Restaurant and neighbors at odds

January 13, 2010 5:19:07 PM PST
Homeowners fighting to save their street from development find themselves at odds with a local restaurant. Now the city council has chimed in with a compromise. So why is the restaurant owner still fuming? Property owners say they simply want assurances their neighborhood won't drastically change, but in doing so it has put a local restaurant in a very unusual position.

For more than 30 years Mia Bella restaurant has sat on this lot on Lexington Street near Shepherd in the Montrose area. That's why when the city passed its new ordinance Wednesday, owner Youssef Nafaa was blown away.

"I feel like I'm being targeted, maybe, I don't know," said Nafaa.

It all began when about a dozen lot owners on Lexington Street signed a petition asking the city to place restrictions on the lots, specifically that properties could not be subdivided and that structures could not be built any closer than 23 feet to the road. Homeowners argued the provisions would protect their neighborhood from being overrun by townhomes and condos.

"The motivation for the residents to get behind it is they want certainty on their neighborhood in their neighborhood," said Moustapha El-Hakam.

The problem was that the Mia Bella was already located past the building line, that's why the city made a special exception. In essence, the city allowed the building to stay where it is but preventing the owner from expanding.

"I guess right now they are limiting me to what I can and cannot do," said Nafaa.

Lot owner Rick Rogers sees a dangerous power struggle.

"These 12 people say we're going to take rights from these nine people and that makes it right? No," said Rogers.

While the city says the ordinance was the best compromise for the situation, Nafaa believes it will ultimately hurt his bottom line. Even so, he says his door will still remain open even to those who pushed for the ordinance.

"They're always welcome, absolutely, they're my neighbors and they're going to be my neighbors for a long time," said Nafaa.

The ordinance will remain in effect for 20 years. If the restaurant owner decides to sell, we're told the new owners would have to abide by these new rules.