Community & Planning Commission united in calling for urban, pedestrian friendly Safeway development

16 Jul

So I was planning to write about the Public Works Committee hearing on the Oakland Airport Connector today, but that’s going to have to wait until tomorrow because I’m fired up after last night’s Safeway EIR Scoping Session at the Planning Commission.

During the public comment section, I was sure I had entered an alternate universe where ULTRA, STAND and RCPC agree on almost everything. If it had been April 1st, I would have suspected it was an April Fools joke. Seriously, can anyone point out to any project ever that all of those groups have agreed on? Probably not. (For those not in the know, STAND and RCPC oppose most dense developments in North Oakland and ULTRA embraces urban density.)

Of course, the groups didn’t all say exactly the same things. RCPC members, for example, had to take the opportunity to take jabs at the College Safeway project, but overall, the groups and their members expressed a similar vision. Here are some of the ideas and concerns that were brought up:

  • Pedestrian/bike/transit access & safety: This was the number one theme of the night. Everyone agreed that the current layout and Safeway’s current plans are unappealing and dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. As for transit, Larry Meyers from ULTRA pointed out that the 51 bus stop on Broadway is 1/4 mile from the Safeway! To make this space more friendly for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders, people suggested moving Safeway to the corner of Broadway and Pleasant Valley, moving most stores up to Pleasant Valley, hiding parking behind the stores, using parking structures instead of a surface lot, adding bike parking, mandating free transit passes for employees, having a free shuttle from BART, and extending streets and sidewalks so they go through the plaza.
  • Creating a connection between neighborhoods: Many speakers agreed that this plaza was partially responsible for a disconnect between Temescal, Piedmont, and Rockridge. Tom Dolan from ULTRA recommended extending the street network through the plaza, much like in Eric’s fantasy plans, to make the plaza feel like it was a part of these neighborhoods. He also recommended creating a civic space within the plaza, which he argued would bring more customers to Safeway. Others focused on architecture, expressing concerns that the current plan does not fit in with the architecture of any of the surrounding communities and explaining that Safeway has many relevant architectural styles to choose from.
  • Housing: I’m sure the commissioners expected ULTRA to call for housing to be added to this project, but having STAND and RCPC call for housing was very powerful. Everyone agreed that this is one of the best places for dense, urban housing and retail in all of North Oakland. Several speakers made connections between housing and the environment, arguing that people living in this new housing would walk to the retail below and therefore would not be contributing as much to greenhouse gas expansion. Others brought up the Conley Report, and how it recommends housing in this plaza.
  • Traffic flow: Several speakers were concerned about traffic flow, particularly around the Pleasant Valley and Broadway intersection. Ronnie Spitzer from RCPC said her son was hit by a car a couple months at that intersection and was concerned the increased traffic this project would bring would make it even more dangerous and congested. Stuart Flashman from RCPC recommended studying charging for parking, to discourage driving. A STAND member recommended studying parking usage at different times of day on different days of the week and also suggested “smart parking” – having an electronic sign that shows how many spaces available so cars don’t just drive around and around.
  • More community discussion needed: It seemed that nobody besides Safeway was happy with how their open houses went a few weeks ago. Speakers called for further meetings with the community to solicit input on the project. One speaker specifically called for Safeway to meet with residents of the senior housing complex across the street.

When the public comment ended, the commissioners spoke, first commending the speakers for sticking to talking about what the EIR should cover and not just complaining about the project. They all seemed extremely impressed by the community’s presentation and I wondered how it must have felt for them to have all of these groups who disagree on every development project finally come together on something. Annie Mudge said, “It’s remarkable that STAND and ULTRA agree on anything.”

The commissioners agreed with public sentiment about pedestrian, bike, and transit access, housing, tying the plaza to the community, and the need to create a more urban project. Several of them brought up SB 375 and the General Plan, and suggested that Safeway’s current plan might not comply with either of them. Oh, and practically all of them said that this Safeway is their primary supermarket and that they shop in this plaza often.

Sandra Galvez said that Safeway should keep in mind that this project will be here in 20-30 years, “not 20 years ago.” She thought the EIR should be very inclusive and broad because the project would “probably be drastically altered.”

Madeleine Zayas-Mart agreed that alternatives should “think big” and specifically recommended looking more closely at the Conley report. She argued that Safeway should make this more pedestrian friendly, which would attract more customers. She said she curently shops on College because it’s more pleasant to walk down, but that she would shop in this plaza more if it was more attractive to pedestrians.

