Starbucks expected few hurdles when it sought city approval to open a fifth store in Evanston, Illinois earlier this year. That all changed when twenty neighborhood residents showed up at the Zoning Board meeting to voice their opposition.
Delighted to find others shared their views, the residents began working together to spread the word about the impending Starbucks and convince the city to deny the company a special use permit to build. They posted flyers in the area and launched a petition drive that has gathered 1,500 signatures so far.
“We want to avoid having this whole neighborhood turn into a block of chains,” says Maureen Glasoe. The group has been using a local coffee shop as the base of their operations, but Glasoe stresses that the Starbucks fight is about more than protecting a single business. “It’s about maintaining the diversity and uniqueness that drew us to this community.”
The group has based their appeals to the city primarily on traffic concerns. Under the city’s zoning code, officials must consider a project’s impact on traffic and parking before granting a permit. The proposed Starbucks would be located in one of the most congested intersections in the northern Chicago metro area. On this basis, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council reject the Starbucks. The City Council was to vote on the project in August, but at the request of Starbucks the hearing has been delayed several times.
Starbucks is also facing opposition in three Chicago neighborhoods. The company operates 134 outlets in the city and many residents have decided that’s more than enough. In Lincoln Square, an opposition group recently formed to counter the chain’s plans to open a third shop in the neighborhood. A protest was held in August. A similar group has formed in Roscoe Village, where residents organized a march.
One protester told the Chicago Tribune that Starbucks and other chains were “taking away that neighborhood feel.” Another said that having a locally owned coffee shop is “like having a neighbor you can borrow a cup of sugar from.” Many noted the chain often initiates a cycle of rising rents and more development, ultimately displacing working and middle class residents.
The chain has been the subject of protest in a number of other communities, including Seattle; San Francisco; Bloomington, Indiana; Seal Beach, California; Long Island, New York; and Portland, Maine.