Eyes on the Street: No, Philz Coffee Is Not a Drive-Thru

Photo: Philz/Twitter

A driver crashed into Philz Coffee at Fourth and Berry Streets near the Caltrain Station on Saturday night at about 9:10 p.m., as Bay City News reported. No one was injured, but the highly-popular cafe was reportedly closed until Monday, and an assistant manager told BCN “the area where the glass shattered is boarded off” until it’s repaired.

No word yet on whether the driver will face any penalties other than a higher insurance bill. But if the case of the driver who crashed into a Starbucks in Alameda on the same night is any indication, law enforcement doesn’t consider it to be a crime when someone steers a potentially deadly vehicle over a sidewalk and crashes it into a storefront.

  • davistrain

    Unless the driver intentionally steered the car over the sidewalk and into the building (perhaps as part of a burglary attempt) I doubt if this would be considered a criminal act. Repairing the damage would probably be a civil matter. And the damages to the car and possibly higher insurance rate will be a monetary “penalty”.

  • murphstahoe

    Not commensurate with the potential harm caused by driving into a store front.

  • the_greasybear

    That’s not how the law works. “Intent” to cause harm is not required for a harmful act to be found criminally negligent.

  • Andy Chow

    Unless you can prove there are other reasons (like DUI, distracted driving due to cell phone, etc) causing this collision, it is unlikely that there will be a criminal charge. What if the reason is a blown tire, problem with steering, steering to avoid an animal or debris on the road, or a sudden health problem? You cannot charge someone with a crime and ask them to prove themselves what they did was not illegal.

    In civil terms, the burden to prove the driver liable is much lower, and insurance companies tend to be more quickly accept fault and pay even if the driver thinks otherwise.

  • ☼ I like Philz and all, but we need to put a halt to this menace before one of them crashes into Blue Bottle.

  • p_chazz

    Have you ever actually looked at the standards for what constitutes criminal negligence? Carelessness, thoughtlessness or even sheer stupidity do not elevate the conduct to criminal negligence, regardless of the consequences. See People v. Peabody (1975) 46 Cal.App.3d 43, 47 “Criminal liability cannot be predicated on every careless act merely because its carelessness resulted in injury to another.”

  • murphstahoe

    Chris Bucchere.

  • murphstahoe

    As much as he should pay for the damage, he should be prevented from recidivism by yanking his license.

    Especially if he was “steering to avoid an animal on the road”. The only animals on the road in SF that you should steer around no matter what – are humans.

  • gneiss

    A more fully read of that case (which involves criminal negligence related to leaving a child with a potentially abusive father) would suggest another interpretation, which is that “proof of criminal negligence means that the defendant’s conduct must amount to a reckless, gross or culpable departure from the ordinary standard of due care; it must be such a departure from what would be the conduct of an [46 Cal. App. 3d 49] ordinarily prudent person under the same circumstances as to be incompatible with a proper regard for human life.”

    The problem is that our society doesn’t consider driving into a building much of a departure from an ordinary standard of care. If it was, then this person’s act would be considered criminally negligent.

  • This driver’s incompetence and/or recklessness could have killed someone. Cars are heavy, powerful, dangerous machines that need to be operated with due care and our laws should reflect this. No one driving with due care and basic competence would have lost control of her/his vehicle to this extent.

    Fear of higher insurance rates does little to produce competent, cautious driving by people who are incompetent and/or prone to recklessness. A true deterrent would involve impounding the car (it still looks drivable) and the driver’s license suspended for at least three years. Societies that coddle and favor drivers by shrugging off careless, stupid, reckless driving are societies where pedestrians and bicyclists get killed. By imposing only a slap on the wrist (minor monetary penalty) after someone has proven his/her clear incompetence and/or recklessness, we encourage and abet dangerous behavior. Next time I am biking home from a Giants game, does this person lose control and crash into me instead of Philz? Why do our laws favor the convenience of this reckless/incompetent driver over my safety (or the safety of anyone not actually encased in a car?)

  • Andy Chow

    This happened at night so it is not inconceivable that there might be an animal on the street.

    To prove someone criminally liable you need to prove it like another criminal case, and that the driver doesn’t have to prove that he’s innocent (even though that there might be reasons that what he did not was illegal). I am not suggesting that he’s innocent of any crime but the criminal process is pretty well established.

  • thielges

    Revoking the right to drive an automobile sounds like a reasonable response to such extreme recklessness. However the courts will likely hear how inability to drive will prevent the defendant from getting to work.

    And thus the cycle continues: courts can’t revoke anyone’s right to drive -> dangerous streets -> fear of bicycling -> few people willing to ride a bike -> lack of support for good cycling infrastructure -> the only way to get to work is to drive -> courts can’t revoke anyone’s right to drive

    By neglecting alternatives we’ve created a system that “requires” almost everyone to drive, including those who are incompetent.

  • murphstahoe

    There are no deer or mountain lions in SF. Run the animal over.

  • murphstahoe

    The courts keep billionaire child rapists out of prison because “They would not fare well in prison” so surely you are right on this one….

  • Andy Chow

    What about cats and racoons that like to run around at night?

