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Some in Palm Desert Calling for an End to Moratorium on Drive Thrus

Some in Palm Desert Calling for an End to Moratorium on Drive Thrus

Slated for City Council Agenda on 6/24 at 4 pm

June 21,2021 (Palm Desert, CA) – The City of Palm Desert has had a long moratorium on drive-thrus along Highway 111.  Some business owners and residents are calling for change to accommodate the diverse needs of the city’s growing population.

One example is the Palms to Pines Shopping Center on Highway 111, with a now vacant Chase Bank.  Owned by Wood Investments Companies, they are in advanced talks to replace the 23-year-old building with the popular restaurant chain Raising Cane’s. Without a zone change, economic development will not be possible along the Highway 111 Corridor.

Palms To Pines Shopping Center in Palm Desert, CA Circa 1981

“The use of the drive-thru has become essential to everyday living whether it’s for convenience or necessity.  Removing the 23-year-old vacant building that previously was a Chase Bank and replacing it with an updated quick-service restaurant is the highest and best use for this location that fronts on Highway 111,” said Patrick Wood of Wood Investments Companies.

Restaurant & Open-Air Enjoyment Area

In addition to bringing in the popular restaurant chain Raising Cane’s at this location, Wood Investments Companies plans to create an exciting open enjoyment area where the desert community can participate in a vast array of activities that applies to all age groups. The new development will include open-air patios and creative huts, scenic walking trails with shaded trees and modernized landscape, a showcase of local art, and lastly a possibility of amusing leisure activities such as ping pong, chess stations or a bocce ball court. 

“The City of Palm Desert, with its central location in the Coachella Valley, is very appealing to Raising Cane’s. We are hopeful that the City will move forward and the Palms to Pines Shopping Center will be a viable location for us,” said a spokesperson for Raising Cane’s.

A restaurant with a drive-thru, such as Raising Cane’s, at this location would yield upwards of more than 100 new jobs to the City of Palm Desert and be an asset to residents.  Currently uses like this that are prohibited along Highway 111 demonstrate now more than ever why it is time for the City of Palm Desert to reevaluate what appears to be an outdated approach.

The evolution of restaurants is quickly adapting to what consumers demand to include options and maximum flexibility. People of all ages and demographic composition are demanding quality food options that are easy and convenient. In recent years, many popular quick service and fast-casual restaurants have incorporated drive thru components such as Chipotle, Panda Express, Habit Burger and Panera Bread. In May 2021, Shake Shack announced it would open its first drive thru operation later this year. Shack Shack’s new concept will include a 3,300 sq. ft. restaurant unit with dual drive thru lanes. Neighboring city, Rancho Mirage, who did not allow drive thru operations on Highway 111, recently paved the way for In-N-Out to open a restaurant, with a drive thru on Highway 111 in their city.  

Community Support

These comments from the community (both residents and businesses) represent excitement and support for the much-needed change to remove the current ban on drive-thrus.

As Dick Shaloub, franchise owner of McDonalds, stated in a recent interview, “Things have changed, demographics have changed, technology has changed and especially coming out of a pandemic.  Customers want convenience and safety that drive-thrus offer.  Drive thrus brings Increased employment, less traffic, electric vehicles with less emissions. Overall, It’s frustrating when we can’t give customers what they want.”

Lorie Loftis who is the owner of The Shop on El Paseo said, “I never could understand why a city with such hot weather, when you can’t leave your pet or children in the car for a few minutes, and you have citizens with mobility issues, would not embrace drive-thru windows. It is time for change.”

“Having just gone through, and honestly still in the midst of, a pandemic, drive-thrus became an essential part of a lot of people’s lives. Small businesses who have drive-thrus were able to continue operation. That’s an example of how businesses could weather strange times like what we’ve been dealing with,” said Palm Desert resident, Alex Callego.

Business owner, Ron Henderson of Farmers Insurance Agency in Palm Desert said, “I personally think they should allow drive-thrus. I believe it is good for business and the quick serves that don’t have drive- thrus would be making a nice building upgrade, which is needed all along Hwy 111. There are too many buildings on 111 that need updates desperately.”

Mary Jeffrey of Palm Desert commented in favor of drive-thrus, “My reasons for wanting drive-thrus are varied.  Allowing drive-thrus would encourage new businesses to call Palm Desert home like Raisin’ Canes Chicken, one of my all-time favorites which would be an economic benefit.  And, drive-thrus present the opportunity for less social contact for those that wish to do so. To me it’s a win-win”

How to Get Involved & Weigh In before or On June 24

This item is on the agenda for the next city council meeting on June 24 at 4 pm. Palm Desert residents and business owners are encouraged to voice their support to end the ban on drive-thrus at this important city council meeting.

 For more information about this project, to sign a petition in favor of the change, submit a public comment or to participate in the council meeting via Zoom visit www.pdwantsdrivethrus.com  

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