A variety of scenarios for increasing the amount of parking required for restaurants will be developed by the Buellton planning staff and presented to the Planning Commission, which in turn will likely recommend one of them to the City Council for adoption.

No specific date was set for delivery of the potential code amendments when commissioners reviewed parking requirements for both restaurants and retail establishments on Thursday.

Commissioner Morgen McLaughlin was absent, but the four commissioners present agreed to recommend no changes to parking requirements for retail establishments, deciding the currently required one parking space per 300 square feet of gross floor space is adequate.

A comparison with other Central Coast jurisdictions’ requirements prepared by Andrea Keefer, assistant planner, found six cities, including Lompoc and Santa Maria, had more stringent requirements of one space per 250 square feet.

She found four cities, including Guadalupe, have the same requirement as Buellton and two, including Solvang, have less stringent requirements of one space per 500 square feet.

But commissioners wanted to increase the number of spaces required for restaurants.

“I’d like to see us try to get more parking out of some of these projects that we have (coming up),” Commission Chairman Art Mercado said.

However, commissioners couldn’t pick a formula to accomplish that goal they felt comfortable recommending to the City Council.

“I wouldn’t be in favor of a recommendation without someone doing some math,” Commissioner Joe Padilla said.

Commissioners and staff alike expressed concern that picking the wrong formula could either result in actually decreasing the amount of parking restaurants are required to provide or requiring so many that it would be a hardship for the business.

“At some point it’s going to make it undoable for people,” Commissioner Dan Heedy said. “It would be nice if we could maximize (the number of spaces), but we don’t want to squeeze the businesses out.”

Planning Director Marc Bierdzinski also pointed out the commission might want to consider how a revised formula could affect restaurants that might be created along Industrial Way.

“Buellton is kind of unusual in that we allow restaurants in the industrial zone,” he added. “Most cities don’t have that.”

Buellton currently requires one parking spot for every 300 square feet of area for patrons plus one more spot for every two employees.

Keefer said it was hard to compare the other jurisdictions’ requirements to Buellton’s because they used so many different formulas.

But generally, she found four cities with more stringent requirements, including Lompoc at one space per 60 square feet of public accommodations and one per 250 square feet of general floor area. Santa Maria calls for one space per 65 square feet used for tables and chairs plus one per every 260 square feet of remaining floor area.

Three cities, including Solvang, have the same requirement as Buellton, although one did not require a space for every two employees.

Five cities, including Guadalupe, had requirements based on such variables as the number of patrons, tables and stools as well as which zoning district the business was located in.

Commissioners were particularly interested in increasing the number of spaces required for restaurants after hearing the Crossroads Center — which includes the Habit, Chipotle and Panda Express restaurants and Starbucks coffeehouse — actually has more than the required number of spaces.

“For some reason, this shopping center just doesn’t seem to work,” Commissioner Brian Dunstan said.

Bierdzinski said a lot of that has to do with the configuration of the parking lot.

But he noted the drive-thru for the Habit and Chipotle will be restriped and narrow parking spaces have been designated for compacts and motorcycles, which should improve parking and circulation in the center.

Commissioners finally decided requirements based on the square footage used for patrons and the square footage for nonpatron areas might be the best type of formula.

Bierdzinski said the staff will develop potential ordinances along with calculations of how many spaces would be required for various sized restaurants with the goal of increasing the amount of spaces required by 5, 10, 15 and 20 percent over the current requirement.

Those scenarios will then be brought back to the commission to consider for a recommendation to the City Council.


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