A plan to squelch the takeover of takeout in downtown Los Altos before more fast-food style restaurants have a chance to open fell one vote short last week. The Los Altos City Council Sept. 9 considered passing a moratorium on takeout restaurants downtown until staff could set up criteria to limit such establishments, but the emergency measure fell one vote short of the required four-vote minimum -- neither Mayor Kris Casto nor Councilman Francis La Poll was willing to support what they called a rash move.
La Poll pointed out that many downtown restaurants, including Le Boulanger, A.G. Ferrari Foods and Lucky, provide takeout service. If the city were to regulate fast-food chains, they would have to regulate them across the board, he said.
"You can't say yes to Trader Vic's and then turn around and say no to Quiznos. It's the use, not the quality, that we would regulate. You can't put a name on the ordinance," La Poll said.
The sudden push to temporarily keep takeout restaurants out of town came from the Los Altos Village Association following the recent addition of Togo's eatery and Quiznos sandwich shop on First and Main streets. Quiznos is in the permit process, and Togo's is already set to open. Subway has allegedly expressed interest in opening a downtown site, too.
Too many fast-food restaurants could threaten the "village character," said LAVA spokesman Ted Garrett.
Under a 1988 city ordinance, most of downtown's takeout restaurants should have been denied. City law restricts takeout restaurants from being closer than 150 feet from one another. The law apparently got buried in the books since none of the restaurants in town that provide takeout have been required to abide by it. Staff only recently became aware of the discrepancy.
Rather than modify the code, the council directed staff to begin enforcing the 150-foot requirement.
"I think the use permit can be used as a tool to ... put some teeth into our process," Casto said.