Volunteer Park Cafe neighbors group has new Web site, says comment deadline extended

Representatives from the group of neighbors aligned to oppose Volunteer Park Cafe’s application for a critical permit unless the restaurant makes changes in the way it does business tell CHS that the public comment period for the Department of Planning process has been extended until the end of October.

Alle Hall, wife of group spokesperson Cliff Meyer, said that the DPD deadline for public comments has been moved from this Wednesday to October 27 “per a request from a neighbor.” We have not confirmed the new date with DPD. The original bulletin still lists the October 13th date and we can find no new notice posted to the DPD site about the change.

Hall also informed us of the group’s Web site at http://vpneighbors.wordpress.com/ It includes details of their requirements for the cafe and safety and health concerns related to the restaurant’s growth. The site also documents what the group says have been failed attempts to work with the cafe’s owners Ericka Burke and Heather Earnhardt to resolve the situation. We spoke with Meyer and Paul Jones, the neighbor who brought the original complaint to the city against VPC, in this post.

Last week, we examined the cafe’s proposals and the application packet for the change of use from retail to restaurant as well as some of the letters of support VPC has provided to DPD. We’ll also follow up with VPC to ask them about this extension and some of the additional information from the Volunteer Park Neighbors site.

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32 thoughts on “Volunteer Park Cafe neighbors group has new Web site, says comment deadline extended

  1. Gee…live in the suburbs where you don’t have great cafe’s within walking distance. Part of living in the city is living close to businesses and other people. Rather than attacking a business that can be successful in this economy..why don’t Meyer and Paul Jones just move to Belluvue.

    Sorry to see that the CH Blog can’t find out anything more on why 2 neighbors are so pissy…..I think there’s more to the story than what the blog points out.

  2. I have rats in my yard….I have seen them at the Seattle Asian Art Museum; they are an urban fact of life.
    I enjoy having a business in my neighborhood which makes it seem like a real city, not a suburb.
    They have enlivened the neighborhood…VPC is an asset to our community.

  3. “I think there’s more to the story than what the blog points out.”

    I’m the Alle Hall referred to in this post. I would like to hear what you think are the deeper issues. I know there is gossip on the street to that effect, and I can’t get anyone to specify.

    I am happy to answer any questions you have as long as you state them moderately and with respect. Such as: when you insult the man I married and the man who as been a kind and lovely neighbor for over 7 years, I have a hard time wanting to read your opinions.

    You can leave your comments here on CHS, or call VP Neighbors at (425) 298-6575.

  4. I hope that the comments on CHS can remain civil. And, not anonymous!

    I also hope anyone who doubts the reasonable intentions of the neighbors will read our blog (link is in the CHS post). If you want a quick overview, please consider the following:

    1. As folks who choose to live in a city, we pretty much accepted the cafe’s increasing impacts (traffic, illegal and unsafe parking, noise, rodents, etc.) for 3 years (2007-2010).

    2. Then, in spring of this year, the cafe, without meaningful outreach to neighbors, began building a patio capable of roughly doubling its seating, to at least 70. After ignoring information that the patio wasn’t legal, and rebuffing attempts to discuss what was going on, the cafe owners left neighbors no choice but to seek help from the City of Seattle.

    3. For months, neighbors like myself held out hope the owners would sit down and discuss their plans, and formally sign an agreement that would enable us to support making the restaurant legal. Instead, during the summer, the cafe put out a flier that lied about their outreach to neighbors and their illegal status. As part of a truly hurtful and despicable p.r. strategy, the poster blamed the cafe’s next-door neighbor for the mistakes made by the cafe owners (including their choice to lease a grocery store without checking whether it legally could be renovated into a restaurant).

    4. The cafe owners continually missed deadlines to submit their case to the City to become legal. On Sept. 12, 4 days before they submitted their paperwork, they FINALLY met with us to hear/discuss our concerns.

    5. Yes, at last, they agreed to address some (not all) of the cafe’s impacts. We saw a ray of hope … until we realized they still weren’t following through on some of the really easy issues **they had agreed to work on**, like ensuring their delivery trucks are parked legally. We wondered how we could trust them on anything they said or wrote.

