Battle over Paco’s Tacos |

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Battle over Paco’s Tacos

For Grass Valley City Councilman Steve Enos, the battle over the design of Paco’s Tacos at Mill and French streets is about traffic – not about race or whether the burritos and tacos served by owner David Wambaugh are “world famous.”

Wambaugh, the man who spent nearly two years planning and building the restaurant, believes Enos’ claims about design flaws amount to personal attacks.

Enos Tuesday forwarded a request to the City Council to look into ways to improve traffic flow on French Avenue, where a line of cars entering the restaurant’s drive-through can cause delays on the street. He also asked city staff to find ways to eliminate nighttime headlight glare from drive-through cars that shine on motorists traveling west along Mill Street.

After Enos made his brief presentation to the council, Wambaugh fired back.

“Councilman Enos, I think you have a problem with Mexicans and Indians,” Wambaugh said, referencing Enos’ 2003 decision to reject a traffic study for the failed Chapa-De Native American health clinic at the corner of Sierra College Drive and East Main Street. The Auburn-based nonprofit subsequently dropped its plans for a clinic at the site.

The 1,500-square-foot Paco’s Tacos restaurant opened July 20, after a protracted battle between Wambaugh and the city over the design of the restaurant.

Wambaugh’s plan was initially proposed two years ago, complete with a fake chimney, decorative tower and mine shaft. The city Planning Commission rejected Wambaugh’s design in November 2002, largely because residents worried the restaurant would create too much traffic in a gateway area of Grass Valley.

The following spring, the council approved the plans 4-1, with Enos casting the dissenting vote. The revised restaurant replaced three driveways with one off of French Avenue, to reduce traffic congestion along the largely residential street.

At the time, Enos said the restaurant didn’t conform to the city’s design guidelines.

Enos reiterated those concerns in an interview Tuesday.

“I don’t care if it’s a taco stand or an In-N-Out Burger. It’s a traffic safety issue, period.”

In an e-mail Wednesday, Enos said he still has questions about the restaurant’s design, especially the drive-up window that adjoins Mill Street. “The city (has) invested millions of tax dollars redeveloping Mill Street as a designated gateway to downtown,” he said. “Placing a fast-food drive-up adjoining this great work was not appropriate.”

Enos said he’s concerned not just for Wambaugh, but for the next tenants that may one day occupy the restaurant. “I shudder to think what would happen if a small In-N-Out Burger or other popular fast-food joint took over this site.”

Wambaugh said he has addressed every issue broached by the governing bodies responsible for approving his restaurant.

“I don’t think there’s a problem,” he said Tuesday during a break at City Hall. “I think it’s an ego thing with Mr. Enos. I think he just wants to prove himself right.

“I don’t know him personally, but I’m starting to take it personally.”

Wambaugh said he reconfigured his drive-through at the city’s request and elevated the property specifically so the light from the cars in the restaurant’s parking lot wouldn’t annoy Mill Street drivers.

“There are 10 feet of space between where the cars are going through and Mill Street,” Wambaugh said.

To date, no one other than Enos has brought up these issues, according to a city staff report. The city engineer would have to review complaints and offer recommendations, which would have to be forwarded to the City Council for review.