Pleasant Valley Safeway & Longs community meetings

23 Jun

UPDATE: I had the wrong address for the location. The correct address is now updated below.

I apologize for not having the time to put together this week’s events listing, especially since there’s a ton happening this week, as always (feel free to use the comments section below to promote any events you know about). But there was one thing I couldn’t have forgiven myself for not writing about – the community meetings tonight and Thursday night about the proposed removal of Big Longs and the expansion of Safeway on Pleasant Valley, between Broadway and Piedmont.

As you probably can guess from my previous posts on the College Avenue Safeway, I’m all for store expansions when they add to the community, especially when they add in additional small retail, which this plan calls for as well. But I couldn’t be much more sad about the potential loss of Big Longs. There’s basically nowhere else in North Oakland (or anywhere in central Oakland up until Walmart) that you can find everything at any time of day (they’re open 24 hours!). Seriously, every time someone asks me where to find something random, I recommend Big Longs. They have a huge garden section, hardware, kitchen supplies, pet stuff, a surprisingly large fabric section, groceries, and of course all the stuff a regular Longs would have. When the Big Longs closes, I’ll probably have to do my random shopping at Target in Albany.

That said, I’m not sure what can be done to save Big Longs, unless Longs wants to stay and is getting pushed out. If the closure of Longs is a done deal, the next best thing is to make sure that the small retail that’s added to the plaza covers most of what Longs offers. I’d love to see a small nursery and a hardware store, for example.

At this point, the plan’s preliminary, but you can check out Safeway’s design plans.

One thing that sticks out to me about this plan is that they’re adding more parking (which seems crazy), but they do plan to take away some surface parking by adding parking on top of the Safeway. This will create extra room for retail shops on Pleasant Valley.

Tonight and Thursday night are the first opportunities to weigh in about this project so if you have any thoughts or concerns, I highly recommend attending one of the meetings:

Tuesday June 23, 2009 7-8:30 pm or Thursday June 25, 2009 7-8:30 pm
Chapel of the Chimes Mortuary, 4499 Piedmont Avenue
(Just off Pleasant Valley)

You can find more info about the meetings and answers to basic questions in Safeway’s flyer.

61 Responses to “Pleasant Valley Safeway & Longs community meetings”

  1. floribunda June 23, 2009 at 8:31 am #

    I too will be very sorry to lose “Big Longs” — definitely the go-to place for just about everything! So far, CVS seems a bit soul-less. Maybe the ladies who run the fabric dept. can set up their own little store-front in the new shopping center?

  2. Aaron Priven June 23, 2009 at 8:48 am #

    I think you mean Target in Albany, not Berkeley.

    Big CVS, formerly Big Longs, formerly Big Rite Aid, formerly Big Payless… was it Thrifty before that?

    It looks like the two-story area called “Major C1” will be 60,000 feet all together, only a bit smaller than Longs is now.

    I’m sorry to lose Longs but it does seem like someplace that could be more intensively developed.

    • Becks June 23, 2009 at 9:01 am #

      Thanks for the correction – it is in Albany.

  3. erocking June 23, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    It is with great sadness that I hear of Big Longs closing. Where else can you get bamboo, a straw hat, fabric, and Cheerios all in the same place? Sadness.

  4. JHorner June 23, 2009 at 9:09 am #

    What I know is the CVS will dump mostly everything we like about Big Long’s and focus on improving the pharmacy. Part of the community response should be to encourage Safeway to find room for hardware/gardening, even if it’s a different business

    • Becks June 23, 2009 at 9:12 am #

      That’s what I’ve heard too. I’m hoping Safeway will be open to having at least some space for hardware and gardening.

  5. PRE June 23, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    I think the plan looks great – now can we get Target to go into “C1” space?

  6. Eric Fischer June 23, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    Thanks for posting this. I’m sad to be losing the Longs, and unimpressed by the site plan. The flyer about the hearing made it sound like there would be stores fronting on Pleasant Valley, but it looks like it will just be a double-sided inward-looking strip mall.

    • Becks June 23, 2009 at 9:57 am #

      I had the same thought after looking at the plans. But it’s important to remember that this is all very preliminary – Safeway has been very open to significant changes for its College Avenue store so there may be opportunities to influence this project too. That’s why it’s so important to attend one of the community meetings to make your concerns heard.

      • Khritter June 23, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

        From what I’ve heard, Safeway has been *anything but* responsive to the requests of neighbors viz the College Ave plan. We just moved to Rockridge and have been really saddened to watch what’s happening with the store on College. We’re getting our info from neighborhood “across the back fence” chatter & In any case, all the more reason to attend the community meetings! Thanks for posting about it!

  7. Jasmine June 23, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    WHAT? Oh my goodness, this is the first that I have heard of the Big Longs closing, I love that store and go there for all of those things that you need. That store has been there forever (I still usually call it Payless), and I’m incredibly sad to see it go. And that’s one of the best garden centers in the East Bay.

