The opening of a new fast-food restaurant in Redwood City has stirred up frustrations amongst locals due to major traffic impacts along the Highway 101 exit on Whipple Avenue.
Chick-fil-A, a Georgia-based company known for its chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, opened its doors to San Mateo County for the first time on July 23. The location of the restaurant, at 536 Whipple Ave., has been swamped with lines of cars following the opening.
During a remote City Council meeting held this Monday, Melissa Stevenson Diaz, the city manager of Redwood City, said city staff has been made aware of the “disruption” needing attention and is actively working to alleviate the congestion of vehicles.
“We received many inquiries related to traffic impacts associated with the Chick-fil-A opening and we have had both traffic engineers and police officers out to assist with that in the last few days,” said Stevenson Diaz.
Traffic is not the only controversy surrounding the addition of the franchise within the county. Just over a year ago, when announcements were first made that Chick-fil-A would be opening a storefront in Redwood City, Supervisor David Canepa spoke for many community members when he said the company’s logo “might as well say ‘we hate gay people.’”
Contention around the brand swirled following statements made in 2012 by the company’s president and chief operating officer, Dan Cathy, who publicly disagreed with same-sex marriage. Donations have also been made to groups with anti-LGBTQ platforms on the company’s behalf.
Following public outrage, the company put out a press release in 2019 announcing its affiliated foundation would introduce a more focused giving approach, donating to a smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of hunger, homelessness and education. Chick-fil-A announced the foundation committed $9 million in 2020 to Junior Achievement, Covenant House International and to local food banks.
Canepa expressed appreciation for the policy change in a late 2019 press release, calling the move “wonderful news” and a “huge win for the LGBTQ community.” Still, many locals have continued to express displeasure with the restaurant’s anti-LGBTQ past and traffic concerns have added to public dissent.
Though nearly a week of traffic has persisted, whether it will be a permanent feature of the area is unknown as residents become accustomed to the restaurant. City plans for dealing with potential long-term traffic is also unknown. Jessica Manzi, Redwood City’s transportation manager, said in a statement the city will consider “the need for permanent changes to streets and traffic signals,” while working with the site owner on improving on-site circulation.
In the meantime, signs have been placed along the road to discourage drivers from blocking driveways. Additionally, markings informing individuals to keep the streets clear next to the ARCO gas station and Carlsen Subaru car dealership have also been erected.
“We will make some adjustments to the striping in order to ensure that driveways stay clear. We will be continuing to observe whether those measures are enough or if there’s other things we need to do,” said Stevenson Diaz during the remote meeting.