City officials say they can't remember a more contentious issue than this one. City hall geared up for an overflow crowd Thursday night since they expected several hundred people in the city council chambers and there's only one item on the agenda -- the 7-Eleven opening up in North San Mateo.
Some 300 people who live in the neighborhood signed petitions asking the city to stop the 7-Eleven from opening. They don't want a convenience store that's open all night that may invite loitering in the family-friendly neighborhood. "This is a high intensity-use market. People will come in here at all hours of the day and night, 24 hours a day. Deliveries will be made at all hours of the day and night," resident Emily Slichter said.
They say the store's permit somehow slipped through the planning department without going through the appropriate process. "They gave no public notice of that. They gave no legal process to that," Slichter said. The property sits on land which was originally designated as a residential zone. The old store was the venerable Italian deli called Stangelini's, which operated for decades. It was grandfathered in as a legal non-conforming building.
Neighbors say the new 7-Eleven violates a zoning code which says that when such a building has been discontinued or abandoned for six months, it should revert back to residential. The building has been vacant for nearly two years since Stangelini's shut its doors.
The city's Community Development Director Lisa Grote believes the controversy boils down to one thing. "Was it ever abandoned and what is that definition of abandonment?" she asks. Grote says the new landlord made minor repairs to the interior of the old deli, so that showed they weren't abandoning the building. "They were continuing to market it. They were continuing to keep it up in good repair," she said.
Neighbors also point out another word in the zoning ordinance, "discontinued." Business in the building was discontinued for more than six months and that's why some residents there say the building will be there illegally.
ABC7 News' calls to the developer Thursday were not returned.