    6. The result of all of this: I and others are left to spend lots of time and energy trying to get the City to rein in a renegade business. The cafe owners, well they’re spending time, energy and money, too.

    7. As renters, the cafe owners have far less to lose than the neighborhood. If the City enforces its zoning laws, the neighborhood asset that all of us would like to preserve may have to CLOSE. But the cafe owners, as renters, can take their acclaimed food and be successful in a bigger restaurant space. (Remember, please, that this mess all started with the owners wanting a much bigger restaurant than fits in a small corner grocery!)

    If readers of CHS want to preserve a reasonably-sized cafe, go there, buy a tasty treat, and ask to speak to an owner. Ask the owner a few logical questions that might include:
    1. Why didn’t you talk to your nearby neighbors about your expansion plans?
    2. Why did you blame your neighbor for your mistake of not knowing the zoning?
    3. Can your business be successful without any use of the patio?
    4. Do you understand that, while you have wonderful food and ambiance, your restaurant’s success is also because its neighborhood is otherwise residential, meaning that there’s plentiful free parking and no nearby competition?
    5. If the answer to No. 4 is “Yes”: Shouldn’t you apologize to the neighbors for past bad choices and impacts, and do everything you possibly can, even at this late date, to get their support?

  5. The city has rules for how we all are supposed to help control rats. I am sure VPC will have no problem on that compliance.

    “rat herring” …… not the usual red ……

    Seattle is a seaport = rats.

    However most of ours are from the gardens and woods …..roof rats …. you want to see mucho rats go to the old parts of the city at dusk and look down the alleys.

    I still support the VPC 100 per cent. Nothing new in the last posts.

  6. Curly,

    All of these posts are a result of compliance issues. Nothing new there except you seem to repeatedly miss that.

    At least you have stopped making this an issue about the neighbors being anti-women, anti-capitol hill, and anti-capitalism. For now…

  7. Rodents are not the issue up for public comment. The DPD is requesting information about whether or not VPC’s change from grocery to restaurant will have impacts on the neighborhood that can not be addressed, no matter how willing the VPC becomes.

    VPC addressed the rodent issue. After almost 4 years of being asked, in 3 short weeks and I am sure at no great impact to their bottom line, they figured out how to shut the lids to their trash bins.

    Because they demonstrated that they could become amenable to and effective in addressing reasonable request, VP Neighbors do believe that before it is too late, VPC will agree to the compromise they perviously turned down. And they will find VP Neighbors ready to talk.

    Mike: please be silent.

    You continue to state that our reasonable requests are unreasonable because they should be easy to address. We agreed over and over. That was, in fact, our point. Now that VPC is starting to take our needs to heart, would you please refrain from needlessly fanning the flames of dissent?

    You have all our blessing to continue supporting VPC in the way that matters most: go buy their food and enjoy it in the truly lovely atmosphere they created. They don’t need you on this blog. They need you in their restaurant.

    We don’t particularly want you hear, either, unless you can state your opinions with greater tact.

  8. Alle,
    You have to know by now that “Mike with Curls” enjoys his troll status and thinks his mission in life is to stir the pot.

    I highly doubt he’s open to any requests for restraint.

  9. Thank you, Goat. While I don’t disagree, I hold out hope for many an impossible-seeming events.

    PS. to everybody: I need to amend my above post. MIKE WITH CURLS IS ABSOLUTELY RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING. HELLO, BELLEVUE.

    Also, a neighbor from up the street feels that while VPC is doing better with the trash, he thinks they should build an enclosure and then use a trash compactor. Great ideas, You Know Who!

  10. Frankly, it’s an issue of many vs few. VPC should close. There are just a few owners that (negatively) impact many neighbors. Those neighbors enjoy their primarily residential neighborhood with the understanding that they’d have to endure a small grocery store at most. VPC clearly overstepped their bounds (and their permitted use of the space) and should close.

