Neighbors Voice Concerns about In-N-Out's Plan for Novato

Concerns raised about traffic, noise in Ignacio if restaurant is allowed to build on site of former car wash and current plant nursery.

It only took about 10 minutes Monday for a community meeting about a proposed In-N-Out Burger location in Novato to turn into a confrontation between company officials and folks from the neighborhood — and neighbors against neighbors.

Concerns about traffic, lighting, noise from drive-through loudspeakers, late-night hours, early morning deliveries and rowdy teens were lobbed like grenades at Kim Kennedy, an In-N-Out project manager, and Shinpei Kuo, property development manager for GHA Architecture/Development, during a standing-room only meeting at Inn Marin in Ignacio.

The scene was a flashback to Novato’s often-raucous affordable housing debates from the past year, only Double-Double Animal Style.

In the only community meeting required by city rules to take place during the process of building the restaurant at Enfrente Road and Entrada Drive, Kuo and Kennedy worked to calm fears and present facts about In-N-Outs plans. Overhead-view architectural drawings were displayed at the front of the room and passed around to attendees.

Kuo told about 75 people in attendance that there will be public meetings of the Design Review Commission and the Planning Commission before anything is approved to be built, but several neighbors — a handful quite worked up — expected to get all their answers in the 90-minute session Monday and were angry whenever the two officials could not provide an answer.

“We’re not going to be able to please everyone,” Kennedy said several times.

In-N-Out proposes to build a 3,750-square-foot restaurant and 52-space parking lot on two adjacent lots — one occupied by a closed-down car wash and one occupied by California Bay Nursery. The maximum height of the structure would be 35 feet, about the same as the nearby Dollhouses, Trains & More store, and it would be open until 1:30 a.m. The only entrance and exit would be in the cul de sac at the east end of Entrada Drive on the northern part of the property.

Several speakers expressed dismay that the nursery would be put out of business, but owner of that business and the property owner did not attend the meeting. There was speculation that the landlord is a willing seller to In-N-Out; calls placed by Novato Patch to the nursery were not returned.

Kennedy said In-N-Out is “not wishing to put anybody out of business. We’re only trying to purchase a piece of property” to move forward with creating the restaurant.

At least half the questions centered on traffic. Kuo and Kennedy repeated themselves several times when they said a traffic study done by an independent firm and paid for by In-N-Out is near completion and will include a list of expected impacts from the restaurant being built. Kennedy said In-N-Out would work with the city engineers to figure out what sound and traffic mitigation efforts would be necessary.

The two closest In-N-Outs to Novato — in Petaluma and Mill Valley — also are adjacent to Highway 101 but not as close to dwellings. The one in Mill Valley’s Strawberry Shopping Center is one of only three In-N-Outs — out of 269 — that does not have a drive-through window as per the wishes of Mill Valley residents. One man Monday night said the lack of a drive-through window at Strawberry makes the In-N-Out experience worse because of the hassles of parking there and he was glad the proposed Novato In-N-Out would have a drive-through window.

Another man who said he owned a condominium nearby was upset about the expected concentration of people and traffic on the now-dormant property and possibly lawbreakers mingling late at night. Kennedy said security officers could be hired to monitor the property 24 hours a day if it proves necessary.

“An opening might impact an area for about a week, but as far as the overall impact on an area, the good outweighs the bad,” Kennedy said. “Nobody takes care of a property like In-N-Out does. Nobody employs people and pays people like In-N-Out does.”

Without waiting for the traffic study, several neighbors guaranteed that traffic would increase in the Rafael Village and Pointe Marin areas just west of the restaurant’s proposed location and create problems getting back onto Highway 101 south of the site. They said people who want to head north after visiting the restaurant would drive west on Entrada and eventually Ignacio Boulevard or Oak Grove Drive and head back toward downtown Novato on either Sunset Parkway or Palmer Drive.

One woman received applause when she said In-N-Out’s improvements to the area would be good for Novato and be a lot better than a closed-down car wash and “not that great” nursery. Others agreed that the shuttered car wash qualifies as blight.

“Look, something else is going to get built there anyway,” one woman said. “It might as well be a professional corporation that is known for keeping things clean.”

Robert Marshall, co-owner of Inn Marin, added, “They’re going to clean up a part of our neighborhood that has looked like crap for 10 years. It’s an opportunity to have it done by professionals and they’re going to do it right.”

Kennedy explained the 1:30 a.m. closing time by saying there is a small demand for a place to go after movies get out at local theaters. The response by several residents was, fine, build it by the Century Rowland Plaza theater where there aren’t any dwellings.

