Oak Park activists prepare for fight against McDonald’s drive-thru
Doctors, teachers and neighbors gathered Wednesday to discuss a looming concern in the Oak Park community that will soon be discussed at the Sacramento City Council – a proposed McDonald’s restaurant with drive-thru between Second Avenue and Stockton Boulevard.
“We just want communities that are safe for ourselves and communities that are safe for my patients,” family physician and Second Avenue resident Charlene Hauser said. “Drive-thru fast food is completely unsafe.”
The proposed site location, currently a vacant lot, is across the street from the UC Davis Medical Center, which includes a cancer center and pediatric obesity clinic. On Tuesday, the Sacramento City Council will discuss the issue for the first time after two years of intense debate.
Wednesday’s meeting occurred a block from the proposed site, where 10 Oak Park residents, a Hiram Johnson high school student and a Med Center physician met in a Second Avenue house to finalize their presentation to City Hall. It was organized by Healthy Development for Oak Park, a neighborhood group that was formed in October 2010 to oppose the McDonald’s.
The vacant lot is on the same block as residential properties, and many have railed against it – more than 1,700 Oak Park community members have signed a petition opposing the McDonald’s drive-thru.
Retired teacher JoEllen Arnold, 62, has lived three blocks away from the proposed McDonald’s site. She said she opposes the drive-thru because of how she has seen the community improve.
“I’ve seen the neighborhood improve so much, and adding traffic and trash and less safety to the neighborhood would be a real downer for the neighborhood," she said.
Teacher Chris Johnson, 59, lives one block away from the proposed McDonald’s site. Johnson said that the issue started two years ago when McDonald’s conducted a survey asking residents to choose their favorite building design.
The drive-thru sparked the concerns of residents, which led to the formation of Healthy Development for Oak Park. The group conducted a survey within a half-mile radius of the proposed site location to collect signatures. Businesses owners and neighbors wrote opposition letters to the city.
The city Planning Commission heard a request from McDonald’s on April 12 and voted 6-1 against building the development.
The planning commission report stated that it did not align with the 2030 General Plan, which dictates building development and land use in the Sacramento region. The drive-thru design also clashed with the Oak Park Design Guidelines. The reported stated, among other things, that the layout was “not pedestrian-oriented” and insensitive to the transition between residential and commercial areas.
For UC Davis family physician James Moore, the issue is larger than building design: He is concerned with the fast-food restaurant’s proximity to the UC Davis Medical Center.
“I see several pediatric patients, which struggle with obesity, and often I’ll send those patients over to the pediatric obesity clinic across from the proposed site,” Moore said. “One of my biggest concerns is that I’m trying to convey an image of healthiness and right across the street is a McDonald’s where there is basically easy access to food that generally I wouldn’t recommend.”
Meeting attendees said they are concerned about safety, increased traffic congestion on a residential street, decreased property values, health implications and nuisances such as noise and car lights throughout the night.
In 2003, the city approved a mixed-use development lot that included ground-level retail, second- and third-floor office space, and a fourth floor of apartments in the proposed McDonald’s site. However, the project was canceled.
Some residents would prefer that the lot be used as a mixed-use property like in 2003 or property that encourages community interaction such as a wellness center, coffee shop or community garden instead of a drive-thru.
The Sacramento City Council will discuss the site location Tuesday at City Hall, 915 I St., at 6 p.m.