    Why should they get to impact so heavily so many people with their non-permitted use of the space.

    And now they want the City to amend the intended use of the space because they want to continue with their extremely selfish use of the property in the neighborhood? Ha!

    As well, they clearly show very little respect for their neighbors. Between the blatant, egotistical business expansion that violated the intended use of the space, neglect of their waste and disregard for their neighbors via a noisy patio, they need to be closed down, fined by the City and made to repay any and all costs the neighbors incurred during this process.

    …plus, the food’s not that great and the help that works there need to learn some basic customer service.

  11. Just a note: the issue has never been “VPC should close” vs. “VPC should expand.”

    VPC applied to change the land use of the first floor grocery space to restaurant. That they opened a restaurant rather than a grocery — or for that matter, a cafe — is immaterial to the City.

    DPD wants your opinions about whether the neighborhood experiences more impact with VPC’s current restaurant operation than the neighborhood would if that space was used as a grocery store.

    Go to http://tiny.cc/qpgur to submit your comment on-line.

    DPD is looking for information about traffic, about delivery parking, about noise, smells, and about housing values. Garbage and rats, as compelling as they are, don’t influence their decision. VPC should be able to address those issue. That they have not and may never does not matter to the city. DPD wants to know if, since the VPC has opened, have you experienced impacts related to:

    delivery parking
    smells (They plan to use the patio to BBQ meats on an open-air grill. Lunch and dinner.)
    housing values

    Go to http://tiny.cc/qpgur to submit your comment on-line.

    You might also want to tell them what you fear might happen to our lives and homes if the VPC is granted their zoning change. Do you believe that as a legal restaurant, they will give up their intent to offer service on their pretty back patio?

    Their application says something so disingenuous, it defies accurate recollection; something like: “We won’t serve on the back patio, but residents of the upstairs unit might occasionally invite special guests.”

    Should you believe that, after I sell you some swampland in Florida, I would like you to consider the upstairs unit. There are two spaces. One is rented to the cafe, which they use as an office. The other appears to be rented to an employee of the cafe.

    Go to http://tiny.cc/qpgur to submit your comment on-line. And remember: no rats!

    PS. to “joe”: Click on over to the DPD site and submit a rockin’ letter. http://tiny.cc/qpgur.

  12. http://www.cdc.gov/rodents/index.html

    You are a fool if you think rats are an acceptable side effect of a successful neighborhood business. The rats are there for one reason and one reason only, the VPC provides a food source with their lack of discipline in cleaning up both their establishment and their garbage area. They are probably now established in the walls of that old ass building as evidenced by the lack of maintenance and other vermin living in the building. Simply disgusting.


    Rats have other pleasant behavior and infestations and urine marking go hand in hand. Rats will continuously mark via urine while moving around. I for one would never eat in an establishment that has a rat issue, and accepting it as life in the city is nonsense.

  13. NO, I will express myself as I see fit.

    I am not a member of your claque.

    I am engrossed in this mini drama. This and the Chilean miners have a ton of my attention.

    Also, this is CHS Blog, not your site. The policy here, I believe, is open posting, always with a variety of viewpoints.

    By the way, like it or not, most Americans admire small business people who take on a project and make it work. Hard work, risk, and all the rest. I appreciate the efforts these two women, minority owned, have taken to run their own small business venture. Made a few mistakes, sure. But to be forced into rules not set by the city, no way. For those who scoff …. too bad.

  14. I admire those who work hard within the rules set forth by society and are successful.

    I don’t admire those who skirt the rules, install commercial kitchens without the watchful eye of inspections and permits, and operate outside of the rules and regulations we have all agreed upon as a society.

    Then when caught, they act like a bunch of entitled crybabies and create a whole stink when all they needed to do in the first place is conform to the rules.

    Enjoy the cafe while you can, zoning aside, there are a number of building and occupancy issues that are now going to need to be brought to code for them to continue operating, none of which I think they will be able to comply with. There is no grandfathering on a new use from a grocery store to a restaurant so the restaurant will need to comply with all local, state, and federal safety and operational regulations.