  8. AM June 23, 2009 at 10:45 am #

    Plus there’s a great health food store that’s been there for several decades.

  9. SA June 23, 2009 at 11:00 am #

    I’m furious to think that Big Long’s would close. In the past two months, I have used the watch repair, the key maker, the photo lab (OK, for a hard-to-find button battery, but still), the fabric section, and the garden store – all things that would be lost if it closes or is significantly cut back. I rely on the 24-hour operation because I teach until 9 or 10pm several nights per week, and being able to stop at Long’s to get things I need (and things you can’t find at a regular, small drugstore) is very important to me.

    I’m planning to come to the meeting tonight, as Thursday is one of those late teaching nights… the kind where, if I suddenly realize on my way out the door that I’m nearly out of cat litter and ibuprofin, I’d say to myself “well I can stop at Long’s at 930, no problem.”

  10. artemis June 23, 2009 at 11:32 am #

    It’s also worth noting that—although Safeway has certainly had its eye on the Longs space for quite some time—the closure has as much to do with CVS not wanting to take on the store as with Safeway itself.

    But as far as the plans—yuck! I’ve been looking forward to Safeway starting on this plaza because it presents such a great opportunity to get rid of the massive surface parking lot and push the building footprints out to the street (especially on the Broadway side). This is just more of the same (literally, I guess, as it looks like they’re using many/all of the existing buildings). *sigh*

    I’d like to see this revised to include:
    1) housing somewhere on the site;
    2) dedicated transit space, since this is the perfect place to serve as a terminus for some sort of rapid line to downtown (since rapid service isn’t feasible on College because of the width of the street, but is certainly possible along Broadway—this could be a junction to connect to Transbay lines, the lines headed to Rockridge/Berkeley, connections to BART, etc.)
    3) retail facing the street at least on the Broadway side where CCA is nearby and College Ave is across the way (flexible on the Pleasant Valley side since that street is weird and would need additional help)
    4) some attempt to fix the access issues that exist today—this looks like essentially the same traffic pattern. The Broadway side today is pretty awful for bike/ped access (WOBO has been surveying this and has some good data), and the Pleasant Valley side—right across from senior living facilities—can be a nightmare for peds. Bigger Safeway and more stores will make this worse, not better, without some sort of mitigation.

    Last but not least, they need to stop calling this the Rockridge Safeway, because it’s going to confuse people no end given that they also call the Claremont store the Rockridge Safeway. The Pleasant Valley Safeway? (We actually call it the 51st Street Safeway in our house, though that’s pretty inaccurate….)

    • Becks June 23, 2009 at 12:52 pm #

      Good points. I’m also concerned about the pedestrian, bike, and transit issues and will bring them up tonight at the meeting.

    • Karen Hester June 25, 2009 at 11:28 am #

      Dear Folks,

      here’s what John Gatewood from ULTRA wrote in a letter to Safeway that expresses many of our views. I’ll be at meeting on Thurs and hope to see you all there. I have a jpg of Conley plan that was submitted in May 2008 to the City and calls for what we are asking

      Dear Rebecca,

      I am one of the founding members of ULTRA (Urbanists for a Livable Temescal Rockridge Area) and I attended the first meeting held in September 2007 that introduced the neighborhood to this project. I have also been attending the series of meetings held for the past two years involving the Safeway at College and Claremont Avenues.

      I am disappointed and frustrated by what I saw proposed last night for the Pleasant Valley Safeway site. I left the presentation with the strong impression that Safeway learned absolutely nothing from the many meetings held in North Oakland these past two years.

      One lesson Safeway should have learned from the September 2007 meeting was the passionate customer loyalty the neighborhood has for the existing Longs Drug store. In a meeting of over 100 neighbors ever single person raised their hand that they wanted the Longs Drugs to stay. The Longs is not just a pharmacy, it is a general store in that it doesn’t have a tremendous quantity of any one item but it does have an incredible variety of items for sale – fishing gear, clothing, sporting goods, gardening supplies, hardware supplies, electrical supplies, sewing supplies, art supplies, photography services, watch repair, dry goods, produce, beauty supplies, etc.

      Last night we were informed that CVS, the new owners of Longs Drugs, does not have stores of this size and wants to divest itself of the existing Longs and perhaps have a much smaller CVS pharmacy in the new mall. In these dark economic times I am shocked but also skeptical that any company would just throw away all these loyal customers. However if this is indeed the case I am very skeptical that these discarded Longs customers will switch their loyalty to Safeway. For the simple reason that Safeway has never offered the variety of goods and services that our Longs does today.

