Circle K tries second time for alcohol permit

The owners of Circle K on Pacific Coast Highway at Rambla Pacifico are reapplying for a permit to sell alcohol. It is highly opposed by local area residents. Photo by Homaira Shifa / TMT

And once again, local residents protest the application, citing safety issues.

By Homaira Shifa / Special to the Malibu Times

The owners of the Circle K, located on Pacific Coast Highway at Rambla Pacifico, are once again applying for a conditional use permit to sell alcohol. The city’s Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the bid during a hearing on Nov. 15.

The owners, the Sarraf family, initially attempted to obtain a conditional use permit when they built the facility in 2007. But many local community members and residents strongly opposed the idea, and subsequently the Planning Commission denied their request.

With the second hearing scheduled for next week, local residents are once again voicing their concern, and have gathered 400 community signatures opposing the proposition. They will present the signatures to the commission at the hearing on Tuesday.

Many who live next to the Circle K do not want alcohol being sold so close to their homes. They cite the possibility of loitering near a residential area, with a MTA bus stop, school bus stop and a children’s playground nearby.

Duane King lives near the Circle K and is strongly against the alcohol proposition, arguing that the highway is already too dangerous as it is.

“Essentially when PCH was built, the structural engineering of the highway was constructed for much less powerful vehicles,” King said. “There are blind turns, dips and rises that are OK if you’re going the speed limit. No one goes the posted speed limits, which causes enough accidents. Add alcohol, which is served up and down PCH, and you have a perfect prescription for major accidents. Add more alcohol and it’s a perfect storm.”

The Sarraf family has hired development consultant Don Schmitz to represent them during the hearing.

In response to some of the concerns the community is raising, Schmitz said, “The owners have proposed hiring private security at critical times (i.e. Friday and Saturday evenings) to sway the concerns of some neighbors that the sale of beer and wine could promote loitering.”

Schmitz said he could not comment about the safety concerns regarding drunk drivers.

Julie Eamer, co-founder of A Safer PCH, a community activist group founded after the death of 13-year-old Emily Shane last year on the highway, believes the biggest concern is the sale of alcohol will be a safety hazard.

“On average, there are between 10 and 19 DUI tickets in one month in Malibu,” Eamer said. “And five accidents in that specific intersection in one month.”

The only other store to sell alcohol in the area, Country Liquor Store, is located almost directly across the highway from Circle K. Duke’s Malibu restaurant, which is located next to Circle K, sells alcohol as well.

“The intention of buying alcohol from a gas station is different than from a market,” Eamer said. “If you’re purchasing it to take to a party, you would buy it from the market. And if you want to relax and have a drink after work, you would go to a restaurant.”

Eamer worried that minors would purchase alcohol from the gas station and take it to the beach. Or that alcohol purchased from the station would be consumed while driving.

The sale of alcohol is not expected to generate additional customers into the facility, Schmitz said.

“It’s not that type of facility where someone will make a U-turn if they see the sign,” Schmitz said. “It will mostly be for eastbound traffic.

“It is important to the property owners to be able to sell alcohol from the establishment because there is a demand for that commodity from their existing customer base,” Schmitz added.

However, safety advocates are not swayed.

“It will just bring an element of danger for all of us,” Eamer said. “There were seven deaths on PCH last year. And we just want to make it safer wherever we can.”

If the Sarraf family is granted the permit, they have agreed to review the matter again in a few months to make sure the problems that the community has raised are not a concern, Schmitz said.