What do you have against Jack in the Box?

It’s not about the food! Our issue is with illegal actions by businesses and the city. Unfortunately some businesses have routinely violated zoning regulations that govern noise, lighting, trash, food waste disposal, and late-night deliveries. The current project was illegally permitted by the city under the guise of “remodeling” when, in fact, a complete tear-down and rebuild was pursued. Corporations must follow the law as should our own city agencies.

Why are you focusing on this project? There are plenty of other development projects that violate zoning laws.

And that is the problem. Do we, as citizens and taxpayers, throw up our hands and accept corruption and government negligence just because there is “plenty” of it? Experience has taught us that the Development Services Department (DSD) applies one set of stringent rules on homeowners and small businesses and another set of lax rules on corporations and commercial developers. When our city government abets illegal projects and our City Attorney refuses to pursue legal redress, there is nothing left but for citizens to stand up and demand accountability!

If we don’t, all we can expect is more of the same. For example, six years ago, when KFC was granted an “alteration” permit for its University and Utah restaurant, it went ahead with a tear-down and rebuild. The City Attorney determined that DSD had incorrectly re-permitted the project and should have adhered to community review standards. But he took no action. In fact, at a subsequent meeting a DSD staffer said, “We do this all over the city.” Enough is enough.

What’s wrong with the drive-through lane? It’s been there forever.

The drive-through lane was designed poorly from the beginning and has caused numerous problems for years. The wait line snakes along Dale Street, which is a residential block. Cars stack up, exhaust fumes accumulate, car radios blare – and this goes on until 2:30 in the morning. For these very reasons, zoning laws enacted in 2000 prohibit drive-through lanes in urban neighborhoods. “Grandfathered” businesses like Jack in the Box were allowed to keep their drive-through lanes but only until the life of the existing facility ran its course. The law stipulates that a substantial reconstruction ends the life of the existing facility and the rebuilt facility must adhere to current zoning laws. Jack in the Box is trying to have it both ways: It has torn down its old facility and built a new one and is illegally operating a drive-thru that was banned the moment the old building was torn down.

Isn’t CD3 Councilmember Todd Gloria doing something about this?

On August 16, Todd Gloria told Uptown News, “Like many North Park residents, I am offended by the current Jack In The Box project.” But aside from asking for research into what he calls “potential changes to the law,” he has taken no action to enforce the law or to seek penalties for infractions. He told Uptown News that “the project, to all appearances, is a complete rebuild” that was “”permitted without any review or approval by the City Council.” But as our Councilmember and as Council President, he has taken no action to hold DSD staff responsible for mishandling the permits. In fact, in his first act while serving as Interim Mayor, he set aside the “stop use” order that halted the illegal drive-through use.

Isn’t this a lost cause? The restaurant is open for business with the drive-through lane intact.

That’s what we’ve told ourselves every time DSD has allowed illegal or poorly-planned development in our neighborhoods. The submissive mindset of “You can’t fight City Hall and Big Money” has made a bad situation even worse. North Park is a modest community of working-class families and small businesses. Residents have reached out to developers and city officials, practiced patience, and sought compromise. All to no avail. The citizens’ lawsuit against Jack in the Box and the City of San Diego is the only recourse left to a community whose government leaders will not enforce the law. The city’s empty promise of “We will make sure this never happens again…” is no longer good enough.