Consumer Defense Resource Group

Summary. This page offers supporting documents for the Petition to Save The Red Avocado that was initiated by The Haunted Bookshop. This information is being provided as a public service.

The Movement. Friends of The Red Avocado is a grass-roots effort started by the many passionate long-time supporters of the establishment. Those involved in the movement are exploring a variety of ways to support the ongoing work of the restaurant. In addition to those who support the restaurant, others are concerned about the historic integrity and cultural continuity of the downtown that gives Iowa City a unique and authentic feel.

Join the Movement. Below are various ways you can join the movement.

Comments & Feedback. For feedback on this article, contact us to have your comments posted on this page, or to provide additional information.

Index. Some of these links take you to documents on this page. Others open the source pages of the original documents. These links are provided in chronological order as information was made available to the public.

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From: On Behalf Of David Burt, The Red Avocado
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2012 3:41 PM
Subject: Petition to save The Red Avocado

Friends of The Red Avocado

You may have heard that our building (and a couple more) have been scheduled for demolition on January 29th. We were served 30 days notice. If we can’t postpone the demolition, we are most likely out of business. The Haunted Bookshop started a petition. If you have a minute please sign.

If you have another minute please forward to all who may be able to help spread the word to as many people as possible. There are paper petitions out there too but this is the easiest way to amass numbers. We are aiming for 3000 by January 10th. It began yesterday and currently has 700+ paper signatures.

Paper petitions are out there at The Haunted bookstore, New Pioneer Co-op, White Rabbit, Record Collector, The Motley Cow, The Red Avocado, and more if you’re talking to folks.

Thanks in advance

From all of us at The Red Avocado

The Red Avocado
521 E. Washington
Iowa City, IA
(319) 351-6088

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From: Haunted Bookshop – Nialle Sylvan

Date: 4 January 2011 at 4:12 PM

Re: The Red Avocado Demolition

The Red Avocado received notice on December 30, 2011 that they had to vacate their rented premises at 521 E Washington St by January 29. The building, a house built in 1910, would then be demolished. Due to the three-day holiday weekend of December 31 through January 2 (a federal holiday this year), the Red Avocado could not seek a different location for four days following the start of notice. This timing effectively reduced their notice period to 26 calendar days.

A request by the Red Avocado to remain in its location through February 14, traditionally a high-income day for this restaurant, was denied by the property’s new owners, Allen Homes, Inc. of Iowa City.

No information pertaining to the planned demolition has appeared in local newspapers as of January 4.

[Because zoning is likely not an issue, the section of this appeal regarding zoning has been removed to save space. Those interested in seeing the original complete appeal can request it.]


The below links connect to the City Assessor’s parcel pages for the building housing The Red Avocado and the neighboring building at 517 E Washington. (shown below) (shown below)

As of January 4, six days after the Red Avocado received an eviction notice, neither page (shown above) indicates the recent sale of the property to developer Allen Homes, Inc. – the properties’ owner is still listed as the private individual with whom Red Avocado had its rental agreement. Furthermore, neither page shows any evidence of permit requests for renovation or demolition. This information is supposed to appear on these pages.


The Red Avocado is a nationally, perhaps internationally, famous restaurant and a popular tourist destination.

The Red Avocado is more than a restaurant to the citizens of Iowa City. Comments on the petition already include remarks about the scarcity of other dining-out options for vegans in Eastern Iowa, assertions that patrons consider The Red Avocado as a home away from home, and multiple expressions of delight in the continued success of the restaurant during the last 12 years and its contributions to local food, music, and gathering-place culture, its efforts to source its supplies locally, and its support for local food, local business, and environmental protection.

The period of notice given to the restaurant is inadequate. Receiving notice immediately before a holiday weekend limited the restaurant’s ability to begin searching for an alternate location.

The notice given to the citizens of Iowa City and patrons, locally and nationally, of the restaurant was beyond inadequate – there was no notice. Patrons have had almost no time at all to initiate fundraisers and other efforts to help save the restaurant they love.
The plans for the building – demolition and replacement with a multi-story, multi-use building – are not consistent with the City Plan passed by and on file with the City of Iowa City.

The petition is available to sign both in person at The Haunted Bookshop, 203 N Linn St, Iowa City, IA 52245 and online at ; another petition to prevent the building of the comparable, already denied project by the same developer at the corner of Linn Street and Bloomington in the Northside district is also available to sign at the same physical location and online at .

