The nonprofits Avenidas and La Comida have reached a settlement in their dispute over dining space for seniors, a resolution that paves the way for Avenidas' proposed expansion of its Bryant Street headquarters.
The settlement was finalized Monday, less than two weeks after the two senior-focused nonprofits took their dispute to mediation and just hours before the City Council was set to take up an appeal that La Comida lunch program had filed against Avenidas' project. With the settlement in place, La Comida has agreed to drop the appeal.
The groups were at odds in recent months over Avenidas' proposed expansion, which would have reduced the dining area that La Comida uses for its programs. According to Bill Blodgett, president of La Comida's board of directors, the redesign would drop the seating capacity in the dining area from about 140 to between 78 and 90 (Avenidas maintains that the existing capacity of the room is 120). La Comida, which has been subleasing space from Avenidas since 1978, protested that the smaller space would hinder its ability to plan for the future of its dining program.
"The expense of relocation of the La Comida program is substantial, and not having a clear picture of the permanence of the move is financially and logistically impacting," the appeal letter from La Comida stated.
Since then, the groups worked with mediator Andrew Pierce to reach what both called a "mutually agreeable solution." The terms call for Avenidas to help fund La Comida's relocation to a new permanent facility that would offer more space than the Birge Clark-designed building on Bryant. Avenidas has also agreed to provide some additional senior services at the new location, as well as assist with transportation for seniors to the new facility.
Amy Andonian, president and CEO of Avenidas, said it's not yet clear where La Comida will end up and how much her organization will be providing. That will be hashed out in the months ahead, as La Comida surveys potential downtown locations. The mediation, she said, "forced us to look at all options and look at what was possible." She said her organization is "really excited to be continuing our partnership with La Comida, albeit in a new location."
"Together, we will continue to support a large number of seniors for a long time to come," Andonian said.
She also noted in a statement that given that the newly designed dining room is somewhat smaller than before, "We understand why La Comida de California decided that moving to a new location is their best option, and we want to help them find the right long-term home."
Blodgett told the Weekly that the mediation process reaffirmed the fact that the redesigned dining room at Avenidas would be a suboptimal alternative for the organization's needs.
He also said in a statement that while La Comida is "disappointed that Palo Alto seniors will no longer benefit from having their lunch program collocated with the broad range of services offered by Avenidas, we are pleased with the prospect of securing a much larger dining room to serve them at a nearby location."
Blodgett also said that whether the organization ends up, it is "dedicated to creating an inviting experience and great food for our seniors at a reasonable cost."
"The health and happiness of our clients are our first concerns," Boldgett said. "Wherever we do locate, we will provide a warm and congenial atmosphere where our seniors can meet with their friends."