Kuo said it would be up to the city to notify residents of future meetings about In-N-Out’s plans. Kennedy said he would make sure In-N-Out’s traffic engineer would be at those meetings to answer questions.


LP August 16, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Sorry, I have to comment again as I just watched the video. If you live on Entrada Dr., Oak Grove Dr., or Palmer Dr. you should know that letting children play on the street is not safe. A lady in the video was complaing about the safety of her children, well, you moved into a neighborhood that is anchored by shopping complexes. Although it may be convienant for you to walk there, others are driving, and that is the main road to Dollar Tree from South Novato Blvd (you go over the hill). You don't move into a neighborhood that is near commercial businesses and then complain about when new ones come in. The other local businesses will benefit from the change. And about the clientele, do you stop going to other local businesses because gang members shop and eat there?
Travis Howard August 16, 2011 at 03:43 PM
Well said LP. I know a lot of people who live in the area who are very excited about the possibility of In-N-Out being there. I am sorry I wasn't able to attend the meeting.
Brant August 16, 2011 at 04:36 PM
The resistance sounds a bit NIMBY-BANANA to me. Novato need the jobs that popular, well-run businesses bring. Let's get the details right, and let's get on with it.
Christina McNair August 16, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Let In N Out into Novato. The moment word got circulating around town that the possibility was there.... it was nothing but positive feedback from everyone. There could be a lot worse establishments wanting to move into Novato. IN N OUT has a great reputation.
Cliff Jacobs August 16, 2011 at 08:14 PM
It was a very interesting meeting last night. I love In-N-Out Burger's food; and the way they contribute to the community. I was not convinced that the site location is optimal, or even feasible for the amount of commerce typical of this very popular restaurant. The quality of life of the very local residents would definately be impacted, and they were absolutely passionate and relentless in letting that be known; but there was also a strong contingent of supporters in attendance that favored and welcomed the restaurant. They also wanted this restaurant for several non food related reasons, such as the great jobs that would be created, beautifying the currently blighted property where it is proposed to be built, and the fact that In-N-Out is a great community partner and supporter.
Dan Hanlon August 16, 2011 at 09:37 PM
I certainly hope the IN-N-Out folks are willing to put up with the reminder of the inane bureaucratic process and exorbitant fees, that will be demanded prior to being allowed to clean up a neighborhood described by Robert Marshall, co-owner of Inn Marin, added, “They’re going to clean up a part of our neighborhood that has looked like crap for 10 years. It’s an opportunity to have it done by professionals and they’re going to do it right.” IN-N-Out, from, We The People, WELCOME TO NOVATO.
Pat Davidor August 17, 2011 at 05:04 AM
I am a homeowner on Oak Grove Drive and am concerned about the increase in traffic this will create but would like to suggest the simply solution of SPEED BUMPS on this street to detour traffic from Palmer (over the hill) to Ignacio Blvd. where there aren't homes that front to the street. Most homes on these streets have small children who play in front so concern is real. Let's work together.
JV August 18, 2011 at 06:26 AM
I am so ready for In-N-Out to come into this area. Ever since Bell Market left, there's been a distinct downgrading in appearance. I love In-N-Out. The kids who work in Mill Valley are as polite and friendly and helpful as they can be. Senior citizens work there too! And the clientele ranges from families to students to local workers, etc. It's clean, its fresh, it's afforddable. Bring it on. And yes, speed bumps are a good idea.
henry August 18, 2011 at 05:31 PM
Read this article yesterday and again just now. Seemed to be a pretty even handed account to me. But I am wondering about those "accents". I too have always found people with accents are not able to enjoy good hamburgers. :)
Christina Scherer August 18, 2011 at 05:32 PM
"Accents which specifically tells me they are not from here and do not belong here". Sigh. And you say Brent is going negative? Based on what I've read in the Patch, my impression is that most in the community are excited about this new business and that people living nearby are having their issues heard and addressed.
Steven Norwin August 18, 2011 at 06:01 PM
As much as I would LOVE top see an In-N-Out burger joint in Novato, I don't blame the nearby neighbors one bit for objecting. It's a terrible place for a popular burger site. The traffic will be jammed not to mention the teenagers hanging out and leaving their garbage sprualled all over the place. A perfect example is the Square Shopping Center on Novato Blvd. All the losers hang our there. At 1-2 am when they leave, the place looks like there was a Heavy metal concert or some public event - all their garbage is left laying around. It's an unbelievable sight! I hope another spot in found for IN-N-Out. Let's preserve the fine neighborhoods that we have instead of trashing them!
Steven Norwin August 19, 2011 at 01:21 AM
Julia, I know axactly what I am talking about. I didn't have an accent....Funny, I didn't see you there.
Susan Clark August 19, 2011 at 01:24 AM
Hey Julie, I'm a part of that neighborhood and I have concerns about In-N-Out going in that congested corner. As I am not opposed to the business, I am opposed to the location. Please don't speak for me!
Pat Davidor August 19, 2011 at 03:31 AM
