The new Chick-fil-A restaurant is proposed at the corner of Cochrane Road and Sutter Boulevard, just inside the Morgan Hill Ranch business park. Photo: Michael Moore

A new Chick-fil-A restaurant with one of the largest drive-thru facilities in northern California is coming to Morgan Hill. 

The Morgan Hill City Council on Nov. 15 unanimously approved plans for the new 5,000-square-foot restaurant at the corner of Cochrane Road and Sutter Boulevard. The project will be built on property that once housed Marie Callendar’s and Forbes Grill restaurants, though the national fried chicken fast food chain plans to demolish the unused structure on the site. 

Plans include a 48-car, two-lane drive-thru queue—an effort to alleviate concerns among city planners and officials about traffic potentially backing up from Chick-fil-A onto public roads.   

That scenario is highly unlikely to happen at the Morgan Hill location, according to Chick-fil-A’s Principal Development Lead for Northern California, Keith Gilbert. 

Gilbert said the 48-car drive-thru stack is the longest such queue among all the chain’s restaurants in the entire state. In fact, the 1.63-acre size of the Morgan Hill site was selected due to its ability to accommodate such an extensive drive-thru. 

Plans also include parking and indoor sit-down dining with up to 74 interior seats, plus an outdoor patio that can accommodate up to 20 patrons. 

City staff noted that one of the conditions for the approval of the Chick-fil-A plans is that the restaurant must present a traffic management plan related to the drive-thru. 

Gilbert added that the new store will employ between 85-120 people, for both full-time and part-time positions. 

“We’re looking forward to becoming part of this community and we’re committed to creating an environment here in Morgan Hill where everyone feels welcomed and can experience our hospitality and customer service,” Gilbert said. 

The Morgan Hill Planning Commission approved the restaurant plans on a 5-1 vote at the Sept. 26 meeting. Shortly after that, City Council member Rene Spring requested a council review of the project. 

The city’s municipal code allows any member of the city council to call for a review of any decision made by the planning commission, without having to state a reason for such review. 

At the Nov. 15 meeting, Spring and other council members asked numerous questions about the Chick-fil-A proposal’s traffic plan. Just before voting in favor of a motion to uphold the planning commission’s approval, Spring addressed a “negative campaign” that was directed toward him after he requested a council review. 

Spring, who is the city’s first openly gay city council member, noted that Chick-fil-A’s national leadership has been hostile to the LGBTQ+ community in the past by making comments opposing same-sex marriage and donating to causes that oppose LGBTQ+ rights. The campaign targeting Spring consisted of numerous “not so friendly” emails to his inbox that appeared to be written by a single source, though Spring said he doesn’t know for sure who organized the effort. 

But Spring said he is willing to give the local restaurant—which will be owned by an independent franchisee—a chance to welcome everyone as employees and customers and become “the gayest Chick-fil-A in the Bay Area.”

Spring added after the Nov. 15 meeting, “If they’re going to employ trans and LGBTQ+ people and make it a gay-friendly location as an employer I’m all for it.” 

Chick-fil-A representatives and city staff also noted that a previous disagreement between the restaurant developer and a neighboring officer property had been amicably resolved. That dispute was related to concerns that future Chick-fil-A customers might cut through the neighboring property to get to the restaurant. 

The council on Nov. 15 approved a conditional use permit and a design permit for the new Chick-fil-A restaurant. 

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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