It looks like burrito offerings in El Cerrito will get a boost following the Planning Commission approval Wednesday night of a use permit for a Chipotle Mexican Grill on San Pablo Avenue across from El Cerrito Plaza.
The popular chain, which boasts of more than 900 outlets established since it began in 1993, would take over the space now occupied by Payless ShoeSource at 9901 San Pablo, at the intersection with Carlson Boulevard. The nearest Chipotle is located at San Pablo Avenue and Gilman Street in Berkeley.
The prospect of Chipotle moving to El Cerrito was highlighted by Mayor Bill Jones at the Tuesday night City Council meeting, when he said during closing announcements, "Chipotle is very successful nationwide, so I'm glad to have them, if eveything goes alright on the design and planning front."
The proposal still needs to receive final design approval from the Design Review Board, but the board already endorsed the plan at an earlier meeting, seeing it as "appropriate for the site," according to a city staff report prepared for the Planning Commission. The Design Review Board is expected to consider it again at its next meeting, on May 2, said Sean Moss, a senior planner with the city.
The Planning Commission had to decide whether Chipotle, which will have 16 on-site parking spaces, could be excused from the required 21, and the panel agreed with city staff that sufficient nearby street parking is available to compensate for the shortage. It voted 6-0 to grant the permit, with chair Margaret Kavanaugh-Lynch absent.
"The proposed project is a prime example of how a space can be reused and realize its highest potential," the staff report said.
The space is opening up because the lease for Payless ShoeSource was not renewed, Moss told Patch.
The 2,845-square-foot building's first tenant in 1960 was MacFarlanes Candy Store, according to the staff report.
Chipotle's Web site says it uses meat from animals raised without antibiotics or synthetic hormones whenever possible and that its produce is from local sources when practical.
In other Planning Commission news, commissioner Michael Albrecht announced that Wednesday night's meeting was his last since he is moving to Germany.