What do we want for the Pleasant Valley Safeway project?

1 Jul

I’m often a bit surprised by which of my posts generate the most comments. For example, I never could have imagined that my post earlier this year on alternatives to a surface parking lot in Uptown would ultimately led to a movement to stop it. And though I knew many people would miss the Big Longs on Pleasant Valley, I was pleasantly surprised at how immediately so many of you were willing to engage, either by sharing your comments here or by attending the meetings last week.

The meetings were a bit of a disappointment, especially since they turned out to be just a presentation of the images that were already available online and a couple opportunities to speak with Safeway reps (some of whom either didn’t know what they were talking about or lied). But whether Safeway holds more meetings or not, this project will becoming to the Planning Commission several times before it is approved. The first hearing will be on Wednesday, July 15 at 6pm, even though one of the Safeway reps told me she had no idea when this would be coming before the commission. So put it on your calendar and I’ll be sure to remind you as the date approaches.

Before that though, it’s important to think about what we want. I sometimes fall into the trap of focusing on what I don’t want. For example, one thing this project does not need is more parking. I wanted to make sure of that so I stopped by on Sunday afternoon, and I was even a bit surprised at how empty the parking lot was. This was taken in front of Longs, from the middle of the first section of parking:

empty longs lot 1

And this was the parking situation near Pet Food Express and Chase:

empty longs lot 2

Now I know it sometimes gets more crowded than this (I’ve seen it more crowded), but nobody’s going to convince me that more parking is needed.

But what do we want? Many want Longs to stay or something to take over its myriad of 24 hour offerings. Others have called for housing on top of retail. And some of us would like serious bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements. But only one person I know has taken the time to come up with an actual plan to meet some of these needs.

Eric at Transbay Blog proposed this:

Green = two height classes. Pink = pedestrian alley/plaza. Yellow = commercial storefront (does not represent a different height).

You’ll have to head over to his blog for an explanation, but as you can see, it includes dense development and no surface parking. It also has a much more urban feel and includes residential on top of retail.

I love this proposal. Do I think Safeway will go for it? Probably not, but that’s ok. We need a starting point. We need to ask for what we want and then compromise from there. It’s not nearly as productive to keep telling Safeway what’s wrong with their proposal, unless we can show them what a desirable proposal looks like.

Thanks to Eric for taking the time to put this together. I’d love to hear thoughts on this or hear about alternate proposals.

10 Responses to “What do we want for the Pleasant Valley Safeway project?”

  1. SA July 1, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    You must have hit the Pet Express lot at a very lucky time, Becks – it is almost always packed, particularly when the Chase/WaMu is open as people jockey for spots in order to use the bank. But the back half of the Long’s lot is usually empty.

    I would say that parking in a better layout is needed – the biggest issue I see with the current setup is that the shopping that most relies on having cars (grocery shopping) is facing a small, crowded area of the lot with poor ingress and egress due to the way it’s at right angles to the main connection to Pleasant Valley. But it’s difficult and dangerous to try to get groceries over to a car that’s in the corner of the lot that’s always empty – the pavement is terrible, traffic flow is a nightmare for a pedestrian, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t fancy being a Safeway employee trying to bus carts out of that corner back to the store either.

    Moving the Safeway to the larger space helps that some, as it faces a much larger lot currently, but I’m in favor of shifting some of the parking to underground or on the rooftop if it makes space for further infill.

  2. Tony July 1, 2009 at 6:55 pm #

    I would like to see plans incorporating the old quarry and lake next to the former Emil Villa’s. Maybe a linear park along Quarry Rd with a pedestrian path leading to it from College & Broadway.

    Your right that Safeway wouldn’t go for it. The Long’s space wouldn’t be visible from the street if the current parking lot was built up.

  3. Hayden July 1, 2009 at 11:20 pm #

    I’d like a couple things:

    1. Make the parking invisible by (ideally) making it structure parking that is behind whatever retail/mixed use works best for the surrounding neighborhoods and in front of the CAC cliff. In other words, nix the visual blight of the surface parking. As needed, keep a few short-term spots near short term uses like banks. In an ideal world (here I am thinking of how the Swiss approach denser residential urban parking–structures under landscaped open space) you could put the parking in front and either raise or lower the site grade, covering the parking with something useful to people, as opposed to people-in-cars.