  15. Curly,

    Before you hide behind the “policy”, go read the terms of service and the go back and review your comments on many of the VPC related posts.

    After that, go educate yourself on the actual issues.

    And then, stop making up anti-women issues, etc.

  16. Last night there was a police drug raid on the next block over, and an armed robbery 2 blocks away, but I am feeling blessed going to sleep tonight that I don’t have these renegade restaurant owners in the neighborhood causing me such grief. I feel for you Alle Hall, soldier on. I can’t believe that I am reading this right, a patio? How dare they! A delivery truck!! what?! I hope you go after amazonfresh with the same zeal. They will just stop in the middle of the street to deliver, the middle of the street! I mean someone has to stop this madness.
    As you peak over your privacy fences documenting the terrible wrongs that have been committed by these small business owners be careful that your nose is not chopped off to spite your face.
    VPC should move to someplace where the neighbors would appreciate them.

  17. I you are going to call me out by name, you should be brave enough to use your real name. When you want to put your real self behind your opinions, I am happy to have a discussion.

  18. Alle – what is there to discuss? It isn’t me, but, all your arguments have been pouring forth for weeks now.

    Some thing NEW? Someone found a condom in the alley?

    Really, time to come to the party, the cafe has very strong support …

  19. I’ve been reading posts for months. Find it super annoying that anti-cafe neighbor says she just wants to make some changes, get an apology for hurt feelings and on and on. Then she claims NOT to want the cafe to close as her final goal. But closing the cafe is ckealy your goal. As soon as the cafe “wins” the next round, then the anti cafe neighbors imply that they’re going to hound the cafe owners about the stove, ventilation, seating etc until the cafe is shut down.
    Those neighbors don’t appreciate that if they do drive the VP cafe out, what follows will certainly be less dynamic and lively. Should the space:
    Bring back the grouchy Mussollini loving prior cafe owners?
    or go back further to the grocery store with porno videos/magazines for sale inside?
    Sound much worse than wholesome food& wine & happy poeple on a porch to me.

  20. Never saw any porno magazines or videos in the 20+ years I’ve been here.
    You must not know the situation personally because there isn’t a porch on the property and I think it is completely reasonable for neighbors to expect the restaurant to have a legal and safe, code compliant kitchen.
    Don’t you think the residents living upstairs would like the kitchen to meet fire safety codes?

  21. My mistake — I meant to type “patio” instead of “porch.”
    But I am quite familiar with the situation. Before the current owners/renters of the cafe arrived, the placed changed hands every couple of years. And in the distant past, the grocery store was quite grungy. Given the hostility of many neighbors, there’s no reason to think the next tenant would try to work with anyone — why try? A subsequent tenant could easily sell porn magazines and lottery tickets. Just saying — be careful watch you wish for.

    And your comment about the kitchen is evidence of more hypocrisy. Either there’s a poor, innocent renter above the cafe waiting to be engulfed in flames from the cafe’s kitchen at any moment OR it’s office space for the cafe and apartment of an employee who’s going to help the Cafe get around city’s rules for use of the PATIO by having “special friends” over for private parties. It can’t be both.

    And more hypocrisy in the comments is about how the cafe is successful only because there’s no competition in the neighborhood. Baloney. Vios and Tully’s are only a 10 min walk away with residential street parking as well. And while the section of Galer where the Cafe is located is shorter than 19th Ave E, it’s just as busy with car traffic and buses. The Cafe is on the CORNER of a major north Capitol Hill thoroughfare.

  22. Dear Ericka Burke,

    I am making a public guess ther you are “Disingenuous.” If you are not ericka Bukre, please let me know yuor name, here, and I will apologize.

    Ericak wher you say, ” Find it super annoying that anti-cafe neighbor says she just wants to make some changes, get an apology … “

    Yes. The chagnes part is most important to me, but see no reason that I would not expect an apology in the face of egregious behavior.

    “Then she claims NOT to want the cafe to close as her final goal. But closing the cafe is ckealy your goal.”

