Despite a large contingent of outspoken Los Osos residents who voiced their opposition to a proposed drive-through McDonald’s restaurant, the county Board of Supervisors approved the project Tuesday.
The board voted 4-1, with Supervisor Bruce Gibson dissenting to give the go-ahead to the restaurant at the old Bank of America building at 1076 Los Osos Valley Road in the Vons Shopping Center.
The vote overturned a county Planning Commission vote, also 4-1, that approved the restaurant but denied the drive-through.
About 100 people attended the five-hour discussion that included sharp opinions on the impacts of a fast food restaurant chain going into the center of town.
Supervisors who approved the project, including Adam Hill, said that a new McDonald’s will help fill a business site that has been vacant for nine years and help spur needed business growth in the community.
“What’s being proposed here is filling a business space in an existing shopping center,” Hill said. “Eating there or not is part of a freedom of choice.”
Gibson was supportive of a McDonald’s restaurant, but opposed a drive-through, saying it doesn’t support a pedestrian-friendly environment that fits with the community.
“We can choose to go back to the 20th century or do something new,” Gibson said. “We have a chance to do innovative things, but by approving a drive-through we’re taking a step back.”
As a condition of approval, the restaurant won’t operate round-the-clock. Instead it will be open from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday through Sunday. The restaurant will seat 50 customers.
Also, McDonald’s will be required to retrofit plumbing in existing homes and businesses totaling 698 gallons per day. The business will use less water than it saves through its retrofits.
Residents at the meeting mostly criticized the project, saying it doesn’t fit the town’s character, will contribute to obesity, offer low-paying jobs, and create traffic problems coming in and out of the shopping center. Some also noted a McDonald’s exists in Morro Bay, roughly 5 miles away.
However, a group of proponents, including residents and McDonald’s employees at other area sites, said the restaurant will fill a business location that has been sitting vacant for years and add another food choice for people with a drive-through, including seniors who can’t easily get in and out of cars.
Supervisor Caren Ray said she felt part of the controversy was because the franchise submitted the proposal — and she didn’t think the McDonald’s proposal would negatively impact the community.
“If it were a franchise other than McDonald’s, would we be having this conversation?” Ray said. “What we’re here to look at is land use, and I don’t see a problem with the project.”