Hey girls...why not meet at McDonalds an duke it out. Most of the neighborhood are original homeowners and have a valid concern about unsafe traffic. SPEED BUMPS on Oak Grove all the way down to Palmer.
George Cohen August 22, 2011 at 08:53 PM
Years ago I represented Chuckie cheese Pizza Time Theatre. When a location was proposed in Marin crowds of people came to public meetings absolutely certain that the pin ball machines and games would attract the Hells Angels and motor cycle gangs, and thugs of all kinds. There were even those who fought the animated mouse saying that it would confuse their kids between the R E AL Mickey Mouse and the CHuckie CHees MOuse. Then there were those who thought that the mouse talking and singing with an italian accent was an ethnic slur. I kid you not! This discussion is on the same level. You would think that the world was coming to an end. Get a life neighbors.
Demosthenes August 22, 2011 at 11:11 PM
If this burger joint had a rodent spokesman, you can bet the opposition would double. With good reason, rodents carry the plague. Marinites ain't no dummies.
Robert Atkinson August 23, 2011 at 06:53 AM
Cliff.... Do you work for In N Out? You seem convinced they are a "Community Partner", if that's true then let's see them step up and recognize what impacts their restaurant will have on the surrounding neighborhood. I guarantee that if you lived on Oak Grove or one of the other "cut thru" streets, you wouldn't be so unconcerned about the safety of our children or the loss in values of our homes. We bought homes in this neighborhood to raise our families and invest in the community and I'll be dammed if we will let Novato's tax dollar goals ruin our lives and our futures.
Robert Atkinson August 23, 2011 at 06:59 AM
Yes, please watch the video again, we live and invested in this neighborhood and we don't want it ruined by 'commerce'. Existing traffic "up the hill" is dangerous enough for the neighborhood children and In N Out will only make it worse. I invite your family to spend the PM commute hour with my family on our front lawn, it's not very pretty.
Cliff Jacobs August 23, 2011 at 06:08 PM
No Robert, I do not work for In-N-Out. As a matter of fact, if you did read my entire post, you would see that I shared your opinion regarding the location when I stated: "I was not convinced that the site location is optimal, or even feasible for the amount of commerce typical of this very popular restaurant. The quality of life of the very local residents would definately be impacted," Is it possible that your interpretation of "community partner" is slanted to the "NIMBY" side? Do you know the positives that this family owned operation has brought to schools and communities in addition to their Foundation for abused and neglected children?
Cliff Jacobs August 23, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Before moving to Novato I lived in the San Fernando Valley (Van Nuys - Los Angeles Area) where I was very active as the President of the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council. Our biggest focus was "quality of life" issues for our community. There were 7 In-N-Out's within 6 miles of me. In-N-Out sponsored at school and community events, kept clean properties, provided better paying jobs than other fast food chains, and on weekends was the late night spot for local school sports teams, high school and community college students, and adults out for a nice time on a Friday or Saturday night. I order the protein burger as a healthier alternative, and enjoyed having a choice to Denny's. Not once in over 20 years did I ever feel uncomfortable going to, or eating inside (or on the patio) of an In-N-out burger. Regarding your concerns, It seems to me that it would be really productive to have the neighborhood organize itself, select spokes people, delineate and prioritize the actual issues of concern putting forth a unified voice. Those who cut down others' comments, judging them and accusing them of not being concerned, only portrays themselves as being overly zealous, unreasonable, and not willing to explore alternative solutions. I stated that because of the volume of traffic that is likely to occur with an In-N-Out Burger, the site proposed may not be feasible; however, we do not have the traffic report, nor have we heard what the proposed mitigations might be.
Robert Atkinson August 23, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Cliff......if living in the impacted neighborhood and being concerned with the safety of our children and our property values makes me a NIMBY, then I'm guilty. The positives that I'm interested in also include making sure that this project complies with the laws of this State and the current failure of the traffic study to address all of the local environmental impacts is and should be a major concern of all Novato citizens. By the way, I never said I've opposed the project, however as an impacted stakeholder, I feel it's my civic right and duty to ensure the impact to our community is minimized, If you lived in the neighborhood, I anticipate you would feel the same way. If you don't live in the neighborhood and only care about reducing your commute in order to get a burger, then it's easy to understand a lack of concern.
Robert Atkinson August 23, 2011 at 06:46 PM
I'm one of your neighbors and I would urge you to contact the City (# 899-8900) ASAP and request that they include our neighborhood streets in the pending traffic study, I've been told that they assumed we would not be impacted :::((( Given the number of times the neighborhhod has already requested traffic calming measures to deal with the current problem, I find it amazing they dropped the ball like this. As Novato residents, we have the right to ensure In N Out mitigates all of their impacts.
