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File #: 2023-2809   
Type: Council Referral
Body: City Council
On agenda: 3/21/2023
Title: Consider Directing Staff to Initiate the Process of Amending Alameda Municipal Code (AMC) Section 30-12.4, Location of Liquor Stores, Similar to Council's Amendment of AMC Section 30-12.2, Location of Bars in March, 2021. (Councilmember Herrera Spencer) [Continued from March 7, 2023; public comment will be allowed]
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 - Correspondence, 2. Exhibit 2 - March 2, 2021 Minutes


Consider Directing Staff to Initiate the Process of Amending Alameda Municipal Code (AMC) Section 30-12.4, Location of Liquor Stores, Similar to Council's Amendment of AMC Section 30-12.2, Location of Bars in March, 2021.  (Councilmember Herrera Spencer) [Continued from March 7, 2023; public comment will be allowed]




The Council can take any of the following actions:

1) Take no action.

2) Refer the matter to staff to schedule as a future City Council agenda item.  Concurrence that staff time will be devoted to the item does not signify approval.

3) Take dispositive action only on time sensitive legislative matters if sufficiently noticed such that the public and Council have been provided sufficient information by the published agenda, and no formal published notice of a public hearing is required.


Name of Councilmember(s) requesting referral: Councilmember Herrera Spencer


Date of submission to City Clerk (must be submitted before 5:00 p.m. on the Monday two weeks before the Council meeting requested): 2/6/2023


Council Meeting date: 2/21/2023


Brief description of the subject to be printed on the agenda, sufficient to inform the City Council and public of the nature of the referral:


On January 25, 21, Staff brought a recommendation to the Planning Board as follows:


"In December 2020, the City received a request from the West Alameda Business Association (WABA) for the Planning Board to initiate a Zoning Amendment to allow bars to be located within 1,000 feet of another bar.  Approval of the amendment would allow an existing bar (The Hunter Public House) on Webster Street to move to a new location on Webster Street. WABA as well as The Fireside, an existing bar that is located within 1,000 feet of The Hunter Public House’s intended new location, both support the request.  In the continuing effort to support local businesses in Alameda, staff expedited the review of this request.


Currently, Alameda Municipal Code (AMC) Section 30-12.2 prohibits a bar from locating within 1,000 feet of another bar. 


For the reasons described below, staff is recommending approval of the proposed zoning text amendment to eliminate the 1,000-foot distance separation requirement between bars.


Staff supports the removal of the 1,000 foot buffer requirement for the following reasons:

                     The existing conditional use permit process authorizes the issuance of a use permit only if the Planning Board can make all use permit findings required in AMC section 30-21.3.  To approve a use permit, the Planning Board must find that “[t]he location of the proposed use is compatible with other uses in the general neighborhood area, and the project design and size is architecturally, aesthetically, and operationally harmonious with the community and surrounding development.”  AMC section 30-21.3.b.1.  In addition, the Planning Board must also find that “[t]he proposed use, if it complies with all conditions upon which approval is made contingent, will not adversely affect other property in the vicinity and will not have a substantial deleterious effects on existing business districts or the local economy.”  AMC section 30-21.3.b.4. The standards for use permits authorize the Planning Board to review locations for proposed bars and determine if the proposed bar is too close to another bar or a school or other sensitive use.  The Planning Board must deny a use permit application if it is unable to make all of the required findings.


                     The City’s Economic Development Strategic Plan, the General Plan, and the Zoning Code are designed to concentrate bars, restaurants, movie theatres, and similar entertainment and visitor serving venues on Park Street and Webster Street and at portions of Alameda Point.   A successful entertainment district has a critical mass of venues all within easy walking distance. In recent years, Alameda has also become known for Spirits Alley and several brands of locally produced alcoholic beverages. This industry has become an important part of Alameda’s economic development and local culture.


