PLEASANT HILL -- Even before neighbors objected, a vacant lot on North Main Street posed challenges for In-N-Out Burger.
The popular fast-food chain initially wanted to build a 3,750-square-foot restaurant with a drive-through lane and outdoor seating on a 1-acre parcel along the border of Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek. The location seemed ideal -- it's visible from Interstate 680 and sits on a major thoroughfare.
But parking was going to be tight -- at least on Friday and Saturday evenings, when both In-N-Out and the Black Angus next door are bound to be busy. Another logistical wrinkle -- customers exiting the restaurant onto North Main Street, including the drive-through traffic, would have to make a right turn and head south toward Treat Boulevard.
Now, after more than a year of wrangling with opponents, the company may abandon its plan to build the North Main restaurant because of the conditions the city has proposed, according to spokesman Carl Van Fleet.
"A variety of factors have combined to lead us to this point, the most recent being the preliminary conditions of approval that we just received," spokesman Carl Van Fleet wrote in an e-mail last week
"After evaluating those conditions thoroughly and incorporating them into our ongoing evaluation of this project, it may become less viable for us, and that's why we are considering withdrawing our application."
Among other things, the draft conditions of approval forbid spillover parking on residential side streets; require In-N-Out to pay for a monthly parking survey for the site and the surrounding neighborhood during the first year of operation and a parking survey after 18 months to confirm that customers and employees aren't parking on side streets. Also, In-N-Out must secure a shared parking agreement with the owner of the adjacent parcel where the Black Angus sits. The agreement must stipulate that Black Angus or any future restaurant tenant will not be open for lunch from Monday to Saturday without Planning Commission approval.
A special hearing before the Planning Commission had been tentatively scheduled for Nov. 15, said planner Greg Fuz. Fuz said that, so far, he hasn't had any conversations with In-N-Out representatives about the conditions.
"We're waiting, we're available to meet with anybody who wants to meet with us to talk about the conditions," Fuz said. "That's typically what we do on any project."
In-N-Out has faced strong opposition from a vocal group of Walnut Creek residents who believe the restaurant will bring traffic, noise and other nuisances to their neighborhood. Those critics say the plan doesn't include enough parking and they worry that customers will take a shortcut through the narrow side streets behind the site to reach the opposite side of the freeway.
Van Fleet downplayed the role the neighbors' worries played in the company's decision.
"Their concerns have always been important to us, but we were working to address those concerns," he wrote.
To appease opponents, In-N-Out reduced the size of the building to 3,500 square feet and the lowered the number of outdoor seats from 32 to 24. The revised plan also moved the building, drive-thru lane, menu board and speaker farther away from the houses directly behind the site.
"As far as a timetable for a 'final' decision, we haven't set a date but we also don't want to draw this out too long," Van Fleet wrote. "This is occasionally part of the site development process and we do want to proceed carefully."
In-N-Out plans to begin construction early next year on a restaurant on Contra Costa Boulevard, near the Target and Toys R Us stores.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.