    Here I refer you to the neighbors with whom I have face-to-face conversation in door-to-door polling.

    ” … the anti cafe neighbors imply that they’re going to hound the cafe owners about the stove, ventilation, seating etc until the cafe is shut down.

    Wrong. If you get your land use change, the city will enforce the building codes.
    If you feel unjustly held accountable to legal and I should add moral duty to maintaining a safe environment to neighborhood where you do not live but which provieds you with your living, you will need to take that up with the City.

  23. Continuing to Ericka Burke,

    “And while the section of Galer where the Cafe is located is shorter than 19th Ave E, it’s just as busy with car traffic and buses. The Cafe is on the CORNER of a major north Capitol Hill thoroughfare.”

    Wrong. VPC is on the corner of a one-lane residential road (17th Ave E.) and a moderately-sized arterial (Galer.)

    19th Ave. E. has two lanes and a bus route.

    19th & Aloha is a legal commercial zone. 17th & Galer is a residential neighborhood in which your restaurant illegally operates inside its non-conforming land use. These are significant differences.

    I am wondering if it has entered your reality, Ericka, that one of the reasons the former businesses at 1501 17th Ave. E. did not thrive as yours has is that they followed the laws which keep this neighborhood residential.

    ( http://wp.me/p13gjT-rL)

    By my count, you have 9 serious violations, including a number of permits for which you simply didn’t apply. Of course you have been able to prosper:

    1. You serve wine and beer. Yet your liquor license — public record — shows you ignored the question that asks if VPC was less than 500′ from a public school. That would be Stevens Elementary. As a Stevens parent, I think you should stop serving wine and beer. It’s illegal.

    2. In 2006, you signed a document — also public record — to the City which asked your intent for your business. You wrote “restaurant.” As of today, a restaurant is not legal in that space. It certainly wasn’t in 2006.

    3. You misuse your sidewalk license. You are allowed 8 tables on 17th and 8 on Galer. Each table is allowed a max. of 2 seats each. You squish all your tables onto 17th. While the graceful trees on 17th makes for a more profitable outdoor seating area, your operations there are illegal.

    4. You blow past City quiet hours with every profitable wine dinner.

    Don’t even start me on the illegal land use of the back patio.

    If I were you, Ericka, I wouldn’t challenge me on the logic or law of my position. (PS. I’m not a lawyer or City employee. I just looked up this stuff. HINT.)

    Again, if you are not Ericka, I apologize for my assumption.

  24. I’m NOT Ericka. But you’ve clearly lost touch with reality so am not about to post my name so you can harass me.
    You should apologize to her as you say you will but of course you won’t.
    Doesn’t even occur to you that people might have opinions that differ from yours and still not make money off the cafe?

  25. Ms Hall,
    Below is your own quote from 2 months ago –“The only one talking about shutting down the cafe is the cafe. I am watching these comments multiply and wondering, why no one is asking, “Why would so many neighbors want to shut down a perfectly lovely cafe?”WE DON’T.
    We want the cafe to grow in a way that the neighborhood can support (as in: the necessary infrastructure); secondly, we want them to straighten out the mess they make. (As in: actual mess: garbage, rodents.)That is all. Very reasonable. Long live Volunteer Park Cafe!”
    **Sure sounds like you’ve changed your tune.
    And I wanted to reply to your comment about the liquor license and proximity to Stevens Elementary. I was curious so I checked and both google maps and mapquest say the distance is greater than 500 feet. You gotta measure to the FRONT door. Stop making up stuff. And do not presume to speak on behalf of this Stevens parent.

  26. These blog postings make we want to organize our own Rally for Sanity. Friends, neighbors, fellow pumpkin carvers…can’t we take a deep breath and see the enormous middle-ground here? I.e.,

    — VPC stays open,stays friendly and keeps baking cherry almond scones.
    — The City gives VPC permission to be a cafe, and VPC agrees to limit seating/hours/noise.
    — Aggrieved neighbors and VPC owners promise to meet a few times a year and communicate better–perhaps over several bottles of wine and that incredible brisket/polenta plate. It’ll be hard at first…but cheaper than lawyers, therapists, and arbitrators.