We, the patrons and friends of The Red Avocado, demand that the City halt demolition plans immediately and proceed to demonstrate reasons for this substantial variance from the City Plan and to justify its approval of a project that, under its current course, threatens multiple locally, independently owned businesses.

For further information about the planned developments on the 500 block of Washington Street and the 200 block of Linn Street in Iowa City, contact:

Allen Homes, Inc.
Jesse J. Allen
Iowa City IA 52246

City of Iowa City
Attn: Senior Planner
410 E. Washington Street
Iowa City, IA 52240

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Iowa City restaurant facing Jan. 29 demolition

by George C. Ford of Business 380 (4 January 2012)

IOWA CITY — Unless Dave Burt and his fellow owners of The Red Avocado can find a new location within the next three weeks, the organic vegetarian restaurant likely will be history. Burt was served a 30-day notice on Dec. 30 that the new owner of his building at 521 E. Washington St. plans to demolish the structure on Jan. 29. According to the Iowa City Building Department, an application has been filed for a permit to demolish the building, which has housed the eatery since 1999. [More…]

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From: KCRG-TV9

Date: 4 January 2012 @ 5:36 PM

Unless Dave Burt and his fellow owners of The Red Avocado can find a new location within the next three weeks, the organic vegetarian restaurant likely will be history. Burt was served a 30-day notice on Dec. 30 that the new owner of his building at 521 E. Washington St. plans to demolish the structure on Jan. 29. A spokesman for the Iowa City Building Department confirmed that an application has been filed for a permit to demolish the building that has housed the eatery since 1999. [More…]

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From: Press Citizen

Date: 4 January 2012 @ 11:15 PM

Re: Red Avocado, Defunct Books to make way for new multi-use building

The owners of the Red Avocado and Defunct Books are scrambling to figure out their plans after being ordered Dec. 30 to vacate their locations in 30 days.

“I’ve kind of gone through the grief, I’m just looking for opportunities now,” said Dave Burt, the owner of the Red Avocado.

Allen Homes Inc., the new owner of the building at 521 E. Washington St. that holds the two businesses, has submitted plans with the city to replace it, along with the buildings at 511 and 517 E. Washington St., with a four-story commercial/residential development. It’s in the process of obtaining demolition permits for all three. [More…]

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City of Iowa City Statement. The Consumer Defense Resource Group (CDRG) has investigated the circumstances involving the property demolition described in the above documents. On Thursday, 5 January 2012, the CDRG received the email and formal statement below from the City of Iowa City. Based on the statements below, it appears that the City of Iowa City will not prevent the demolition. However, citizen pressure on the city government and the developer could change the outcome.

From: Bob Milo

Date: 5 January 2012 @ 8:11 AM

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation floating around on the web about these properties.

The property where the Red Avocado is located has been zoned Central Business Service (CB-2) since 1983. The owners recently sold the property to a developer who intends to construct a new building according to the current zoning. There is no zoning change requested and the new property owner has the right to develop according to the existing zoning. The zoning allows a mixed use building with commercial on the ground level (which incidentally could accommodate a restaurant such as the Red Avocado) and up to 3 floors of residential apartments or condos above.

The confusion about the zoning maybe a result of someone miss reading the city’s maps. The property is not within the Central District Plan referred to in the email below. It is actually within the downtown district.

You should also be aware that the City proposed to rezone that whole block to a lower density zone in 2005, but that zoning action was opposed by the property owners and others and the City Council at that time decided not to rezone the properties. In 2002, the City also considered those properties as a part of a historic conservation district that would have provided more protection and design controls for the buildings. There was also considerable opposition from the property owners to that effort, so the properties were removed from consideration for this protection.

At this point, there is little that the City can do to prevent the demolition of the buildings. The new owner has the right to develop the properties according to current zoning. The City will review all the plans for the new building to make sure it complies with current zoning and building codes.

[Click here for a PDF of the following document.]

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“Let’s help keep the Red Avocado alive”

by Yale Cohn, Iowa City, Press Citizen Editorial, 5 January 2012 at 6:33 PM

I am not a vegetarian — couldn’t possibly be further from it, in fact. This being the case, I’m probably not the biggest Red Avocado fan in Iowa City.

What I am a big fan of is Dave Burt.

And what I’m an even bigger fan of is small, locally owned businesses — be they restaurants, bike shops or book stores.

These are the kinds of places that make living in and visiting our community so unique and much more interesting than life in the suburbs, or a trip to the mall.