      The other lesson that Safeway should have drawn from the September 2007 meeting as well as every single meeting about the College and Claremont Avenues store is the paramount importance the community has in integrating any new store into the existing fabric of the neighborhood and serving the needs of the neighborhood and the larger community. The present proposal fails on both counts.

      The needs of the larger community – The city commissioned a retail study of the Broadway corridor and the Conley study concluded that the most valuable use of the site is as higher density mixed-use retail. This is the largest site in North Oakland available for in-fill development. It is also a major transit node at the intersection of two of the main transit corridors in North Oakland. Higher density mixed-use belongs here, not another auto-centric retail only suburban-style mall.

      I have heard three arguments against housing on this site –

      1. That Safeway “doesn’t build housing.” Maybe not in the East Bay but in San Francisco they certainly have. The Safeway at Fourth St. and Townsend in the Mission Bay development is a Safeway store on the ground floor with housing above. Safeway may not have been the principal developer of the site but there certainly is a team at Safeway who knows how to partner with a housing developer and they need to be brought in on the Rockridge Center project.

      2. The lease does not allow for housing. The city supports mixed-use at this location, the neighborhood supports mixed-use at this location. It is a very rare moment when all sides in the development debate in Oakland are on the same side. Given the level of support for housing, the terms of the lease need to be renegotiated to allow for mixed-use.

      3. The housing market won’t support any new housing being brought online. We are in a housing slump but that doesn’t mean housing demand will be down forever. At some point the market will begin to turn around and there will be a need for less expensive, higher density housing in transit-friendly locations like this site.

      The needs of the neighborhood – The proposal we saw last night turns its back on the neighborhood. It will discourage pedestrians, discourage bicyclists and encourage people to continue to drive to the mall.

      Here is a partial list of the suburban-style design flaws in the proposed project –

      1. It is walled off from the community –
      The Broadway side does not “meet the street.” In fact what faces Broadway is parking. The stores need to be brought all the way to the sidewalk’s edge along Broadway. Walking down a sidewalk next to welcoming storefronts is much nicer than walking between a parking lot and speeding traffic.
      The existing Chase bank building at the corner is like a fortress battlement deadening the entire corner. It needs to be replaced by a building that comes all the way to the sidewalk helping to revivify the corner. The sunken plaza in front of the bank is also a dead zone because no one wants to spend any time in a hole next to one of the busiest intersections in Oakland.
      The buildings along Pleasant Valley between the mall entrance and the bank building have their backs to the street! Furthermore the entrance to the underground parking creates a moat between the stores and the street! This side of the site slopes downhill to the corner and is a design challenge but what is proposed is NOT the solution. Instead these stores should have two entrances, one facing the parking lot inside the mall and the other facing Pleasant Valley. Instead of landscaping where the street starts to slop down to the corner, build wide landscaped steps leading up to the store fronts. Similar to what is on the south side of Union Square in San Francisco. These would be inviting to pedestrians. The entrance to the underground parking needs to be reconfigured so it isn’t such a long ramp between the sidewalk and the stores or moved to another location on the site entirely.

      2. There is no sense of place –
      The entrance on Pleasant Valley is an entrance to a mall parking lot and it needs to be much more than that. It needs to be a continuation of Gilbert St. to help knit the site into the existing community. It needs to be a boulevard that draws you into the site and winds through the site, exiting on Broadway. To slow traffic down and make it a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly, the boulevard pavement should change or be textured, similar to what is in Jack London Square.
      There needs to be a central square or plaza that is large enough for public gatherings but not so large it becomes forlorn. It should have places to sit, landscaping for shade and maybe even push cart vendors or a farmer’s market or a crafts fair or other public events to draw the public in. The proposed triangular plot in front of the mall entrance is not nearly enough to generate this kind of public space.


      John Gatewood
      360 50th St.
      Oakland, CA 94609

      • Eric Fischer June 25, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

        The only thing I can add to that is that it also should be a condition of occupancy that the door to the street be kept unlocked during business hours. Otherwise storekeepers are likely to lock and ignore the street door and make everyone walk through the parking lot anyway.

      • L. Atwood June 25, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

        Amen to Mr. Gatewood’s specific, professional, and elegant suggestions. While reasoned discussion is good, specific proposals are better. Thank you, John Gatewood!

  11. peter June 23, 2009 at 12:12 pm #

    Ha, we call it “the safeway next to the payless.” Too bad about it closing, the worst part is that Longs was a local company that changed its business style to fit that space (you wouldn’t see many other longs with a cloth section). That payless/longs was certainly the answer for me for the last 33 years as to where to get everything from GI Joes to nowadays garden stuff. I’m definitely not pushing for a target either, although it would fill the void… how about something local?

