streets to make U-turns or get out of the drive-thru line have made their well-established neighborhood unlivable.
“It’s just really hard to live there,” resident Kari Grant said.
The residents first brought their concerns to the council during public comment of the Jan. 19 council meeting. During that meeting, the council said staff was looking into ways to mitigate the issue and was in contact with Dutch Bros., the developer and the property owner, but as ofpress time there was still no solution. Mayor Steve Nelsen noted the city was spending a “tremendous amount of time” on the issue, with the developer agreeing to plant trees along the back of the property to reduce the noise and the city is meeting with the construction company, BJ Perch Construction, to measure the block wall at the eastern edge of the property, which was included in the permit to reduce noise levels in the nearby homes. Residents pointed out the seven-foot block wall did not take into account the foundation for the business being raised three feet to address flood plain issues. This essentially made the wall five feet tall, not tall enough to make an effective barrier.
“I hope that somehow that we are included in this plan, because if it’s not done right, we’ll have to continue and fight to make it right again,” Grant said.
Duarte, Grant and Stephen Tootle, suggested making the wall 10 feet tall and asked the city to enforce the noise ordinance for the business and by ticketing the cars in violation. Tootle quotes the purpose of the noise ordinance is to “prevent interfering with sleep communication, relaxation, or the full use of one’s property,” something he said they have not experienced for more than a month. He said the ordinance makes it illegal for any person at any location within the city to create noise at any time that exceeds the decibel level at their property line and it is illegal for the city to allow for the creation of that noise.
“What I would like is a solution that allows for Dutch Bros. to make giant piles of money and contribute that tax money to the city of Visalia and for our developers to be happy and for this to be a business-friendly environment,” Tootle said. “But I would also like to preserve the homes and have the law enforced.”
Councilmember Greg Collins, who lives in the area, said it was in the interest of all parties involved to solve the problem quickly because the drive-thru has created liability for the company, the city and the developer. He said having 20 cars backed up onto Mooney Boulevard, a state highway, is “crazy” and it is only a matter of time before someone runs into the back of one of those cars.
“If you can’t solve this, maybe you aren’t in the right place,” Collins said of Dutch Bros. “Eventually your patience runs out.”
There was little else the city council could do or say on the issue because the issue was not on the agenda. Elected officials are not allowed to discuss issues which are not agendized at least 72 hours in advance because it is a violation of the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law for government transparency.
“Coming from the private sector, it’s hard to accept that government doesn’t work real fast but I can tell you the city takes this very seriously,” Nelsen said.
Dutch Bros seeks third Visalia location
In a few weeks Dutch Bros will have a second spot open on Akers near the Lifestyle Center. Now the Oregon-based phenom wants a location on south Mooney across from Target in a new center on the Southwest corner of Mooney and Visalia Parkway. The company filed a site plan for the project with the city to be heard next week. The company has around 400 locations.