McDonald’s on San Pablo?/An Organized Neighborhood Not Lovin’ It

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The oldest McDonald’s in CA at 66th and San Pablo wants to expand its operations by increasing its restaurant size by 30% plus run a drive through 24/7. The owner Ed Smith (former Oakland cop who owns many McDonald’s in the area) and his political consultant Mark McClure from CCIG (owned by Phil Tagami) got an earful on Feb 5th when 50 nearby residents showed up to voice their concerns. The meeting was organized by the San Pablo Avenue Golden Gate Improvement Association and most folks seem to live within a 2 block radius of McDonald’s.

I couldn’t get over the irony that the meeting was held in the 65th St Oakland Karate studio where Mark McClure apparently trains. I bet he doesn’t eat at McDonald’s or allow his kids to but helping them expand their disastrous food culture is all in a day’s work. It would be all fine if we all didn’t have to pay the price, from more asthma and particulate matter from idling cars, but mostly huge numbers of all ages suffering from obesity and heart disease. These are the issues I wanted to raise but I managed to mostly muzzle myself until Mr. Smith used the car centric renovation he did at 45th and Telegraph as his shining example of “being a good neighbor.” Not.

I haven’t been inside a McDonald’s in 30 years except on long drives when I need a restroom and can sneak in to use the facilities. I despise the fact that McDonald’s has set a terrible standard for fast-food franchises and contributed greatly to the loss of the Amazon and global warming. But those bigger concerns were not on the minds of the neighbors who gathered. Several indicted that they patronize the place, including a mom with her 2 kids (ahem).  They object to the fact that the owner Ed Smith wants to run his drive-in every day and night, instead of the 24 hours now in place Friday-Sunday nights. Mr. Smith claims he needs the extra hours to pay for his upgrade but the neighbors weren’t buying it.

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The shareholders and owners of McDonald’s are like the cigarette industry of 30 years ago. All the research is there–they are helping to destroy the planet and everyone on it, on every continent and yet they can walk into a room and expect respect. Mr Smith even mentioned that his expansion will allow for 6-8 more jobs–yeah shitty jobs at shitty wages I muttered in my head. I wished I had asked what happens to the employees when the project goes under construction for 3 months. I can’t imagine he guarantees their employment. But I would love to be wrong on that point.

From my seat as a community organizer, it was fascinating to watch Mark McClure who presumably gets paid quite a bit not take responsibility for informing the neighbors of the Planning Commission meeting on Feb 4th. Nothing like, “I”m sorry folks, I screwed up big time!” He is a former Planning Commissioner and the fact that only one person in the room had received a notice for the Planning Commission meeting spoke volumes about how Mark and Ed Smith planned to pull the wool over the neighbors eyes. But because of their missteps, the community is now rightfully engaged and some are enraged.

The organizing group SPAGGIA had come up with a list of concerns and they indicate that this is a changing neighborhood, one where condo owners, cohousing folks, renters and others are creating a new Golden Gate neighborhood that sees the future as one of “complete streets” and that doesn’t include a car culture that McDonald’s is the poster child for. When one of the neighbors rose above the weeds to suggest a complete rethink for a higher and better use with a mixed use development, Ed Smith slapped the idea down with the comment, “No one wants to live above a McDonald’s” which generated the loudest laugh of the night. It’s a shame that Mr. Smith is so backward thinking as this 35,000 square foot parcel will impact everyone’s property values and quality of life for years to come.

Terrible Trash

A couple of media savvy residents have a terrific website that allows folks to take photos of the trash supplied by customers of the McDonald’s in question and up-load them. It’s called McLitter and it gives a bird’s eye view of the continual problem associated with the throw-away society that McDonald’s exemplifies.

Terrible Food

I feel a bit hypocritical complaining about the food as I haven’t eaten in 30 years and I have the money and privilege to eat whatever I want. The good news nationally is that less and less folks are eating the terrible food and the McDonald’s brand is suffering big losses. Today’s New York Times visits a NYC outpost with a guest chef and the results are predictable if not downright funny.

Planning Commission on Feb 18th?

It remains to be seen whether the planner David Valeska after speaking with the McDonald’s gang will pull the item on Wed, Feb 18th at Planning Commission so that the fast-food folks can meet again with the neighbors and come to a negotiated settlement of sorts. If not, watch for a food fight on Feb 18th. I’ll be there to toss the first fries. In the meantime, do go to the SPAGGIA Page and use their link to send comments to staff and Planning Commission members.