    2. Orient the site’s commercial use to maximize focus on the (currently somewhat beleaguered) Broadway commercial corridor, particularly as it comes off of College. Visually invite pedestrians into the area.

    3. Retrain the Safeway store manager so Safeway increases the number of checkers and people don’t have to stand in 20+ minute lines at night. This problem doesn’t seem to occur at other Safeways I shop at night.

    4. Provide ready access for 51 bus passengers–a number of whom use the bus to transport their groceries–who now have to hoof it down to Broadway and 51st to pick up the bus.

  4. Chris Kidd July 2, 2009 at 9:34 am #

    One of my main fears is that no amount of street frontage for the area proposed(especially along broadway) will be succesful without a major redesign of the street to induce traffic calming. As it stands, Broadway is 7-8 lanes of traffic at its intersection with Pleasant Valley/51st, there’s no street parking to buffer pedestrians, the sidewalks are pretty narrow compared to the enormous roadway, and the general topography of the intersection leaves the area feeling open and exposed. I think the intersection would need a complete redesign in order to encourage pedestrian traffic to Safeway from outside of the proposed development that Eric put up.

    Fast-tracking the proposed housing development across Broadway in the current brownfield sitting there couldn’t hurt either(though the proposal that the planning commission threw back to design review months ago was pretty heinous).

  5. PRE July 2, 2009 at 9:47 am #

    Fast-tracking the proposed housing development across Broadway in the current brownfield sitting there couldn’t hurt either(though the proposal that the planning commission threw back to design review months ago was pretty heinous).

    Interesting – is there a link of the proposal that you can provide?

  6. bethh July 2, 2009 at 9:58 am #

    I’d like to second Hayden’s comment about getting more checkers at Safeway: I only shop there when absolutely desperate for that very reason. To be fair, that’s usually late at night, but the lines at Safeway at 11pm-midnight are completely insane. It’s seriously worth dragging a buddy along just to hop in line the minute we get there.

    I wish Safeway would take a page from the Pacific Northwest chain called Fred Meyer: it’s got groceries, and all the things that Super Long’s offers, including wine, plants, clothes, auto parts, camping gear.. it’s awesome. If Super Long’s is going away, Safeway really could fill that niche rather than leave us with no late-night options.

    Finally, yes: make it more visually pleasing, better oriented to pedestrians, and more inclusive of the Broadway shops.

  7. Pinky July 2, 2009 at 10:49 am #

    I went to the art school there, and have lived and shopped in that area for seven or so years now. The parking over by Longs is always empty. My husband and I have often comments on what an enormous waste of parking space it is. What I really hate is seeing when it is packed in front of Safeway, and people jostling for spots there instead of parking a few yards away where there is always room. People seem allergic to walking sometimes

  8. Chris Kidd July 2, 2009 at 1:33 pm #

    PRE, I’m having trouble tracking the specific project down, but I think it went before the planning commission in late ’07 or early ’08. I remember it specifically because Boxer and Colbruno were shocked that the project had garnered support from a Rockridge NIMBY-ish group (not STAND, some other group that I can’t place right now) when the current design was so drastically out of character with the surrounding neighborhood. The representative of that group’s halfhearted response was that the project fit within current zoning without needing a variance and would remove a brownfield from the city. The developer was scolded by the PC and they sent it back to design review.

    I have no idea what the current status of the project is. If I stumble across it while looking through archived PC agendas, I’ll post it up here.

    • JohnnyG July 7, 2009 at 9:22 am #

      The brown field project you are referring to is at the site of the old gas station where Delancey St. used to have their Christmas Tree lot. Both RCPC and STAND spoke in support of the project because it conformed with zoning and did not require a major variance. An overly legalistic view of development issues in my opinion. The owner of the site is now trying to sell it with its entitlements.

      • Chris Kidd July 7, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

        Thank you Johnny.

        Yeah, the meeting really stood out in my mind because it was the only time I could remember where not only STAND supported a new project, but the Planning Commission also was against it. Man bites dog for real.

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