By Randy Kraft, Special to the Independent
Mozambique’s restaurant main floor dining area, voluntarily closed last year in lieu of opening rooftop dining, will not reopen anytime soon. The Planning Commission last week unanimously denied such a proposal by Zambique Properties, LLC.
Architect Marshall Innins devised an elaborate plan to satisfy the city’s parking requirements for re-opening the additional dining area: installing a 16-unit mechanical car lift in the restaurant’s parking lot off Agate Street as well as a shuttle to 120 leased spots throughout the city.
However, the city’s parking code does not consider off-site parking spaces acceptable if not deed-restricted for permanence, and during questioning at the meeting Innins acknowledged these are not. In addition, shuttle service is not stipulated as a means of fulfilling code requirements.
The only element of the application endorsed by the three members of Planning Commission in attendance was a landscape plan that includes reduced wall heights and the elimination of the iconic fountain in favor of a sculpted “M.”
Commissioner Anne Johnson was ill and Rob Zur Schmiede recused himself because of contributions to his City Council campaign by Mozambique owner Ivan Spiers, as well as Heisler Building owner Sam Goldstein, whose rooftop dining deck was also on the docket.
Innins reports his client is considering an appeal to City Council. However, Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman told the Indy that the council will face the challenge of satisfying state-mandated findings. The real issue is the code itself, Grossman said.
“It is imperative we rewrite the parking code; it’s totally outdated, although it would take a long time and requires Coastal Commission approval,” Grossman said.
His comments echoed those of Allan Simon, owner of Firebrand Media, Inc., and this newspaper, berating the Planning Commission for a lack of planning.
“A new parking code would facilitate innovative solutions to development plans,” Grossman told the Indy.
Parking is only one of the obstacles. Since its launch in 2005 at the former site of Tortilla Flats, Mozambique’s neighbors have regularly complained about traffic and noise, and Spiers has repeatedly offered olive branches in the form of modified hours and valet parking.
Randy Lewis, a long-time resident of neighboring Woods Cove, said Mozambique repeatedly shifts gears. “Mozambique is playing a shell game. So many variances – parking, noise, music – enough is never enough,” he said.
Although Woods Cove denizens contend the area is residential, merchants in the Pearl Street District, along Coast Highway between Pearl and Diamond Streets, might argue otherwise. Mozambique anchors a commercial business zone that fronts Coast Highway, one of a parade of storefronts, although the restaurant looms large among them.
The dining room-expansion proposal also requires a coastal development permit due to an intensification of use at the three-level property.
Sam Goldstein’s application for rooftop dining at the Heisler Building faired far better at the hearing.
Located at the corner of Laguna Avenue and Coast Highway and currently home to a street-level Tommy Bahama store and restaurant, and a second story Rock ‘N’ Fish restaurant, the revised plan for a roof deck was approved 2 -1. Commissioner Ken Sadler dissented because of concerns primarily about fixed open umbrellas, which architect Todd Skenderian argued were essential for safety. According to the staff report, umbrella placement has been reconfigured to reduce view obstruction and will contain built-in lighting.
The project, previously approved by the Heritage Committee, was continued last month to resolve the height and placement of an elevator, which has been scrapped in favor of two chair lifts that accommodate wheel chair access.
Barbara Metzger, of Village Laguna, which is dedicated to preserving village atmosphere, expressed concern about the expansion’s impact on historic character. Ken Fischbeck, in contrast, a member of the Heritage Committee, said the addition “is a vision for how Laguna can be a better place in the future.”
The application will automatically go to City Council for approval and the permit will be reviewed in one year to ensure compliance. Plans for deck dining and an opening date have yet to be announced.
Writer Randy Kraft previously covered City Hall for the Indy.