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All is Quiet on the 7-Eleven Front

Property owners, and the current business located therein, of 501 N. San Mateo Drive have 30 days to respond to the city's Notice of Violation.

 

Less than a half-hour after San Mateo High students are dismissed for the day, none are loitering around the 7-Eleven convenience store on the northwest corner of E. Bellevue and N. San Mateo Drive.

It's a quiet afternoon in the neighborhood overall. There are no signs that any teens have been in the area. One of the clerks says this is normal. No more than five or six people walk through the doors during a 20-minute period on a Thursday afternoon.

It's a clean, well-lighted place stocked with the usual goodies, including a section in front devoted to fresh fruits.

One would never guess that this location, at 501 N. San Mateo Drive, has become the subject of a heated debate among residents, city officials and two businesses that could lead to a court case.

The San Mateo City Council voted unanimously at it's Jan. 14 meeting that the 7-Eleven violates the city's zoning codes and issued a citation (dated on or about Jan. 17, 2013) to that effect to both the store and property owners Portfolio Development Partners, LLC. Jeffrey Neustadt, who also founded Taxi's Hamburgers, and Burlingame resident Steve Cutter co-founded PDP.

"The city's intent is to close the store and have the property revert to residential," San Mateo city attorney Shawn Mason said. "We're open to discussions as far as logistics; if they are compiling and need more time."

The property had remained vacant since September of 2010. Section 27.72.030 of the San Mateo Zoning Code states that any non-conforming use building that remains vacant for six consecutive months will revert to its originally intended zoning.

PDP purchased the property late last year with the intent of using it for a market and filed for a change in the zoning code in accordance to its understanding of the code. It was later deemed unnecessary for a change in the code, which would have affected every other property in the city.

PDP had an understanding that city staff, which according to testimony from San Mateo senior planner Lisa Ring has the authority to do so, changed an earlier determination that the property had already reverted to residential into a determination that the property maintained its legal nonconforming use as a market.

The change was made when Interim Assistant City Attorney Cecilia Quick sent a memo (dated March 2, 2012) suggesting there was a possibility that the property remained legal, but also suggested getting more evidence.

An e-mail sent to PDP attorney Richard Givens seeking comment went unanswered.

A closed session before Tuesday's regular meeting of the San Mateo city council was held to discuss "anticipated litigation." Mason declined to divulge any information concerning the item.

Mayor David Lim acknowledged city council "has met in closed session regarding a pending issue but I am not allowed to comment."

Lim also acknowledged "there has been some progress made" in connection with the property at 501 N. San Mateo Drive.

PDP and 7-Eleven have 30 days from the day of the notice (on or about Jan. 17, 2013) to respond, come into compliance or close the store. There could be requests for additional time.

For the city of San Mateo it's a waiting game. The next move belongs to PDP and 7-Eleven.

"The next step for us would be, if for some reason they failed to comply, to initiate legal action," Mason said.

PDP and 7-Eleven could also be mulling over legal action of their own against the city. There has been nothing filed, however, as of Thursday.

"It's possible if they think San Mateo was wrong in its finding," Mason said. "There was certainly an indication of it at the last meeting."

Until at least through the middle of February, business will be conducted as usual.

CP January 26, 2013 at 05:06 PM
I always appreciate Rick's articles / work. However I would note that in this case you are wrong Rick, all is not quiet on the 7 Eleven front. I do believe that may have been the case in the time you were there but that ignores: (1) Serious and dangerous traffic concerns which residents have photographed and alerted police to; (2) loitering at various times of day by people of all ages; (3) Outrageous noise late at night and very, very early morning from very large delivery trucks; (4) the unhealthy options in the store FAR OUTWEIGH the few pieces of fruit in the store; (5) 7 Eleven has applied for alcohol license transfer (is that good for the neighborhood 24 hours a day???); (6) 7 Eleven said they would not be open in this neighborhood 24 hours a day, and soon after opening a sign proudly proclaims "OPEN 24 Hours".....shame on them for NOT telling the public the truth!! Now it is 7 Eleven and PDP's turn to do the right thing or risk a lot of bad press as they sue 7 Eleven customers, and potential customers in San Mateo. The only parties that will gain will be 7 Eleven and PDPs attorneys, who actually seemed to many of us to look not too displeased at all at the end of the last City Council meeting (they are not fools, they see the $ signs and billable hours rolling in at PDP and 7 Eleven's expense!!) 7 Eleven and PDP: Do the right thing, close this store. Save yourself from the very bad Public Relations AND save yourself the hefty legal fees.
Stephanie January 26, 2013 at 08:29 PM
I am amazed at the tone of this article that makes it appear that the residents of san Mateo should have no concerns about the 7-Eleven in their midst. Obviously, the writer has not been around when people leave there cars running while they go into the store causing noise all evening long and early in the morning. He hasn't seen the huge semi's blocking the right lane of San Mateo Drive, blocking visibility of bothe the stop sign and the pedestrian crosswalk. Nor has he had to listen to trsh trucks in the early hours or the banging of trash containers at all hours of the night. I have lived in this nice, quiet neighborhood for nearly 13 years and my peace of mind as well as the quality of my life have been severely compromised by the presence of this in"convience" store. There are plenty of commercial properties along San Mateo Drive where a 7-Eleven could flourish - why choose a quiet neighborhood? The City Council did the right thing by declaring the store to be an inappropriate use of a ZONED residential property. Please enforce the law and close this store. I already lost one neighbor who couldn't tolerate the store. And by the way, I see students in there in the morning - I'm not around when school dismisses in the afternoon - and they are not buying fruit!
Annie Coull January 26, 2013 at 09:42 PM
As the immediate next door neighbor, I can assure you that there very much is an impact living next door to a 24-hour convenience store: bright light in my bedroom, noisy trucks at very late and very early hours, conversations in the parking lot heard from my bed because the only buffer between that lot and me is my back fence at the lower level. So please don't tell me it's all quiet at this location in a residential neighborhood. I must voice my resentment about 7Elevem's outright lies at the October Planning Commission (so it's on the record): that they would not be open 24 hours; and that they would not sell liquor when they opened (application for liquor license transfer went up 2-1/2 weeks after doors opened). Perhaps multiple mistakes may have been made in this entire process by many parties. But the City Council has made a ruling and now the legal process will govern unless PDPand 7Eleven act without further contest on the clear decision the leaders of the City of San Mateo have taken to to interpret our laws and ordinances in the best interest of the city and its citizens. I do not believe any of the decisions made by PDP or 7Eleven were made on the same basis. Of course, that is not why they are in business.

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