By Joyce Roy
Mayor Libby Schaaf in her State of the City address claimed that she is aware of our fears “that today’s dramatic changes could whitewash our rich cultural heritage.”
Such fears are confirmed by a proposed project for 27th & Broadway on the January 20th Planning Commission agenda that would demolish the historic Biff’s restaurant, even as a very successful operator of 24/7 diners in Los Angeles is eager to operate a restored Biff’s.
The developer, Hanover Co. from Texas, instead of simply building housing and retail along Broadway and restoring Biff’s, wants to wipe everything off and cram 255 units, average rent $ 3,000, about 40 percent of which will look into a “donut hole.”
More than a year ago, Rachel Flynn, the city’s director of the Department of Planning and Building, agreed that Biff’s restoration would be feasible with the development of housing and retail on the Broadway portion of the site.
Using the developer’s own data, I have been able to work out an alternative which substantiates that claim. Besides restoring the restaurant, the project could create retail and 180 affordable market-rate micro units for new techies on Broadway.
The operator’s name is ‘Biff’ Naylor. He was born in Oakland, and his father named his first coffee shop in Los Angeles, Biff’s, after him. He operates under the name of Du-Pars (www.du-pars.com).
Oakland stands to lose a cultural, social and economic ingredient in its special sauce. Biff claims that the 24/7 diner would hire 60 to 65 employees, have gross annual sales of $3 million with annual revenue of $240,000 to the developer and $50,000 to the city.
The restoration would cost about the same as four units, $1.5 million.
Staff seems to have led the developer on by ignoring the fact that demolition of a historic resource is only permitted if it “cannot generate a reasonable economic return,” and that the design of its replacement is equal/superior to it.
Neither condition has been met.
Remember, the site was saved in 1997 because so many spoke up loud and clear, and now we have a chance to restore it as a living diner.
If you want to ‘Bring Back Biff’s, tell Libby. Pack the Planning Commission meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20 in Hearing Room 1 at City Hall.