Safeway on College finally at Planning Commission tonight

20 Jul

UPDATE: Though some public comment was made on the Safeway DEIR at the 7/20 Planning Commission meeting, the item was continued until Wednesday, August 3rd. At that meeting, public comment will continue and the planning commissioners will provide their feedback on the DEIR.

After years of community meetings and plenty of delay, the College Avenue Safeway is finally going to the Planning Commission tonight (Wednesday, July 20th) for a hearing on its draft environmental impact report (DEIR). I had hoped to write a post about this last week well in advance of the hearing, but I got busy and then spent a long time reading the DEIR. So the long substantive post will have to come post-hearing, but I wanted to at least alert folks that the hearing is happening.

To refresh your memory, since it’s been more than a year and a half since I’ve blogged about this project, the proposal is to replace the hideous Safeway on College and Claremont that is surrounded by a sea of parking and a gas station. You know, this place:

As I wrote in 2009:

The current store has real negative impacts on the neighborhood that affect quality of life and local business. In my comments to the Planning Commission last night, I told my story of being a pedestrian that frequently goes to that Safeway, as it’s a short walk from my home. Getting to the Safeway on foot is a nightmare – there are multiple opportunities to get hit by cars, and there are multiple times when both car driver’s and pedestrian’s views are obstructed. Part of the reason for this is that there are so many driveways – 9 in total on College and Claremont. Just the fact that the new Safeway will reduce the curb cuts from 9 to 4 will be a huge benefit to pedestrians, bicyclists, and to safety.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the current Safeway and its huge surface parking lot is a blight on the neighborhood that’s quite creepy at night. It is also entirely uninviting – unless I’m going to Safeway I avoid that side of the street entirely and often just go to a different part of Rockridge that’s more inviting to do my shopping.

I can’t imagine many designs that would be worse than the current store, but the most recent design presented by Safeway in the DEIR is a huge improvement.

Actually, it’s not much different from what Safeway proposed back in 2009. Here’s what I wrote about it then:

I love that the design is much more bike and pedestrian oriented than the current store and parking lot.  Nearly all of the parking will be hidden behind the retail stores on the ground floor and underneath the larger Safeway store that will be on the second floor. Safeway is giving up some of its property to increase the width of the street and the sidewalk. Also, there’s tons of bike parking and places to sit.

I do have a few concerns about pedestrian impacts though. They’re keeping the driveway on College, which I think is a very bad idea. It causes traffic jams and is dangerous for pedestrians. Also, there’s going to be a bus stop on College but no actual space for the bus to pull into. I’m not sure I understand how this will work, but I was promised that this was what AC Transit wanted. On the bright side, Safeway is working with AC Transit to put in a bus shelter complete with NextBus, which will be a huge improvement over the current bus stop that doesn’t even have a bench. And Safeway is looking into providing AC Transit eco-passes for its employees.

As for the store, it will be 49,000 square feet, compared to its current 25,000 feet. I think an expansion is sorely needed. The current store has very narrow aisles and just isn’t very pleasant to shop in…

They’ll have 175 parking spaces in their lot (compared to the  106 spots they currently have), all of which will be available to Safeway customers and the public. They’ve planned a closed area for trucks because neighbors have complained about loud trucks at night. They’ve also moved their generator as far from residences as possible.

The proposal includes space for up to eight new small retail spaces along College underneath the Safeway store, including a space for a restaurant at the corner of College and Safeway. On top of that corner space will be a rooftop plaza open to the public that includes much outdoor seating, which is sorely needed in the area:

And Lowney Architecture did a beautiful job with the design:

Of course, such a big change will have plenty of impacts on the neighborhood. I think most of those impacts will be great impacts, particularly drawing more shoppers to the area. But there are of course some negative impacts, mostly related to traffic, so Safeway has proposed many mitigations in the DEIR. Those mitigations involve new signals, adding left turn lanes, adding pedestrian bulbouts at 63rd and College and much more. I’ll delve into the details in a later post, probably next week, but if you’re interested, check out the full DEIR.

Please join me tonight, Wednesday, July 20th at the DEIR hearing. The Planning Commission meeting starts at 6pm but the item cannot be heard until 8pm or later. The meeting takes place at Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 1.