  12. Andy K June 23, 2009 at 12:25 pm #

    The loss of this Longs is huge. They are open late (24 hrs?) and they have everything. I cannot count the number of times I have gone there late at night to get some art supplies for my kids to finish a school project. Where else can you go at 10 PM in the entire East Bay to get this (or hardware, auto parts, camping supplies, fishing tackle, etc, etc, etc.)

    They do have everything. Whenever I need anything after hours, this is the place to go. Will really miss this place.

    No combination of small shops can replace the Longs – unless they are open 24 hrs.

    • SA June 23, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

      art supplies for my kids to finish a school project. Where else can you go at 10 PM in the entire East Bay to get this (or hardware, auto parts, camping supplies, fishing tackle

      These are more great examples of the diversity of things Long’s carries, that are not replicable by small shops (particularly ones that close early – is that Dress Barn *ever* open? Apparently not when I have time to shop!) I recently needed food coloring, a men’s undershirt, velcro, powdered sugar, a watering can, and a pair of needle-nose pliers. What do you know: Safeway was out of food coloring *and* powdered sugar, and they sure don’t carry any of the others.

      I also think it’s important to point out that late-night/24-hour businesses are VERY hard to come by in Oakland at all, I presume because merchants fear crime, and so eliminating a 24-hour resource like Long’s really hurts the community, particularly people who don’t work a 9-5 shift.

      It’s absolutely true that no patchwork of small shops would fill this gap. And certainly not a bunch of “boutique” shops – part of Long’s value is that while you can do better on specific items if you have the time and resources to comparison shop elsewhere, overall the store’s non-pharmacy merch is priced for a working/middle class customer base.

  13. PRE June 23, 2009 at 3:06 pm #

    Oh my god, something might change in Oakland – let’s kvetch about it and hopefully stop it if we can. Personally I love an old Longs building that hasn’t had a dime put in it for what looks like 30 years. Nothing could ever get better than that! Thankfully there apparently will always still be an empty lot diagonally across Broadway, and an always empty “furniture” store next door to that.

  14. PRE June 23, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

    “Good points. I’m also concerned about the pedestrian, bike, and transit issues and will bring them up tonight at the meeting.”

    How about worrying about the selling something that someone wants to buy in Oakland so that people don’t have to go to Emeryville or WC issues? Or maybe get concerned with the not having a tax base beyond Clorox and some restaurants issue?

  15. oneirodynia June 23, 2009 at 4:58 pm #

    I hadn’t heard about the Longs closing. It has a really excellent garden center with unbeatable prices.

    PRE, if you’re concerned about people shopping in Emeryville, why are you being snide about the fact that people are upset that a well-used store where they SHOP IN OAKLAND is being closed? It doesn’t make any sense.

    • SA June 23, 2009 at 8:20 pm #

      Yeah, it’ll definitely be good for Oakland when I drive to El Cerrito to Joann Fabrics, and do my other shopping out in Pleasant Hill where I work on my lunch break rather than coming back and doing my shopping in Oakland at night.

  16. PRE June 23, 2009 at 6:54 pm #

    oneirodynia I shop at that CVS, or Longs all the time. All I’m saying is it could be a LOT BETTER than it is and I’m not afraid about some changes that seem all for the better (as many of the posts here seem to be).

    I take a snide tone because I’m fed up to here with the idea that if something in the Bay Area, whatever that may be, isn’t exactly up to someone’s own idiosyncratic particulars then they’ll bitch and moan until nothing gets done at all (Claremont Safeway anyone?) I generally like the design of the new layout and am not going to get up in arms over the little itty stuff that always slows EVERYTHING down here to a crawl to the point that nobody wants to open anything in Oakland. Santa Rosa which has a THIRD the population of Oakland has a Macy’s – which is a big part of the reason that this city has a 100 million dollar budget deficit. Nobody wants to touch Oakland with a 20 foot pole. That should bother people here much more than “transit access” and other nice to haves. When you’re starving, asking for butter on the bread seems short sighted to me. And if you think Oakland isn’t starving you tell me how to fill a budget deficit that’s a quarter of the total.

    Finally, that entire center is just nasty, and if Safeway is willing to spruce it up and make it possible for a greater number of shops and stores to open there (Target please!) then I’m all for it. Personally, if I were Safeway I’d just close down the Claremont Safeway and make all the complainers drive to the Rockridge one.

    • SA June 23, 2009 at 8:24 pm #

      I went to the meeting. The design is abysmal. It looks like Walnut Creek. It looks like every bit of sprawl-mall that crept steadily eastward from Denver into Arapahoe County the whole time I lived there. It looks like it should be housing a Borders and a Bed Bath Beyond and a Crate and Barrel, which is not what the working families of this area need. There is nothing wrong with change and progress, but to pull out diverse retail that meets a great many community needs, including having extended hours, and put in a bunch of generic chain shops which is what their current design implies, does nothing to keep profit in the community and meet the needs of people who actually live here.

