Angela Swartz/Daily Journal
Tai Wu at 300 El Camino Real has been the source of frustration for Millbrae residents who say patrons and employees are parking in their neighborhoods.
With a slew of complaints in the last couple of weeks from neighbors angry about noise and parking issues associated with the new Tai Wu restaurant, the city has moved to allow expanded preferential parking permits to members of the Hemlock and Bayside Manor neighborhoods.
But some are wondering how the dim sum restaurant was allowed to open without sufficient parking in the first place.
“Why did the city give permits to build a restaurant, without looking into problems associated with putting in a restaurant?” said resident Lelah Van Dyke. “I hope the city is going to be more careful with putting in businesses without considering the parking. This shouldn’t have been built without having the parking.”
The 467,900-square-foot Chinese restaurant recently opened at 300 El Camino Real and was supposed to have 111 parking spots available to customers. The city was unable to confirm how many actual parking spaces the restaurant has available. The City Council voted Tuesday night to expand the parking permit zone to the Hemlock and Bayside Manor neighborhoods to address this issue.
No one from city staff goes out and counts the parking spots, said Mayor Wayne Lee. Valet parking was also not established immediately after the restaurant opened because of an insurance issue, he said.
“Everyone else knew they had to park elsewhere,” he said. “The city has to find ways of making sure there’s enough parking spaces.”
If the city doesn’t solve the parking problem, new businesses will choose not to come into the city, he said. Problems with residential parking permits downtown have been going on for many years, said Vice Mayor Robert Gottschalk.
The restaurant manager referred questions to the owner, who did not return calls for comments.
Patrons and employees of the restaurant, that has a maximum occupancy of 467 people, have been parking in the neighborhoods, according to the city. To get included in the parking permitting zone, 75 percent of segments of the two neighborhoods with the parking issues need to sign petitions to ask the city to join, said Public Works Director Nick Nguyen.
Noise complaints have also come about the business’ gas lines being loud. There was a community meeting to address the concerns, along with a business community meeting. The Sheriff’s Office is doing additional patrols in the area, while the restaurant has changed some of its signs and advised employees to park in the designated lots it’s providing, said Marty Van Duyn, the former South San Francisco assistant city manager now consulting for Millbrae.
“Several building codes need to be addressed,” he said. “One of the noise issues was related to [Pacific Gas and Electric] meters located at the rear of the building. The rush of gas is making a humming noise. It’s not a safety issue, but it’s a noise issue.”
The Planning Commission expects to see changes by its next meeting in two weeks, he said.
“We hope we can see our way toward some improvement,” Van Duyn said.
The city is asking the neighborhoods to be patient, Lee said. He would also like to see a more concise parking plan for the city. Right now, the city doesn’t have the funds for a parking structure or other means that would mitigate parking issues, he said.
“On behalf of the city, I want to apologize to the neighborhoods,” Lee said. “We want to have a thriving economy, but we don’t want to cause undue stress to people who live here. … El Camino will redevelop at some point and I would like to avoid the whole issue.”
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Marge Colapietro spent 45 minutes walking around El Camino Real and the vicinity of the restaurant to get a sense of the problem.
“Everyone (staff) has been very, very responsive to this,” Colapietro said. “It (the walk) was a good opportunity to see some of the challenges our community members are facing. The unlighted crosswalk zone (nearby the restaurant) was very, very challenging to say the least.”
Councilman Reuben Holober also walked the streets near the restaurant to check out the parking issue and would like to see a task force meet to look at the overall issues with the restaurant.
“Thanks to the residents for being loud and clear at the last council meeting,” he said. “There’s definitely a very clear problem down there. I’m very supportive of this proposal (for more permitted parking). My main concern is that this is not the solution to overall problem we have. We’re moving cars to another block.”
Resident Gino Gaucho agreed with Holober. Gaucho would like to see a public workshop.
“This is just moving the problem around,” Gaucho said. “Why isn’t the owner fitting the bill for these things?”
Hemlock resident Camille Lopez said this is obviously negligence.
“Residents are faced with these issues,” she said. “Parking permits will help, but it’s not the solution. It’s not going to bring us back to the way of life before it was disrupted. They should fix their issues, then they can be operational.”
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