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.