THE CALL CAME shortly after noon on July 1. Time’s up, Douglas Fredell was told. Do no more work in the garage of the Shell station at 2501 California, and have your tools and machinery out by the end of the month.
It had appeared the neighbors were gaining ground in their battle against a big chain convenience store with additional gas pumps the owners of the gas station want to build as a replacement for the garage, which has operated there for decades.
Yet another crowd of locals showed up to protest on June 4 when the Planning Commission took up the issue again, a month after sending the owners back to the drawing board and directing them to redraw their plans to keep the garage.
“They have to reconstruct the service station,” said commissioner Dennis Richards, who made the motion to approve the renovation plans with a garage and a scaled-down convenience store no larger than 2,500 square feet — about half the size originally proposed, but still triple the size of the current store.
Others pointed out the commission could only approve the use of a garage on the site, but couldn’t force the owners to rebuild it or lease it to Fredell, who has operated the garage for the past 10 years.
“It’s tough,” said commissioner Rich Hillis. “We can’t control ultimately whether you lease the space to the existing service station or not.”
Eventually the commission unanimously approved the renovation, with the exact wording of the conditions to be drafted later. Commissioner Kathrin Moore insisted that the approval also require further attention to traffic safety after she had a near-miss at the station over the weekend.
“I was coming out of Mollie Stone’s onto Steiner and I almost got wiped out,” she said, by an overeager driver turning left into the Shell station. “To intensify use for the very large convenience store is really asking for trouble.”
The precise wording of the commission’s decision still had not been issued July 1 when Fredell got the call to get out.
“It is what it is,” he said. “The’re just gonna shove us out and keep it empty.”
One of the neighbors who led the opposition to the project, Paul Wermer, was outraged the garage was being shut down.
“They have no plans,” he said. “They have no permits. It’s nothing but a vindictive action.”
Wermer vowed to keep fighting.
“It’s going to be months,” he said, before any construction begins. “I’m going to make sure they don’t put in something stupid there.”
For his part, Fredell said he felt he and his neighbors had done all they could.
“Everyone worked so hard for us,” he said. “I feel completely comfortable that we followed every possible avenue.”
He added: “I think the neighborhood accomplished an important thing” by blocking an even bigger convenience store.
EARLIER: “Shell station revamp scaled back“