Redlands Officials Sanguine But Residents Concerned About Becoming Victims Of In-N-Out Success

The phenomenal drawing power of more than four score of the 272 In-N-Out Burger locations elsewhere in California and what many see as the too-nonchalant planning approach of City Engineering Manager Don Young and Project Planner Sean Reilly to say nothing of the already-existent traffic circulation challenges in the Redlands “Doughnut Hole” near the northwest confluence of the 210 and I-10 freeways has raised concerns of an intractable traffic nightmare when the popular fast food restaurant opens at the furthest extension of the Citrus Plaza later this year.
Last March, the Redlands Planning Commission gave go-ahead to the In-N-Out proposal, which is to consist of a 3,887 square-foot drive-through restaurant with an 866 square-foot outdoor dining area under a covered patio, and dual drive-through lanes and bicycle racks on a 2.1-acre site located at the southwest corner of West Lugonia Avenue and Citrus Plaza Drive, on the west side of the Interstate 210 freeway.
The project will also entail the completion of an augmentation driveway further to the west of the project driveway, and provide a private easement for access to the parcel located to the south, which contains existing telecommunications equipment that will be accessed by an easement across the project site.
The project was exempted from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act guidelines in accordance with Section 15303, relating to new construction of small structures, and Section 15332, relating to infill development.
As it is subject to East Valley Corridor Specific Plan, which requires a traffic impact analysis for all proposed new drive-throughs, a traffic study was carried out. The study/analysis extended to the project’s anticipated impact on off-site traffic circulation. Based on that study, both city officials and In-N-Out corporate representatives said they were confident the traffic flow design for the undertaking would have little appreciable impact on the area. Nevertheless, observers of operations at existing In-N-Out Burger stands, particularly during the hours of 4:30 p.m to 7:30 p.m. during the evening rush hour/dinner hour window – which in reality runs to as long as three hours – believe the project will create, or exacerbate existing, traffic backups in the area.
According to Young, he is satisfied that ingress to and egress from the project is “adequate.” He said entry into and exit from the project will be from two driveways on Lugonia Avenue. On the east end of the project, patrons will be able to enter the site at the intersection with Citrus Plaza Drive, which is a four-way intersection with a traffic signal. The east driveway provides two exit lanes and one entry lane. On the west end of the site, a driveway is shown on the project plans with one lane in and one lane out.
According to Michelle Bennett, the development manager for In-N-Out, what she referred to as “a 33-car stack” will exist on the site, one that is longer than the standard room provided for cars built into the company’s other locations. Bennett said that would be “more than enough” length of internal area to accommodate the number of cars at dinner hour/rush hour.
At two of In-N-Out’s sites in Upland, two of its sites in Ontario, one of its sites in San Bernardino and one of its sites in Claremont, as many as 70 cars have been in the queue on weeknights as commuters are making their way home. Similar backups occur at other In-N-Outs too numerous to list here.
Many anticipate substantial backups on Lugonia and Citrus Plaza Drive.
Redlands residents have noted that congestion already besets the Doughnut Hole/Citrus Plaza district. At the intersection of Alabama and Lugonia, which is well west of the In-N-Out project site, cars can be restricted from moving for well over a minute. At the intersection of Nevada Street and Lugonia Avenue during rush hour, which is even further west of the project site than Alabama and Lugonia, cars heading in all directions can be jammed behind signals for well in excess of two minutes as gridlocks occur, with cars stuck in the intersection after a light turns red, preventing cross traffic from moving at all. Less onerous delays of half of a minute can occur at other intersections with traffic signals in the area.
The shopping center to the north of the project site has numerous retail and restaurant businesses, including Chick-Fil-A, Famous Dave’s BBQ, and Romano’s Macaroni Grill, among others. There is a self-storage facility to the immediate west as well as a Raising Cane’s restaurant with drive-through lanes. Existing freeway right-of-way is located to the immediate east and south.
Redlands residents say they believe Young was too optimistic in his pronouncement that the city will experience traffic circulation issues only in the immediate aftermath of the opening of the drive-through, anticipated for May or thereabouts, and that after the novelty wears off, normal traffic flow will resume.
The surrounding zoning consists of the County of San Bernardino’s East Valley Special Development land use designation to the north, and the City of Redlands’ General Commercial District of the East Valley Corridor Specific Plan to the west, south and east.
-Mark Gutglueck

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