[caption id="attachment_15180" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Architectural rendering of the Mi Pueblo Food Center planned for San Rafael"][/caption]

SAN RAFAEL -- The San Rafael City Council unanimously denied two appeals against a proposed Mi Pueblo Foods Center ethnic-flavored grocery store. The San Jose-based grocer plans to open that location by early next year.

The City Council on Monday voted 5-0 against appeals of the May 20 city Zoning Administrator approval of the 36,000-square-foot store in the former Circuit City building at 330 Bellam Blvd. in the Canal District of the city. The appeals by Ruth Donohugh, owner of Picante restaurant next to the four-acre site, and by the Marin Institute followed the city Planning Commission's July 14 rejection of Ms. Donohugh's first appeal.

[See other stories on the planned Mi Pueblo store in San Rafael.]

"We'd love to open before the holidays, but we think it will be early next year," said Mi Pueblo spokeswoman Perla Rodriguez.

Because Mi Pueblo took the risk of applying for building permits pending project approval, the company could be able to obtain building permits in the next two weeks, according to principal city planner Raffi Boloyan. The company's construction department will be managing construction bids.

The San Jose-based company will hire about 175 for this location, and 80 percent of employees at the other stores come from a five-mile radius, according to Ms. Rodriguez. Mi Pueblo has 13 other stores around the Bay Area and plans to open one in Vallejo next year.

In appeals to the Planning Commission and the City Council, Ms. Donohugh asserted that the proposed deli in the store was really a “fast food restaurant” with parking needs required under zoning for a “high-volume” establishment, so she called for a conditional use permit.

In her first appeal, she questioned the Zoning Administrator's finding of "public convenience or necessity" in assenting to the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s issuance of a license. Local approval is required for new licenses in an area with a certain concentration of existing licenses and with a high crime rate.

The Planning Commission rejected both claims but placed conditions on the project that restricted the foodservice area to 1,000 square feet and outdoor seating to a quarter of the inside area and put limits on the alcoholic content and container size for products the store would carry.

The Marin Institute, a San Rafael-based group that has been vocal about industry practices such as the marketing of so-called "alcopops," took up that aspect in its appeal to the City Council.