After working to resolve a string of issues, including noise and parking problems, Millbrae’s new Tai Wu restaurant will keep its conditional use permit, but the saga did bring parking issues to center stage and is prompting the city to ask for staff costs.
The Chinese restaurant at 300 El Camino Real was on the verge of losing its five-year use permit because of a number of construction and operational issues. These problems included sound issues associated with the air intake units on the roof of the utility building, lack of parking and odors. Members of the Hemlock and Bayside Manor neighborhoods complained about employees and customers parking in front of their homes because the restaurant did not have adequate parking on site.
At the end of April, the City Council moved to allow expanded preferential parking permits for the neighborhoods affected by Tai Wu. The three-story dim sum eatery was supposed to have 111 parking spots and valet parking available to customers, but much of the parking is off site and customers tend to park in the nearby neighborhood. As part of the agreement, the city is requiring off-site parking and capping capacity at the restaurant.
Tai Wu is also being asked to pay the city $14,000 for staff costs because of necessary response to non-compliance issues.
“I’m pleased with the way it ended up in that it hit a middle ground between Tai Wu and residents,” said Planning Commissioner Andrew Baksheff.
“I think there was a give and take on both sides; there’s still room for improvement. It was a very difficult process. … Tai Wu is a symptom of what’s going on in Millbrae.”
What’s going on in Millbrae is growth, Baksheff said.
“With growth, there’s issues,” he said. “It was as bad as it could get. We as a community need to get together and figure out how we’re going to fix this (parking). It’s a big hurdle for us as a city to overcome over the next year.”
Parking has been an ongoing issue in the recent past, said Gary Pellegrini, who has lived in Millbrae on and off for 40 years. He has heard from other Millbrae residents about the issues surrounding Tai Wu and believes the city is handling the situation.
“Parking in Millbrae in general is a problem,” he said. “You were always able to find a place to park — not now. … People (Tai Wu customers) are still taking parking from merchants on the west side (near Broadway). They (the city) do have to think of something for the parking.”
Meanwhile, the modified conditional use permit that was approved in December 2011 does come with special conditions. Parking must include at least seven self-parking spaces, five of which must be handicap accessible, on site; at least 10 self-parking spaces at Speedee Oil Change; at least 30 self-parking spaces at Burger King; at least 69 self-parking spaces at Universal Electric Supply; and at least 14 self-parking spaces at Taco Bell, for a total of at least 120 spaces. Six months prior to the Dec. 19, 2016, conditional use permit expiration date, Tai Wu must prepare and present a long-term parking plan to the Planning Commission for review. Tai Wu must also maintain a maximum of 276 seats within the entire restaurant unless that maximum number is changed by the city. Available restaurants seats will be reduced if the number of parking spots falls.
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