With news spreading about plans to demolish Eureka restaurant Annie’s Cambodian Cuisine to make way for a drive-through chain, some community members have started a petition opposing the project that would displace the beloved local restaurant.
“The residents of Eureka and Humboldt County have been made aware of plans that were submitted by Humboldt QOZ Fund, LLC to the city on Monday, February 14 proposing the demolition of three buildings where U and T Streets intersect with Hwy 101, one of these buildings being long standing local business, Annie’s Cambodian, to make way for two chain restaurants – a Starbucks and one other unnamed chain business,” the petition states. “Please note that we unequivocally and whole-heartedly opposed this proposition to our city.”
The proposed project, a Development Project Referral for which was shared with the Outpost by City Manager Miles Slattery last week, would demolish the three buildings – a now-closed Subway, a now-closed Sizzler and Annie’s Cambodian – located at 1906 Fourth Street and 1905 Fifth Street. As the petition states, two new restaurants would then be built on the sites – a drive-through Starbucks and another as-yet-unnamed drive-through restaurant.
Lisa Savage, senior planner for the City of Eureka, told the Outpost that the project applicants will need a Conditional Use Permit to be able to develop the two drive-throughs, because of the properties’ zoning. To gain permit approval, the project proposal will go before the Eureka Planning Commission, most likely in April, Savage said.
The petition encourages members of the community to attend the meeting, whenever it happens, to voice their opposition to the project. In addition to showing support for Annie’s, the petition also cites concerns over potential traffic increases along Fourth and Fifth Streets (Highway 101) and the addition of more chain businesses in the city.
“As a community we demand that any room or improvements being made for new businesses give local entrepreneurs the opportunity to expand and thrive first, over out-of-the-area, mass produced corporate land grabs,” the petition says.
Annie’s co-owner Laura Chau-Yang was happy to hear that the petition is circulating and was not surprised that some community members were rallying to support the restaurant. “A lot of our customers were really upset about hearing the news,” Chau-Yang told the Outpost over the phone on Wednesday afternoon.
Chau-Yang’s family has been serving the community for decades, opening Happy Donuts in 1993. Many locals may remember that Chau-Yang’s mother, Annie, used to serve food out of a booth at local festivals, such as Oyster Fest. After many community members suggested that Annie start a restaurant, she and her husband sold Happy Donuts and opened Annie’s Cambodian 11 years ago.
She and her parents had heard rumors that Annie’s was slated for demolition, Chau-Yang said, but were not sure that it was going to happen until the Outpost contacted them for the initial story late last week. Their landlord has not been very transparent about the plans, Chau-Yang said.
But the property owner Victor Chang disagreed with this statement, saying that when he bought the site a couple of months ago, he told the owners about his plans to demolish the buildings to make space for new developments. Chang said he asked the owners how much time they would need to reallocate, and they said six to eight months. Once he is certain that the project will move forward, that is how much time Chang says he plans to give Annie’s to vacate the building.
“It’s a pretty large market,” Chang told the Outpost in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “Last I checked, there are a lot of vacant buildings in the area. So I’m sure they will be able to find something.”
Chau-Yang says that her family has started searching for a new location, but have been having a difficult time finding something in their price range. Chau-Yang has been in touch with Slattery, who said he would find out if there were any city-owned spaces available for Annie’s to move into and get back to her. She has not yet heard back.
Of course, Chau-Yang said her family would prefer not to move because moving into a new space will take time and money. Although the building they are in is aging, Chau-Yang says it has worked for them. But Chau-Yang knows that she will not be able to control what happens and remains hopeful that things will work out in her family’s favor. In the meantime, they will remain open at their current location for as long as possible.
“We’re going to continue to be open and continue to do what we’ve been doing, keeping our customers happy by feeding them good food,” Chau-Yang said. “And we’ll keep doing that until we’re told we have to go.”
The Planning Commission meeting to review the conditional use permit for the project will tentatively be held on April 11. When the agenda is posted, you will be able to view it at this link.