    • Andy K June 24, 2009 at 8:50 am #

      Not in the way of “progress” here SA. Could not agree more about the Clairmont Safeway issue – currenlty that store is a joke and if I were Safeway, I would seriously consider walking away. They are not, so I can only assume that they see value in fighting to get the store done right.

      Community input is important. Time consuming and frustrating at times, but the alternatives do not always lead to success either.

      I like the 24 hours Longs for what it is – it fills a void. If it is not economically viable, well, that is too bad, but I will still miss it.

  17. Pamela Mays McDonald June 23, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

    I am absolutely crestfallen. There goes the neighborhood…

  18. Mark D. June 23, 2009 at 7:26 pm #

    There is a hardware store on grand, with a garden center. Stonemountain and daughter fabrics near ashby bart seems pretty cool to me. I am not much of a sewer though. Neither of these is a 24 hour store, but with 24 hour store, i like to consider if i would want to work there. if i wouldn’t want to work there at that time, i usually don;t shop there at that time either.

    The customer service at longs, except in the garden department has always been pretty crappy. I will miss the organic vegetable starters, but they can be purchased at one of oakland’s many armer’s markets now.

    It would be nice to see something a little more human scale and a little bit less strip mall and parking lot at that location. I look forward to checking out the plans.

    • SA June 23, 2009 at 8:29 pm #

      The other fabric stores in the area (including the one on Piedmont) are high-end specialty stores. There is no point in overpaying for straight pins and seam rippers at a store that exists to sell fancy trims and bridal fabrics. I guess I’ll have to take my money to Michael’s in Emeryville or JoAnne’s in El Cerrito. And for other needs I guess it’ll be Target in Albany or Pleasant Hill. Sorry Oakland; I’d like to spend my money with you.

      The customer service at Long’s isn’t great, but maybe they should address training, support, and benefits for employees rather than demolishing a diverse and important store.

      I don’t know what “human scale” means but nothing about the “scale” of the shopping center is changed in the new design.

      • V Smoothe June 24, 2009 at 8:27 am #

        V-Tex Fabric on Piedmont is very far from what I would call a high-end specialty store. They have a wide selection and their prices are very reasonable. I probably wouldn’t shop for bridal fabrics there, but for everyday needs, it’s great.

        • SA June 24, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

          I’ll have to give it another look, V. When I’ve gone by, it’s given the appearance of existing to basically sell expensive sewing machines and supplies to quilters.

  19. Eric Fischer June 23, 2009 at 8:05 pm #

    My pictures of the slides from the community open house, if anyone is interested:

    Existing aerials

    I got the impression that most people there were sad to see Longs go and not impressed by the proposed development.

  20. Madeline F June 23, 2009 at 8:07 pm #

    I went to the meeting tonight. One lady was saying to the organizer on the way out, “You sold yourselves short by making it seem you were afraid of us,” which is true. It was not a forum, or a Q&A session. There were about 6 Safeway employees handing out free samples of things like blood orange soda and shortbread, and about 2 guys with nametags from Property Development Centers (which I gathered was Safeway’s building group) answering questions from the people in the crowd of about 80 who could find them.

    The point seemed to be to bribe us with white chocolate and dazzle us with the shiny images showing on the TV screens in the corners (pretty much what was in the pdf). I did not get the impression that they were there to have a dialog, or to hear what we had to say. In fact, none of them seemed to know where the comment cards we were handed were supposed to be handed in.

    I did get an address where comments could be mailed to:
    5918 Stoneridge Mall Rd.
    Pleasanton, CA 94588

    Kind of embarassing for them that their web address,, goes right now to a directory without even an index page to cover it.

    I asked one of the Property Development Centers guys whether they could put housing on the site. He said that they were just renting the land from the Chan family, and so nothing permanent like housing can go onto it.

    I am not certain if all hope is lost for the Longs. For one, there’s the lack of a website on Safeway’s part. For two, on 5/6/09 I emailed CVS about the Longs, and on 5/13/09 I got a response back that said they were keeping the nursery… Though now that I look over the messages it said nothing about the fabric store or the crafts store. I will include those messages below.


    Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 6:31 PM
    To: CustomerCare
    Subject: Keep “Mothership” store at 5100 Broadway, 94611, as is

    Dear CVS:

    Congratulations on buying Longs Drugs. Mostly I would not care what
    name is on a drugstore, but I see on the Yelp page for the legendary
    24-hour “mothership” Longs store at 5100 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611,
    that you were thinking of getting rid of the nursery. That drugstore is
    a gem, and every time I go there I spend money. If you were to
    eliminate some departments, I would not go there as often.

    I particularly seek out: the fabric store, which is the best source of
    cheap cotton prints for quilting in the entire East Bay. The nursery,
    which has interesting tchotchkes like bamboo stakes, glazed ceramic
    pots, and redwood planters. The art supplies section, which has
    protractors and exacto knives. While I am there anyway seeking things
    in those departments, I buy “normal” drugstore things like nail clippers
    and tea and cookies and rubbing alcohol.

