Danville Express

Newsfront - July 13, 2007

Store to replace park

Planners OK project

by Jordan M. Doronila

The Danville Planning Commission gave its OK for a developer to build a small retail outlet on his property, which contains a popular mini park and restaurant on Hartz Avenue in Danville.

The commissioners unanimously approved Ryota Sugitani's proposal to build a 2,328-square-foot, one-story retail outlet on a flat .27-acre parcel on the northeast corner of Hartz Avenue and Church Street, adjacent to Bridges restaurant.

"I think it blends in with the environment," said Commissioner Robert Storer, at the commission meeting Tuesday evening.

Sugitani said he wanted to develop his property because he was paying high taxes on it. He noted that he wanted to be part of Danville's vision to have the downtown filled with small, local businesses.

"I'm a big supporter of small businesses," said Sugitani, who also owns the Amber Bistro property on Hartz. "You can call me anti-corporate."

Town staff said the proposal is visually compatible with its surroundings and maintains a pedestrian-friendly design, which includes ample landscaping and seating on the corner of Church and Hartz.

"I'm always impressed with the level of detail," said Commissioner Robert Combs, who also sits on Danville's Design Review Board.

However, not all were pleased to see the park sacrificed for development. Beverly Lane, a board member of the East Bay Regional Park District and former town councilwoman, said it is important to keep green space in urban areas and that she enjoys Sugitani's park.

"It's been a wonderful amenity for the town for at least 20 years," Lane said. "It provides something that no other community provides."

Seven pear trees on the north side of the site will be removed to erect the retail outlet. Town staff said there are no protected trees on the site and removing the pear trees would increase growing space for the trees on the street.

The development will have a smaller park space and a seating area available to the public when construction is finished.

"It's always a shame when we lose a park. But the material they gave us that they are using is phenomenal," Storer said.

"I have also enjoyed that park," Combs said.

Sugitani hails from Osaka, Japan. He immigrated to Danville and studied at Athenian School in 1985. His father, Kazuo, bought the property in Danville and built the restaurant and the park. After finishing high school, Ryota Sugitani studied at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore. He currently lives in Eugene with his wife and son.

The Sugitanis ran the restaurant, with Ryota taking over his father's business in 1995. He sold Bridges to Randy Negi, the current owner, in 2004.


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