    Mistakes have been made. No question. But Heather and Ericka are good people who’ve contributed a lot to the neighborhood. And Paul Jones et al is also ‘good people’ and has a point.

    It’s not that hard. As the song goes “Life is very short…We can work it out.”

  27. Thank you for your comments, TSJ. Having just spent a lot of time going door-to-door in the 300′ designated by DPD, I can tell you that there is plenty of common ground. Far more than I had imagined.

    TSJ: I agree with so much of your proposed solution. It is very similar to the solution we offered to VPC in September. VPC turned us down. http://wp.me/p13gjT-7w

    -A cafe is fine with me. It is fine with VP Neighbors. That is why we proposed it last September. What we will not live with is a full-fledged restaurant with back patio service.
    -We suggested quarterly meetings between neighbors and VPC owners. (Although I think we would pay for our own food.)

    Again: turned down. Ericka balked at the idea of giving up on the back patio. She is still balking.

    It is frustrated that no matter what we say nor how many times we say it, people insist on believing the worst about us and our intentions. I don’t know what we can do about that, except speak the truth and act accordingly.

  28. **Sure sounds like you’ve changed your tune.** (re: quote from two months ago.)

    Well, it’s been two months. As time goes by, situations change (or don’t) and I respond. Am I the only who thinks this a reasonable approach to life?

    Yes, I have a different opinion now than I did then. Then, we still had not heard “no” from Ericka regarding the our offer (to support VPC if she would take the back patio out of play. Then, we said that if she was going to insist on the pack patio, we would object at the DPD level.

    I am willing to work with people. As demonstrated, I am willing to work with unreasonable people. But I am not an idiot. Ericka said no. Then she went ahead and served on the patio.

    Ericka WANTS that back patio for her business. Well, I want a pony.

    We live here, too. When I was polling, I discovered that several pockets of the neighborhood hold the amazing attitude that Ericka get to do what she wanted and we are supposed to acquiesce because … this part was never clear. But this was: To stand in Ericka’s way was selfish. That was the word used; “selfish.”

    About the 500′ et al.”
    I didn’t presume to speak for all Stevens parents. I was speaking for myself: “As a Stevens parent, I think you should stop serving wine and beer.”

    I am interested in what you think of the other 8 infractions Ericka has accrued. Listed here: http://vpneighbors.wordpress.com/zoning/

    What are your thoughts?

  29. Dear Ericka,

    It is Ericka’s style to use unsupported yet seemingly believable statements designed to take the legs out from under her opponent while simultaneously painting herself as the victim. Some examples:

    “The neighbors want to shut us down!”
    “I am NOT Ericka.”

    Note how the drama of Ericka’s statements allow her to bow out of proving them. The person she attacks is maneuvered into the position of having to prove the opposite of her false assertion. No wonder so many people purport to side with her. “I’m confused. Let’s just eat.”

    To add to the complexity, Ericka also contradicts her own lies, often within themselves. Remember this beaut, from the poster/e-mail/press release Ericka disseminated last May:

    “We are not in violation and are legally compliant. We need to present a supportive agreement (sic) as to why the city should grant us a change of land use (sic). We just need to change our non-conforming use.”.

    If ‘need to change our non-conforming use’ is true, then “not in violation and legally compliant” has to be false.
    Full text here of flyer:

    If Ericka is not Disingenuous, I invite Disingenuous to clear her name by stating it.

    Here is the other way I have found to decode Ericka; if she can’t say it simply, something is afoot with her motivations. Ask her about her proposed use for the back patio she built, apparently NOT planning to use it for food service, because that is why restaurants always build back patios.

    Her application to DPD says she isn’t. If you want to keep her from using it for food service, PROVE that she plans to use it for food service. And besides, the upstairs renters can invite guests for special events that don’t have food SERVICE but nevertheless might include 40 or 50 patrons and a big white tent.

    And the upstairs renters are certainly not Ericka. Ericka is busy NOT being Disingenuous.