Cliff Jacobs August 23, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Robert - I agree that anyone living in the immediate vicinity of a proposed popular restaurant project would share your concerns, as do I. Plainly stated, I like this restaurant and believe that it would be good to have in the Novato area. I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives, and am awaiting that traffic report to see the projected impact it will bring, and then the type of mitigation proposed to assuage it. Perhaps this location will prove to be so problematic as to make the issue moot. Perhaps the immediate locals will take a moment and give the same respect and "listening" to the other voices in the community as they would want from them. No name calling, inuendos, judgments, slights nor accusations. Just listen to each other and then really hear what everyone else is saying. Some are dead set against this project without having all of the info yet, while others are in favor of it, each side offering compelling reasons in support of their stance. There is no reason that this can't end in a win-win; but it will take more than complaining. The fact is that this site is being considered and steps are being taken to move the project forward. If you don't like this site (for whatever your reason) then offer suggestions or alternatives for a better site, and help (yes, I said help) that site become the site of choice. Put the same effort you would put into fighting against this site into having an alternate site approved. Now that is win-win.
Robert Atkinson August 23, 2011 at 11:44 PM
I was unable to attend the August 15th hearing so I didn't witness what took place, when a project is this close to home, it's natural and sometimes unfortunate for people to get a little emotional. What I'm advocating is that the potential impacts on the neighborhoods should be studied and right now they are being excluded in the current scope of the traffic study. That issue needs to be addressed now by the City or it will be impossible for the traffic study to recommend any mitigation measures. Also, selection of any potential alternate sites should be left to the In N Out team, that's not something they or any Landlord would want the public to do for them, it's a complicated real estate process and they best know their own market opportunities.
Cliff Jacobs August 24, 2011 at 02:17 AM
Robert... I am a liitle confused by your last post where you speak for any landlord, and also the In-N-Out people. At the meeting which I was able to attend, the In-N-Out representatives specifically asked for alternative suggestions in light of the push back from the local residents about the current proposed site. They actually welcomed suggestions and gave their cards to those people who suggested other possible locations; so it would seem that your comment : " selection of any potential alternate sites should be left to the In N Out team, that's not something they or any Landlord would want the public to do for them, it's a complicated real estate process and they best know their own market opportunities." is not actually based in the reality of this particular situation. As a landlord, I am very open to public comment, concern or praise, and suggestions. I was at the meeting and was one of the people given a card for me to follow up with them about alternative locations. There were several others as well. Also, when you speak for "any landlord" please leave room for those landlords (like me) that may not share your viewpoint. It may also be prudent to check with the In-N-Out folks prior to stating what they would or would not want the public to do for them; just so you represent them accurately. By the way, have you taken a moment to see what the In-N-Out Foundation has done since 1995 to help abused and neglected children? A real class act (IMHO).
Robert Atkinson August 24, 2011 at 05:09 AM
All good information Cliff but I'm going to focus my energies on the traffic concerns and the needs of my neighbors and our community. All the good will that In N Out may be working to generate means nothing when one of our neighbor kids gets ran over if the proper mitigation measures are not put in place. Thanks for the insight and the dialogue but I'm moving on to address what I can do to help make a difference.
Cliff Jacobs August 24, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Great Robert - You would make a great spokesperson for the "Ignacio Area Neighbors", or whatever the group would want to use as a name. The key factor in getting results would be an organized united front to represent the neighbors opposed to the project. Those in favor may also decide to form their own group; but a collective voice is heard much louder than individual voices. Thank you for engaging in this conversation and keeping it civil.
John October 03, 2011 at 08:06 AM
After watching this video i literally could not stop laughing. People in marin will find anything to start a little bickering fight about. You saw first hand the guy in the back yelling at some lady asking where she lived. How rude can people in Marin be? Typical marinites here. In and out isnt some strip club or adult book store its a fast food joint that many people enjoy. If you aren't satisfied with the location you live in then move! I live about 2 minutes away from this exit, right down ignacio blvd and I cant wait for in and out to come!
John October 03, 2011 at 08:09 AM
btw the square is delapidated and falling apart. it should be revamped. Bad comparison buddy!
George Cohen October 04, 2011 at 12:10 AM
Woe is me the sky is falling. Pull up the draw bridge. LOck the gates. Pull the shutters closed. CAll the national guard. The end is near.. IN and OUt is coming.to town.


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