    Please leave the departments of the mothership drugstore pretty much the
    same. Good luck!

    Madeline F
    Oakland, CA


    Subject: CVS/pharmacy Response 07239997
    Date: Wed, 13 May 2009 11:35:36 -0400
    From: “Store Comments”

    Dear Madeline F,

    Thank you for contacting the CVS/pharmacy Web site. CVS is going to be keeping the nursery open at the Oakland, CA location on Broadway.

    We appreciate your comments. Thank you for shopping with CVS/pharmacy. We look forward to your continued patronage.


    Customer Relations

    • Becks June 23, 2009 at 9:18 pm #

      Yeah, tonight was basically a total waste of time and I don’t recommend going on Thursday if you didn’t tonight, since they had no new information other than the same images that are already available online.

      I can’t fully blame them though, after what they went through with the College Ave Safeway store, but I didn’t think it was necessary to go to this complete extreme of not having any back and forth between Safeway and the community.

      I also realized that all the reasons I love the plans for Safeway on College are the reasons I really don’t like these plans. The plaza is still going to be a pedestrian nightmare and will feel just as suburban. I guess the only plus side for me is that with the Longs gone, I’ll have no reason to go to the plaza and won’t have to brave walking through the huge parking lot.

  21. Madeline F June 23, 2009 at 8:09 pm #

    Oh, also, Chapel of the Chimes is on Piedmont, not Howe. It’s right near the entrance to the cemetery. The room was quite hot, so maybe bring a bottle of icewater if you can.

    • Becks June 23, 2009 at 9:07 pm #

      Yeah, I found that out the hard way – the flyer had no address and when I searched for Chapel of the Chimes Piedmont Avenue, that’s what I came up with. I’ll edit the address above.

  22. artemis June 24, 2009 at 9:43 am #

    What I heard of the meeting from a friend who went was basically the same as Madeline’s report—but I do plan to go on Thursday, and would encourage others to go as well. While I agree with Becks that it’s likely to be as much of a waste of time as Tuesday, I think it’s critical that Safeway understand that this is not an acceptable plan or method of community engagement. If no one shows up to call them on it, they’ll just go on their merry way. The only reason the Claremont plans changed is that people were up in arms about it.

    Also, there was a website up for this project (at when they held the first meeting back in ’07—I’ve actually been keeping an eye on it, and bizarrely they pulled the renderings off it around the time when the College process was heating up, and now it redirects to the El Cerrito San Pablo Ave. store process. Go figure.

    • Becks June 24, 2009 at 11:46 am #

      Yeah, you’re probably right – people should attend if it’s not too difficult. I was just upset last night because I rushed out of work to make it there by 7 and went way out of my way to make it to the “meeting.”

      Also, there will supposedly be a new website up soon at

  23. Madeline F June 24, 2009 at 10:46 am #

    Oh, and for those going Thurs, the highest ranking person there (as I judged by seeing who the guy with the nametag went to to ask about comment mailing address) was the lady working the sign-in table. White, slim, about 5’7″, light-colored curly shoulder-length hair.

    • SA June 24, 2009 at 1:09 pm #

      Hm, there was a dude there with a nametag that I swore read “CEO.” I pigeonholed him and asked why they weren’t having a real community forum. He made some comment about how they’d “submitted a proposal” to CVS for CVS’s rebuild on the site. “What was in the proposal?” I asked. “What did you base it on?” “Well… CVS’s plan for their stores…” he responded limply. I gave him an earful about how such proposals *shoud* contain the *community’s* desire for the spaces, rather than cutting us out of the loop.

      • Katy M June 24, 2009 at 1:20 pm #

        He was same guy I talked to…he’s mediumish height, silver hair but not an old guy, I wrote down his name but didn’t bring it with me to work

  24. Katy M June 24, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Went to the meeting last night. Definately not a forum for discussion. Stock answers were “We’ve invited CVS to be part of the new center but haven’t heard back” and “we’re looking into businesses that will replace what Longs carries”, which would mean a pharmacy, fabric store, yarn store, nursery, sporting good store, electronics store, key and watch store, beauty supply store, hardware store, hot dog stand, arts and crafts store, plus something to cover all the wierd little inbetween stuff. Good luck with that. I look forward to a few more cell phone stores, since you can apparently never have enough of those. The head guy of the development company was there and he at least acknowledged that they had perhaps misjudged the type of forum this meeting should have been. Apparently they did they same for west Hollywood, and they just loved it…whatever. For anyone on Facebook, there is a group called Save Longs that someone started.