                     From staff’s perspective, there is no difference to the public health, safety and general welfare if three bars are located within 1,000 feet of each other or with a 1,000 foot distance separation between each bar.   Through the use permit process, the Planning Board can impose conditions of approval to address potential off-site impacts such as noise, litter, or bad behavior by customers, such as smoking on the sidewalk.  Impacts to adjacent neighbors will be avoided by use permit conditions and enforcement of those conditions on each establishment.  A 1,000 foot buffer provides little if any of these protections for neighbors.


                     If the 1,000 foot buffer requirement is in fact intended to establish a limit on the number of bars in a district, then the City should consider establishing a clear a numerical limit similar to what the City did with cannabis dispensaries, or what other cities have done with particular types of uses.   In this case, given the limited total number of bars in Alameda and the possibility that some of Alameda’s bars may not survive the COVID pandemic, staff does not believe there is a need for a numerical limit on bars on Park Street or Webster Street.   At some future date, if the Planning Board is concerned by an unusually high number of use permit applications for bars, the Planning Board may consider a numerical limit for each district.  Staff feels it is premature to consider such a limit at this time."




On March 16, 2021, City Council approved amending Alameda Municipal Code Section 30-12.2 Location of Bars to, "No more than three (3) bars may be located within one thousand (1,000') feet of each other." 


Now, Santos Liquors, located at 1431 Webster Street, is similarly interested in moving to another location on Webster Street after encountering issues with their landlord. Similarly, WABA contacted the City in January, 2023 to initiate a zoning amendment.  However, as of this time, Staff's position is that it will not initiate the zoning amendment process and Santos Liquors must pay a deposit of $8,820 to the City to initiate the process.  The Hunter was not required to pay fees to amend the City's Location of Bars Ordinance and Staff expedited the process to amend the zoning ordinance in order to support local business in Alameda.


Here, the relevant Alameda Municipal Code (AMC) Section pertains only to liquor stores on Webster Street (i.e., Atlantic Avenue to Central Avenue and Sixth Street to Eighth Street).  There is no comparable code section for liquor stores in other business districts in the City of Alameda.


30-12.4 - Location of Liquor Stores.

A liquor store shall not be located within one thousand (1,000′) feet of another liquor store within the following boundaries: Atlantic Avenue to Central Avenue and Sixth Street to Eighth Street, including the area therein if the streets were extended to intersect one another. (Ord. No. 2229 N.S.; Ord. No. 2700 § 5)


WABA supports the amendment of AMC Section 30-12.4 (Webster Street Liquor Stores location), similarly to the amendment of Section 30-12.2 (Location of Bars).


Time is of the essence as the pertinent AMC Section, 30-12.4, greatly impedes any move of Santos Liquors to another location on Webster Street. Santos Liquors has been in continuous operation on Webster Street for over 40 years.  Their preference is to remain on Webster Street, as that is where their clientele base is and they have enjoyed being a business on the west end of Alameda. Without the requested amendment, it is next to impossible for Santos Liquors to remain on Webster Street. It is critical that the Planning Board and City Council address this issue as expeditiously as possible, so that Santos Liquors may proceed with moving.  As shared above in regards to The Hunter's request, Staff expedited the review of the Municipal Code "to support local businesses in Alameda."  Additionally, in that situation, The Hunter had been an Alameda business for approximately three years. Here, Santos Liquors has been an Alameda business for over 40 years. 


Thank you for your consideration.


The City Council, at its July 25, 2020 Priority Setting Workshop, established the following 5 priorities for 2021:

1.                     Preparing Alameda for the future

2.                     Encouraging economic development across the Island

3.                     Supporting enhanced livability and quality of life, including addressing the housing crisis and homelessness

4.                     Protecting core services

5.                     Ensuring effective and efficient operations


Briefly describe which Council priority the subject falls under and how it relates:


2.  Encouraging economic development across the Island.



1. Correspondence between WABA and City Staff

2. March 2, 2021 City Council Minutes, Pages 13-18