If you can’t make it to the hearing, you can submit comments on the DEIR until August 15th  to planner Peterson Vollman at pvollman@oaklandnet.com. I’ll be tweeting the meeting so you can follow along by following me @oaklandbecks.

Previous posts on College & Claremont Safeway:

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6 Responses to “Safeway on College finally at Planning Commission tonight”

  1. Jean Cassidy July 20, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    You seem to be someone who has very little actual experience living around the Safeway neighborhood. Maybe you would just be happier going to the suburbs and enjoying the giant shopping malls and a terrific cup of Starbucks. Actual Rockridge residents are in no way opposed to change and over the years have fought hard to create the wonderful, inviting neighborhood that most people who live here actually prefer. It is the enormous size of the Safeway project and the “we only want it our way”attitude of the planners that is the cause of the extreme discontent of the majority of the Rockridge neighborhood. Most residents have enjoyed and encouraged the growth and evolution of the neighborhood into the vibrant, economic powerhouse that it is today. You probably are completely unaware of how many struggles have been involved in keeping CollegeAve. free of stripmall type chains and encouraging the multitude of varied small , pedestrian friendly businesses that we have today. Anybody who thinks longtime residents are opposed to change just doesn’t understand the massive changes that have developed the neighborhood into it’s current form. It has taken the activity, devotion and endless sacrifice of their time to help create the Rockridge that so many people love to live and shop in. I hope the Oakland city leaders recognise WHY Rockridge is such a great tax base and revenue provider for the city . It would be nice if they would make an effort to support the local planning groups whose efforts have contributed so much. You should really try to learn much more about the area before you hold yourself out as some sort of local authority.

    • Rebecca Saltzman (aka Becks) July 20, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

      I lived in the neighborhood for nearly five years so I do know some things about the neighborhood. I’m not sure where you think I hold myself up as a “local authority.” On my blog I express my own opinions and don’t purport to do anything more than that.

      It’s funny that you bring up the suburban issue because after growing up in LA suburbs, I think the current Safeway is incredibly suburban and would have fit in quite well with the neighborhood I grew up in. However, it does not fit in with the mixed use Rockridge neighborhood. Density and moving the building to the sidewalk is necessary to make this project fit in with the rest of the neighborhood.

      As a speaker pointed out tonight, the buildings on College and Claremont are almost all taller than the proposed Safeway and some are significantly taller. I think this project will be a great addition to the block and the greater neighborhood.

    • dto510 aka Jonathan Bair July 22, 2011 at 9:23 am #

      Well I am a Rockridge native and a I strongly agree with Becks’ characterization of the current Safeway as terribly out of character with the neighborhood, and the new store is a much better fit with the character in the abstract and in terms of improving retail. I do not think that the “majority of the Rockridge neighborhood” is opposed to the project, and even if that were the case, planning is not a popularity contest.

      As for supporting the self-appointed busybody “local planning groups”? Let’s not forget the the Rockridge Community Planning Council opposed Market Hall.

  2. Damian Bickett July 21, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Thanks for tweeting last night – sounded somewhat entertaining. What should we expect on August 3rd? And did anyone critique the flawed traffic analysis? I believe the impacts to be quite overstated.

    • Rebecca Saltzman (aka Becks) July 21, 2011 at 11:10 am #

      You’re welcome. On August 3rd the public comment will continue and then the Planning Commission will provide feedback and direction on the DEIR. I’ll post a full write up of last night’s meeting, probably next week.

      No one critiqued the traffic analysis, so I encourage you to contact Peterson Vollman at pvollman@oaklandnet.com if you have comments about that to make.

  3. Navigator August 4, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    As DTO mentions Market Hall was oppossed by some naysaers in Rockridge. As someone who grew up in the Rockridge District and walks College Avenue on a regular basis, I can tell you that the current Safeway and surface parking lot are blights on an otherwise wonderful neighborhood.

    Also, some of these Rockridge nimbys speak as if they’re not a part of Oakland. Stop for a minute and think of the entire city for just a second. Rockridge is great, but it’s not even the most vibrant area of the city. That distinction goes to Chinatown and Fruitvale. The bottom line is that Oakland needs to grow its economy in an attractive and responsible manner and this project does just that.

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