"Our residential street, 7th Avenue, is being used as the "unofficial" loading dock for Whole Foods," writes a despondent reader. Including a letter sent to Whole Foods by a group of area neighbors, as well as photographic evidence, the reader would also like to hear from the Curbed community. He writes: "I am one of the unfortunate residents who lives behind the new Whole Foods Mega Store in Venice. Let's just say that they may talk about how great they are for the community, but when it comes to their very own neighbors, they couldn't give a crap. I am not for closing down Whole Foods. I am spending all of my hard earned money there along with everyone else. I am for them acting like good and responsible neighbors. Below is a letter and pictures I sent to the developer of the land as well as my fearless city councilman. The four questions I was hoping Curbed could answer are:
1. Can Whole Foods use storage containers parked on a public street, taking up valuable parking spaces for the neighborhood, for additional storage of their products and inventory?
2. Can Whole Foods use our residential street as their loading dock, with trucks idling on our street and fork lifts operating on our street? How could they have gotten away with not having to upgrade the inadequate loading dock previously used by Big Lots?
And 4. Doesn't Whole Foods have to provide some parking for their hundreds of employees?
And the letter sent to Whole Foods from the reader as well as other neighbors:
"We are one week into the opening of Whole Foods and already they have made it abundantly clear they have no intention of being respectful of the surrounding neighborhood.
According to Condition 30 of the conditional use permit, "At any time during the period of validity of this grant, should documented evidence be submitted showing a violation of any condition(s) of this grant resulting in a disruption or interference with the peaceful enjoyment of the adjoining and neighboring properties, the zoning administration reserves the right to require the applicant to file for a plan approval application together with associated fees, the purpose of which will be to hold a public hearing to review the applicant's compliance with and the effectiveness of these conditions..."
In one short week, we have already been able to accumulate 4 examples of how Whole Foods has disrupted and interfered with the peaceful enjoyment of the adjoining neighbors' properties. Each example has a corresponding photograph to make clear the violation.
1. Whole Foods is maintaining storage containers on a public street facing residential properties as additional storage for their products and inventory. We understood the use of these containers during the construction phase, and we tolerated the loss of valuable parking in our neighborhood during that time, but we now question the legality of their current use and wonder if it is not a violation of their original permit.
2. Our residential street, 7th Avenue, is being used as the "unofficial" loading dock for Whole Foods. Their delivery trucks stop on our street, alongside their storage containers, and idle for periods up to 45 minutes directly across from our homes. Whole Foods employees operate fork lifts on the public street in order to unload palettes from the trucks and carry them back to the actual loading dock at the rear of the store. This is in violation of condition 35 regarding the loading dock. In addition, we are guessing the use of a public street as a loading dock is illegal. Not only is this highly disruptive to the neighborhood, it introduces a very serious public safety issue to our street. Idling vendor trucks take up the entire northbound traffic lane, forcing drivers into opposing traffic in order to pass these trucks and proceed down the street. This condition, coupled with the dramatic increase of traffic since the opening of the new store, creates a very dangerous scenario for drivers and pedestrians alike.
3. The "loading dock" area is being used for storing bins, palettes, trash, along with any number of items one might normally find in the back room of a structure this size. Once the storage containers are no longer on the street to hide it, this is the mess that Whole Foods will present to it's neighbors, in violation of condition 19.
4. There is absolutely no place for the residents of 7th avenue to park now. Even with the future removal of the three storage containers on our street, it is easy to foresee these spaces being taken by Whole Foods employees. We believe this is in violation of condition 18, but we will have to do more research into the permit regarding the required allotment of employee parking in the Whole Foods lot. With store hours from 7am - 11pm, there is a non-stop lineup of workers looking for parking on our street.
We feel that this project got away with a lot under the claim that the usage is the same as the previous tenant, Big Lots. The amount of employees has increased exponentially from the previous tenant. The loading area used by the previous tenant is simply inadequate for servicing the delivery requirements of the new Whole Foods store.
As concerned neighbors, we bring these issues to you first to gauge your commitment to making changes. This is not about wanting to close Whole Foods. It is about them keeping their simple promise to be good neighbors and comply with their conditions of approval. Being an architect, I am knowledgeable about land use issues and have access to land use attorneys and expeditors to help my cause. We are more than comfortable proceeding with condition 30 and filing a petition to the zoning administrator. Given our past ability to try and work issues out with you both, we felt compelled to go to you first. Please let us know how these issues will be addressed."