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By Brian Park

The Planning Commission denied a request by the owner of the Lupe Combs House to sell alcohol on her property on Tuesday over concern that such a move would be a precursor to adverse change to the Los Rios Historic District.

The commission voted 6-1 in support of city staff’s recommendation to deny Monica Mukai’s proposal to amend the district’s land-use standards, which would have allowed eating and drinking establishments as a permitted use in the “historical residential” zone.

“That’s what Los Rios is all about. It’s balancing history and it’s balancing the ability to run a business from your home,” Commissioner Roy Nunn said. “I think adding a drinking establishment here is not necessary. I think we have a good thing going.”

Mukai’s property is currently home to the Hummingbird House Café. The Ramos House Café and the Tea House on Los Rios are the only two businesses in the historic district that sell alcohol. They currently operate under an accessory-use permit that the city adopted in 1996 but rescinded 14 months later.

“In quick succession, the city experienced two applications and concerns arose from the city and council about the path to some very significant changes to the district,” Assistant Development Services Director Bill Ramsey said. “Ramos House Café and the Tea House are still operating under that. They were established when they were lawful.”

Mukai told the commission that other Los Rios businesses should be offered the same privilege, with the same restrictions and conditions, so as to remain competitive.

“When you can only sell lemonade or soda, it really makes it for a challenging economic situation,” Mukai said.

Commissioner Jeff Parkhurst voiced the lone commission support for Mukai’s request to sell beer and wine on the property: “I feel like she’s purchased the baseball team without a first baseman. I support the beer and wine.”

The original motion was divided into three separate ones, including the denial of alcohol sales, to address each of Mukai’s requests.

The commission voted 5-2, with Chairman Robert Williams and Commissioner Roy Nunn dissenting, to approve design plans for a bathroom addition to a historic jailhouse structure located on the site.

The commission also voted 6-1, with Williams dissenting, in favor of an amendment that allows outdoor retail use in the historical residential zone.

The issue will now move on to the City Council for a final decision. Should the council approve the request to allow beer and wine sales, Mukai will have to apply for a conditional-use permit.

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