  25. david vartanoff June 24, 2009 at 7:34 pm #

    OK, pretend I am a stockholder and explain why two stores that close to each other are both worth massive investment??? (BTW the link above gave a useless directory so I admit I have yet to study the layout.) The ‘Big Longs’ goes back to one of Safeway’s ventures in separate but corporate sibling drug srores–same for the building now a Walgreens across from Berkeley Bowl’s ex Safeway location. I bought tomato plants at the predecessor store in 77 or 78 and occasionally since. The Safeway got a makeover in the early 90s which was a vast improvement. Interesting they think it is already tired.
    As to nicer designs, if they started by excavating down to the sidewalks on B’way and PV so that there was direct pedestrian access and show windows to passersby, that would be a great improvement. I like the transit hub idea–need to get AC on board to see the potential. The first building to ‘doze is Chase/WAMU so that area can be reconfigured.

  26. Naomi from Oakland June 24, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    I too have used the thrifty-payless-riteaid-long’s for years, and almost never the Safeway. Actually, I have found the Safeway too big to be convenient since the last remodel. You walk miles to get from vegetables to milk, and there’s even more stuff I don’t want in that store than in the highly miscellaneous Long’s!

    Seems to me that chain stores go away as frequently as they appear, so I don’t see how they are something to rely on.

  27. L. Atwood June 25, 2009 at 10:26 am #

    Well, here’s some more kvetching by a homeowner who’s been in the area 25 years and pays property taxes :

    I heartily agree with ideas about pedestrian/bike safety and new rapid bus route proposals.

    what about Chase property?

    I have to travel on foot. So do a lot of others. what about gardening/hardware? where do we go? Grand Avenue? upper Bway? what about those of us who travel by foot/buses? Eegh!, AC transit is probably going to drop line 12 (you know, “budget cuts”), which means getting to Grand is near impossible (unless you want to take 2 hrs). As far as other general merchandise goes, the Walgreen’s on Telegraph is a joke.

    For produce, I’ll be going to Berkeley Bowl on the 43 bus.

    why is new Safeway store going to have less square footage than old Swy?

    what about building height? (for the whole/all properties, not just Sway)

    Customer safety ON THE PROPERTY (not just nearby streets), shoplifting, and disorderly adolescents are all less than ideal. Any new plans to deal with these?

    Will the Rockridge center property be reassesed, so that these businesses will be paying more property tax in Oakland, thus taking some of the property tax pressure off homeowners?

    And I definitely agree: there goes the neighborhood.

    If it isn’t too late, I’ll be checking on the Council meeting (or Council committee meeting) where this will be decided, and will make a ruckus there. I invite others to do the same. Watch out for items on the “consent calendar” — they get whisked by en masse.

    Since I somehow missed notices about the Tues nite mtg, I’ll be going (sigh) tonight. On foot.

  28. Oh Pleeze June 26, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    Farewell to one of the best midsized local nurseries in the area. I always counted on Longs/Payless for plants that fit local heartiness profiles, and had adequate stock on hand, and reasonably priced amendments/mulch/accessories/acoutrements and a staff (often Merritt Hort students) that actually knew what the business and stock they were selling.

    Besides, it really was a terrific spot for those middle of the night must haves–ranging from groceries to cough syrup to a sink plunger.

  29. Karen Hester June 26, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

    I went to the meeting last night and it was pretty much the same story as what sounded like happened Tues night–the set up was just “speaking with Safeway reps.” Lots of folks were upset about the proposed design and I spoke to Ayako Mie who was there covering the stoty for Oakland North blog. George Skinner was back to hound Safeway reps ans other folks from STAND were there as well. It’s crazy but there is no real pedestrain or bike access shown on the drawings although Safeway says it will be bike and pedestrian friendly–go figure.

    Safeway insists it can’t build housing cuz it doesn’t own the property but I later thought it seems kinda like a bogus argument considering all the housing that’s going up on the MacArthur BART lot which will still be owned by BART. Not sure but assume there’s a creative way to get the City involved if Safeway were committed to building residential. I got about 5 new names of foks who want to get on ULTRA’s yahoo group.

  30. Eric Fischer June 26, 2009 at 7:07 pm #

    I was just over at Safeway and they have signs up to notify the public of the preparation of an environmental impact report. A photo of the sign:

    The public hearing over the scope of the EIR is July 15. The sign also gives notice that they want to modify nearby streets (“including additional vehicle travel lanes and/or turn lanes”) even though Pleasant Valley and Broadway are already excessively wide.

  31. artemis June 26, 2009 at 11:05 pm #

    Just to answer David’s question, the recent for massive investment in both stores is that Safeway is “lifestyling” all of its stores (theoretically by 2010 but that seems unlikely at this point!)—so basically once they made a commitment to keep both stores, they made a commitment to do the renovations. All of the other East Bay Safeways that haven’t already been remodeled are going or are about to go through similar processes. (So people interested in this conceptually should keep an eye on notices for some of the other stores with lots of potential for total revisioning—the Solano and Shattuck stores in Berkeley come immediately to mind, since both are on major commercial corridors but use the same suburban model that the Pleasant Valley store does.)