These also are the kinds of business that provide jobs at a living wage to hundreds of members of our community.

To see even more local businesses torn down simply so another soul-less cookie cutter “luxury” apartment building for well-heeled college kids can be built (“unsupervised dorms,” in the words of former City Councilor Mike Wright) is nothing short of a desecration.

Not just to that stretch of Washington Street, but to the very fabric of Iowa City itself.


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CDRG Assessment (6 January 2012 at 6:00 AM)

In reviewing The Red Avocado preservation movement, the initial findings of the Consumer Defense Resource Group indicate that consumers, as shareholders in their community, have a strong case for defending neighborhood historic integrity and defending the fair treatment of businesses like The Red Avocado. Any area developer who takes a position of being non-communicative and non-cooperative with the desires of community shareholders is not creating an environment for their future success. It neither makes good business sense nor fosters community goodwill. Demolishing a much beloved locally owned business on short notice is not a good way to introduce yourself  to the community.

In this case, the developer would be advised to provide fair and adequate accommodations for The Red Avocado to continue operating and relocate if needed. The developer would also be advised to explore ways to preserve the historic integrity of the neighborhood. Additionally, as indicated below, there does seem to be a lack of information provided to the public by the City of Iowa City and the developer regarding what is planned for the area. In the future, it would be advised that the community be better informed about significant changes made by developers so that community shareholders can have sufficient time to respond. Consumers wishing to preserve The Red Avocado should express their support and sign Petition to Save The Red Avocado. It’s not clear at this point what options will become available (such as an extension and/or relocation), but ongoing community support is essential.

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New Pioneer Co-op Response (6 January 2012 at 1:43 PM)

[Below is the full text of the above public statement made by the New Pioneer Co-op. It is provided here for accessibility by those using screen readers and also to be search engine readable. Click here for a PDF of the original document.]

Friday, January 06, 2012

Dear Members:

In mid-October of last year we heard news that several of the properties located on the south side of Washington Street across from our Van Buren store had sold to a developer. At the New Pioneer Annual meeting our General Manager, Matt Hartz, read the following statement, which was also shared with staff. We wish to clarify New Pi’s interest in the properties, which include the Red Avocado and Defunct Books buildings once again for our members and provide the statement again with any changes noted in italics (red).

In the past year we were approached by the owner of three of the above properties. The owner was aware that the Co-op was looking to relocate and offered to sell the properties to us. We met with the owner and later, after consulting with the board, declined the offer.

During the summer of 2011 we were approached by a developer who was interested in purchasing these same Washington Street properties for redevelopment with commercial on the ground floor and residential above. Given our space needs, we indicated that we could not consider the location unless it included the property at the corner of Van Buren and Washington. The developer later came back with that property as part of a potential package. Because property in the downtown area is scarce, we did not decline this location out of hand, but gave it careful consideration. That being said, we were already focused on another property nearby that we believe poses fewer development challenges, offers more accessibility, and a greater opportunity for a “green” project. We let the developer know that we would consider the proposal, but after consulting with the board, the decision was made to decline the Washington Street properties. The potential impact on neighboring businesses and the character of the neighborhood were a factor in our deliberations.

We want you to know that environmental sustainability and the impact on our neighborhood and the downtown are an important part of our considerations. We would also like you to know that we are aware of another proposed change to our neighborhood–the potential re-development of the Agudas Achim property. Our understanding is that this property is for sale and may be re-developed as condominiums or apartments. This property is not zoned for commercial use and is located within the floodplain. We have had no involvement whatsoever with either the seller or any potential re-development of that property.

We understand that rumors circulate and, because we must be tight-lipped about our search process at this time, that creates a vacuum of information. Naturally, you and 25,000 members are eager to hear news. We are focusing our investigations intently on another property in the immediate area and hope to make a decision regarding that property before winter’s end. When and if the board decides that this property is right for relocation, we will come to the members to seek your approval as required in our bylaws.

If you have questions or concerns or if there is anything that you want to suggest or express about our potential relocation, please bring that to Sarah Walz or Matt Hartz. While there are details we cannot share with you at this time, we can certainly dispel some rumors and are always interested in your thoughts and ideas.

Matt Hartz, General Manager

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Yale Cohn Interview with Dave Burt (6 January 2012 at 1:43 PM)



Document History: This page was first created on 20120104th2123 CT. Modifications continue to be made as additional information becomes available.