  • coolbabybookworm

    I was thinking about this the other day. Say a 6 months license suspension to a year for this kind of crash, and it goes up if the people involved are hurt or killed. I feel like to get enough state legislature on board there could be a law automatically suspending a license in the event of this kind if the person lives in a transit served area. For that I would include everywhere in the Bay Area and LA but not necessarily in rural california. Maybe it would be too hard to draw the line, but that way there’s less push back from rural areas because I think urban areas and their legislators would be for this. Then it’s only the suburbs we’d have to worry about. Alternatively maybe we could get a law that allows counties to pursue the automatic license suspension at their discretion, then it’s only our DA we’d have to worry about…

    I think having to take the bus for a year or two is far from cruel and unusual punishment, especially when a person has demonstrated they are unfit to drive safely.

  • murphstahoe

    Run them over. Swerving a car into a coffee shop is not worth the life of a cat or raccoon.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2009-08-25/swerving-to-avoid-animals-a-major-cause-of-crashes/1404210

  • murphstahoe

    “I think having to take the bus for a year or two is far from cruel and
    unusual punishment, especially when a person has demonstrated they are
    unfit to drive safely.”

    It’s not a punishment! Driving is a PRIVILEGE – not a right. License revocation is not a punishment of the driver, it is a protection measure for everyone else!

  • coolbabybookworm

    I have a little sympathy for cats, but very little for raccoons. With the size of some raccoons though, it could damage your car!

  • murphstahoe

    A raccoon will damage your car less than the front of a coffee shop will….

  • Andy Chow

    You should know that California has a point system. If you get a citation for moving violation, you get a point on the record. The same goes if you are found at fault in a collision, even without a citation. So it is not true that the driver is not at all held accountable just because the insurance can pay to cover damages. Some violations count as two points. Additional points are assessed if the violation has occurred driving a commercial Class A or B vehicle.

    If you rack up 4 points in a 12 month period, or 6 points in 24 months, 8 points in 36 months, you will be considered as a “Negligent Operator” and your driving privileges will be suspended.

    If you get a moving violation as a cyclist (saying running a stop sign), there’s no point assigned to your driving record.

  • coolbabybookworm

    I agree completely. However you phrase it, I think license suspension should be automatic in a place like SF where everyone literally lives within 1/4 miles of a transit stop.

  • gneiss

    We suspend driver licenses for failure to pay child support, but not for driving into a building. Seems we’ve got our priorities a little out of wack.

  • Andy Chow

    License suspension can only occur if the payment is not made for a few months (and after a 150 day warning of pending suspension). It is not like as if it is a single event that trigger the suspension. I don’t agree with the idea of suspending license just because of a single collision with no injury absence of other contributing factors.

  • davistrain

    Cars are indeed heavy and powerful (compared with a bicycle) and dangerous under certain circumstances. But just today I heard a radio ad for a Los Angeles area BMW/Mini dealers saying how much “fun” it is to drive a Mini. Even that bastion of scientific testing and quantifiable data, Consumer Reports has been known to add “fun to drive” in its evaluations of new cars. It’s about time we made all the gearheads and ordinary drivers out there realize–“Driving is serious business!” Your attention should be focused on the road situation not on “having fun”.

  • murphstahoe

    The same goes if you are found at fault in a collision, even without a citation.

    This is why the cops find the cyclist at fault all the time – collisions will not go against the cyclists license. And despite the PD’s finding the cyclist can still go after the driver.

  • thielges

    Yes, attention to safety ought to be the priority though there’s no harm in enjoying your travels if it doesn’t impact safety. One of the main reasons that I bike is because it is a lot more enjoyable than driving.

  • RoyTT

    Cats and raccoons aside, the main reasons for a car to suddenly swerve off the road are to avoid hitting a person or an oncoming vehicle.

    One problem for the driver taking evasive action is that the party that actually caused the accident isn’t involved in the accident, and simply runs or drives away.

    So there is an argument for always hitting the person whose fault it is, rather than swerving and risking hitting an innocent party. But instincts take over in such situations, and it would take a lot of nerve to run straight into a vehicle coming right at you.

    I’m not saying this was the case here. It probably was not. But automatically assuming that such a driver is at fault ignores a number of real-life considerations. There can also be a mechanical failure or a medical emergency that causes such an accident.

    Finally, if license suspension were made automatic in these cases, then you’d see the same thing as we see with DUI’s where a driver will spend thousands on a specialist lawyer to avoid the suspension. Most drivers will not roll over on that, even if they know they were at fault.

  • murphstahoe

    Specialist lawyers work because the courts are so easily swayed on sentencing. It’s not that people are not being convicted, it’s that the judges cut them a break. Either the judges need to step up or we need to remove the wiggle room.

  • p_chazz

    Which would vastly increase the backlog of court cases.

  • If swerving is the only solution, the car is going too fast for conditions.

  • Rob Reiter

    These types of vehicle-into-building accidents happen more than 60 times per day in the United States, and since most occur on private property, very few violations of the law (ie vehicle code violations) are applied unless the driver was guilty of some criminal offense (such as DUI or operating with no license, etc.)

    AARP and other organizations would fight tooth and nail against a mandatory suspension of driving privileges every time there was a pedal error or curb over accident….

  • RoyTT

    Jym, how slow would someone have to drive to avoid without swerving a vehicle coming in the other direction on your side of the street?

    Seems to me that would be a negative number.

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