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Big Dean’s Cafe Plans Expansion, Receives Santa Monica Commission Scrutiny

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

February 19, 2016 -- Located just south of the Santa Monica Pier since the 1970s, Big Dean’s Cafe will soon nearly double in size when it expands its operation to an adjoining space in the building that formerly housed a souvenir shop.

Although this expansion will not require major construction, it went before the Planning Commission on Wednesday because of a City requirement that when a restaurant “substantially changes,” it needs to acquire a new conditional-use permit (CUP) for alcohol service.

The commission voted unanimously in favor of the CUP and removed some of the conditions recommended by City staff, including that Dean’s be limited to three televisions.

“I think that’s a little bit of micromanaging,” Commissioner Mario Fonda-Bonardi said.

City attorney Barry Rosenbaum said there was good reason for this condition and others.

“Many of these conditions address the concern of restaurants turning into bars and the impacts that have happened when something is approved as a restaurant and turns into a bar,” Rosenbaum said.

The commissioners removed the television screen limit and adjusted other conditions.

Among the adjustments were raising the cap on alcohol sales from 35 percent to 49 percent of total revenue and the removal of rules that alcohol could not be served in the area after midnight and never in disposable containers.

A couple commissioners said they were concerned about adjusting the conditions. Commissioner Gerda Newbold said this had nothing to do with Big Dean’s, which she said has operated well.

“You always have to imagine the worst case, which is if they move and somebody else takes over the business,” Newbold said. “They say that’s never going to happen, but we’ve heard that before.”

She continued, “I’ve been here a while and I’ve seen these sports bars, and they create a lot of problems.”

In voting with the rest of the commission for the CUP with adjusted conditions, Newbold said she did so “reluctantly.”

Also at the meeting, the commission voted unanimously for a CUP to allow office space in a building planned for a vacant lot in a commercial zone on Pico Boulevard near the city line.

The lot located between Players Club Golf & Fitness and an office building. has been vacant since 1993 and is owned by father and son Ronald and Tyler Udall.

They plan to move their residential contractor business, Tyler Development Corporation, into the building.

City staff approved the two-story, 4,300-square-foot building last month. It will include nearly 1,100 square feet of “small-scale general retail” on the first floor.

“This project to me so far sounds fabulous, especially with this small-footprint retail on the ground floor," Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy said. "It is something that the community needs."

The Pico Neighborhood Association submitted a letter the day of the meeting asking for the commission to reject the CUP. Nobody representing the neighborhood group addressed the commission.

Commissioners said the letter included a question of whether office space was allowed at all in the area and a request that the decision be delayed until the creation of a local zoning district is finished.

Attorney Rosenbaum said the commission did not have the authority to delay the decision for this reason.

The commission also approved a “vesting tentative parcel map” to allow for the construction of a two-story, three-unit condominium at 1927 19th Street.

A permit request for the actual project must be submitted to the City, and it will likely not need to go before the commission.

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