  32. len raphael June 26, 2009 at 11:43 pm #

    about 20 years ago, i recall that safeway did a sale leaseback of most of its real estate. if that’s what they did for Bway PV site, it makes sense that the land owners would not want any housing on the site. smaller investors who do clean triple net leases of strip malls would not want the hassles of being residential landlords.

    I agree with many of John G’s points, including that housing would be desirable.

    Odd to hear some participants in this discuss state that the government should pressure the owner into becoming a residential landlord while previously taking a position in the rest of North Oakland that the government shouldn’t interfer in the free market decisions about highest and best use ie. re height.

    But that’s the past. We all worked together well on Kaiser 49th and can work together on this too.

    What leverage do we have to get changes in the plans?

    -len raphael

  33. DS July 2, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    wow, i am surprised to hear so many negative/naive comments on what looks to be a much needed overhaul of an outdated center. I agree with PRE and fear all this will slow things down. Especially the Longs issue.

    1. Long’s. I know everyone loves Longs, so do i, but it is a complete retail anomaly that will never be replicated. Besides the amazing variety the interior is beat. CVS will change it regardless. Not Safeway! They cant dictate what CVS does.

    2. Housing. It seems clear that Safeway does not own the land and has no capability to develop and manage housing. Sending them a letter or asking the city to “get involved” is not going to change their basic business model.

    3. Parking/Pedestrian Issue. There has to be parking. And if there will be more stores they will need more parking. However the rooftop parking will help keep it out of the way. the ped walk way along the reservoir looks good as does all the cross walks with islands in them.

    I agree there could be a few more tweaks but lets help the process not hinder it.

  34. david vartanoff July 4, 2009 at 5:42 pm #

    Safeway HAS built stores whousing–and who owns the land iud irrelevazny, a management company can oversee the housing no matter who is the paper owner of the dirt. The Longs store is the least of my concerns.This is an opportunity for oakland to repair a mistake. i am fine w/ the Saffeway being all the way in back. the important details are cleaning up the excess parking closest to the undersized sidewalks, gettimg AC to loop through the new center, and having rgw stores FACW the streets.

    Oh, and one more issue, AlLjobs in the center covenanted–no auto commuting to from work, employers must give transit passes to all..

  35. Robert July 5, 2009 at 8:56 am #

    david, do you have specifics where Safeway has built housing? it has been proposed many times but I have not heard of one being actually built. The housing management is a nonissue, that is not Safeway’s concern. But there are two legal entities involed, Safeway and landowner, and an existing lease between them. So if housing is diesired, it may take the city to step in and force it.

  36. david vartanoff July 5, 2009 at 10:14 pm #

    On ocean Avenue in SF there is a Safeway w/housing above built iiRC circa 20 years ago. Heading out Ocean, it is on the right side perhaps a mile from City College

  37. Robert July 6, 2009 at 7:24 am #

    20 years ago has no relationship to current development of stores or housing. I had thought you meant a more relevant, recent example.

    As far as I know there is no Safeway on Ocean in SF, you must be mixing it up with another chain or location.

    • david vartanoff July 6, 2009 at 4:48 pm #

      The Safeway is a couple blocks from the one time El Rey movie theater for many years now a church. As I haven’t been to the model train shop there in most of a year, can’t say as of today. As to a 20 year old precedent, I believe it IS relevant as evidence that it has been done and thus can again.
      The point in any event is that NOTHING prevents the city of Oakland from insisting on different designs for the land parcels in question. As in any negotiations, the style is ask for way more than is reasonable so that you can ‘give up’ parts of the design and still build what you want.. Likewise as citizens we ask for way better than think is realistic so that we can also be seen as compromising but get a seriously improved project.

      • Robert July 6, 2009 at 8:47 pm #

        In your negotiations everybody feels like they lost. I prefer discussions where everybody can feel like they win. You build far better relationships that way.

  38. Michael July 6, 2009 at 11:01 am #

    Yesterday, in need of plants and gardening stuff, I visited the ACE Hardware Garden Center on Grand Avenue, thinking that with Long’s closing, I’d better get used to going somewhere else for potting soil, mulch, and plants. It was OK, but nothing compared to Longs. Since I didn’t find what I was looking for, I went to Longs afterall, and of course found the variety and quality to be excellent. It made me all the more sad to think we are losing this wonderful garden center. If Safeway and the plaza’s owners were smart, they’d get Sloat Garden Center or another local nursery to commit to this remodel project. That would keep the shopping traffic going there and increase the value and quality of the other stores.

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