It seems that everyone in the blogoaksphere is weighing in on the proposed Safeway remodel on College in Rockridge. Whether you support it, oppose it or just want to talk more about it, you’ll have a chance to do that on Thursday night at a community forum hosted by Council Member Jane Brunner.
As I mentioned last week, I have mixed feelings about the plan and look forward to learning more at this meeting. But there’s been some hyperbole in the discussion about this so far. Like what Zennie Abraham said:
[Rockridge is] a parade of structures of varied heights, allowing Sun to reach the street and giving a small-town-in-Oakland feel.
But Safeway’s current proposal will destroy that feeling in my view. It calls for a building that does what’s not cool: hugs the street and looms over it. It would drastically alter Rockridge and make it seem more like a retail downtown suburb in Oakland with constant traffic problems.
As Eric pointed out, this is a two story building we’re talking about, not a skyscraper!
Still, as Eric and readers of his blog touch on, and as Rockridge residents argue, do we really need more large, corporate grocery stores in the neighborhood? I’ve thought about this over the past few days. There’s a really nice market across the street from Safeway – Yasai Market – that I sometimes pick up random items at. And several blocks further into Oakland, there’s the Trader Joe’s and of course Market Hall. So it’s not like the neighborhood really needs more grocery square footage.
But then it dawned on me – I’m not sure that Rockridge residents are the only primary shoppers at that Safeway. Who else is? Well, UC Berkeley students. I remember when I lived in the dorms taking semi-frequent trips down the 51 to get snacks at Safeway (none of us students could afford Andronico’s, the only grocery store in walking distance from campus). And it’s no different now. I always see at least one and sometimes ten UC students waiting at the 51 bus stop at Alcatraz and College carrying loads of groceries.
Unfortunately, Oakland residents often leave Oakland to buy things and to go to restaurants, so we lose out on tax dollars. But this is one of the few cases in which Berkeley residents are coming to Oakland to spend money. And they’re not just shopping at the Safeway. Anytime I used to make the trip with friends, I’d talk them into eating lunch with me at Great Wall across the street (mmm – veggie cashew chicken and hot and sour soup). And I must admit, these trips to Safeway were pretty much the only times during my freshman year in which I ventured into Oakland.
So I think I’m coming around on this project. We certainly could use more retail on College and that parking lot is an eye sore! Thursday’s meeting will be contentious, but now I know where I stand.
Thursday, June 19th from 7pm-9pm
Peralta Elementary School, 460 63rd St.
2 blocks from the AC Transit 1 line – get off the bus at 62nd and Telegraph.
4 blocks from the 51 line – get off Alcatraz and College.
(After the meeting, I’d recommend walking down the major streets – Telegraph, College, Alcatraz – because the neighborhood streets are downright creepy and unsafe after dark.)
(See my write up of the meeting here.)