Despite community protest, Walgreens CUP granted.
By Jason KUROSU
An application for a conditional use permit to sell beer and wine became a point of contention and discussion for members of the community and the Crescenta Valley Land Use Committee. Walgreens, located at 3001 Foothill Boulevard, applied for the use permit, the application of which was approved at a hearing officer meeting on Tuesday.
Before the approval, the Land Use Committee held a public meeting at the La Crescenta Library to discuss the matter. Representing Walgreens was Matt Dezurick, who presented the store’s case to the Committee and about 20 residents.
“The request for the C.U.P. (conditional use permit) is basically in response to customer demand,” Dezurick said. Dezurick noted that Walgreens is only seeking to serve beer and wine and would not serve hard liquor. “We will agree to any conditions. In fact, the county is already recommending conditions if they do approve this request.”
Some of these conditions, requested both by the county and the community, include having the alcohol restricted to less than 1% of the store’s total floor space, keeping the alcohol a significant distance from the store’s entrance, and putting extensive security measures in place such as card readers, among others.
The placement of these conditions is intended to address concerns of the store’s proximity to local schools. Walgreens is just up the street from Crescenta Valley High School, and is a frequent site of student business during the lunch period.
“I strongly oppose the C.U.P.,” said resident Kim Matersteig. “We’ve done data collection and there are over 110 dispensaries in Montrose, La Crescenta and La Cañada that provide alcohol.”
Matersteig highlighted the efforts of students to join and take part in anti-drug and alcohol organizations such as Prom Plus and the overall sentiment among these students that it would be unnecessary to have another alcohol provider.
“I was talking to a student last night and I said, ‘Walgreens is applying for a C.U.P.’ and she said, ‘Oh, my God, we don’t need that.’”
Members of the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition attended to lend their support against the C.U.P. Howard Hakes of the coalition presented some statistics from a California Healthy Kids survey from 2009.
“Thirty five percent of the 11th graders at Crescenta Valley High claimed that they had used alcohol in the last 30 days. Among the ninth and 11th graders at Crescenta Valley High, only 40% of them viewed the frequent use of alcohol as harmful. Among seventh graders, 16% do not view the frequent use of alcohol as harmful,” said Hakes. “From a Coalition standpoint, we oppose any new place to buy alcohol in the Crescenta Valley, especially having [other alcohol providers such as] Christy’s [and] Ralph’s nearby.”
Many other residents and members of the Committee voiced similar concerns about the necessity for another source of alcohol for children.
“I understand everyone’s concerns about kids and the community and the fear that this is going to turn into a liquor store and cause all kinds of problems,” Dezurick said in rebuttal to the residents’ comments. “The only thing I can say is that this is Walgreens. We’re a national brand. We do have strict policies in place to make sure these problems don’t happen. It’s for the benefit of our store that these things don’t happen.”
Eventually, the conditional use permit was approved at the hearing officer meeting held at the Hall of Records in Los Angeles, but under certain conditions. No more than 5% of the shelf space and 1% of the floor space will be dedicated to alcohol. Card readers for approximating the date of birth on a customer’s driver’s license or other form of ID will be installed in the cash registers. The card readers would also eliminate the ability to use a fake ID.
Cory Evans, representative for Walgreens at the hearing officer meeting, said that the cash registers will shut down if the wrong date is typed in or if an underage cashier attempts to sell alcohol.
“Walgreens is rolling out the next gen cash registers that will have card readers,” said Evans. “With 7800 stores nationwide, it may take two years to address all stores.”
Hearing officer Paul McCarthy, who is also a CV High School graduate, approved the conditional use permit, saying that he wanted the cash registers with card readers installed in the La Crescenta Walgreens before alcohol would be able to be sold.