Blake Hunstman said that this is a “jewel of a site” and an opportunity for mixed use alternatives. He didn’t understand the orientation of the site in Safeway’s current plans and thinks that they missed the opportunity to make Safeway and the other stores part of the community by bringing them to the street.

All of the above commissioners had strong concerns about the project but they all were a bit reserved in their comments. All of them until Michael Colbruno spoke, that is. He immediately said the current proposal feels like a “big mall” and that this is an opportunity for Safeway to “do the right thing.” He said he didn’t want to see Joyce Roy walk 1/4 mile for a quart of milk (in her comments she had said she has to walk through a sea of cars just for milk) and that he currently sees pedestrians walking in fear with their groceries. Colbruno argued that the pedestrian, bicyclist, transit user component should be key to Safeway’s project.

Colbruno continued, explaining that this development should look like Oakland (the crowd clapped), as Whole Foods has managed to do. He then said that the storefronts should face the streets directly (more clapping). Colbruno said that Safeway’s current plans were not a good corporate decision and that the project as is would fail for the corporation and the community.

As a model for what could be done with this development, Colbruno brought up the Target development in West Hollywood, which includes housing. He said this development produces a significant amount of West Hollywood’s sales tax (though that’s really not saying much since West Hollywood is tiny). He ended by saying that locally grown produce is very important to him, especially after seeing Food, Inc. and that he wondered if the EIR could study the effects of bringing produce from afar rather than from local sources. I care a lot about locally grown produce and buy nearly all my produce at the farmers market, but this request seemed a bit absurd.

After last night’s hearing, I imagine that Safeway and its representatives understand what the community and the Planning Commission wants to see, which is nothing short of scrapping the project and starting over. It was inspiring to see so many disparate groups come together for something more important, and it seemed to have worked. Now we’ll just have to wait and see what the EIR shows and what new plans Safeway comes back with.

Previous posts on this project:

41 Responses to “Community & Planning Commission united in calling for urban, pedestrian friendly Safeway development”

  1. John Gatewood July 16, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    I just want to add some of my favorite quotes from the Planning Commissioners last night as they excoriated Safeway.
    Huntsman –
    “Project could do so much more.” It could be a “jewel.” It is a “tremendous opportunity” for Safeway.
    He made what I think is the funniest comment of the night. I noticed he was carefully examining the glossy promotional flyer Safeway handed out to the commissioners and at the end of the evening he said; “I don’t see a union bug on this flyer and you are a union shop.”  Note to Safeway: When you are a union shop (which Safeway is) it is probably a good idea that you use a union printing company (of which there are many in the Bay Area) to produce your promotional material so you don’t look like such a schmuck in front of the union representative on the Planning Commission.

    Mudge –
    “The message is coming in loud and clear the direction Safeway should go in.”

    Colbruno –
    He had the harshest comments of the evening. “This project is not it. This looks like 20 years ago. It would fail for Safeway as presented tonight and it would fail for the community. I work in the corporate world and if you brought this project to me in a business meeting my comments would not be as measured as they are tonight.” He also quoted from the zoning code for the site to point out how this project does not remotely meet the intention of the zoning on this site.

  2. das88 July 16, 2009 at 10:45 am #

    I think Micheal Colbruno is right that the West Hollywood Gateway Project could serve as a model. It looks really nice – here’s a Flickr slideshow

    Like Pleasant Valley/51st it is at the intersection of two busy streets, yet it still faces out and engages the community. Internally there is a plaza. In the photos, I don’t even see any cars, though, there must be parking for the Target. They are able to make it in obtrusive.

    Our Oakland site has additional advantages that could make it even better. It is larger – WeHo only has 257,000 Sq Ft as opposed to I think ~325,000 proposed by Safeway and the community wants denser.

    Our Oakland site is already bustling and surrounded by high income homes. When I lived in WeHo that part of town was dismal and neglected.

    • Becks July 16, 2009 at 10:56 am #

      I like the WeHo project too, and there is parking. I believe it’s structured parking that isn’t very visible, though it’s been a little while since I’ve been there so I’m not 100% sure.

      One thing I love about WeHo is that although I have to drive to get there, once I’m there, it’s very walkable. When I work out of our LA office, I always walk to lunch, walk to get coffee, walk to get drinks after work. Most of the stores are directly on the street or only set back a little bit by parking. It’s a very inviting area for pedestrians.

  3. Sean Sullivan July 16, 2009 at 11:05 am #

    I am in solid agreement with Planning Commissioner Colbruno. Whenever I hear anyone talk about how large format retail immediately must translate into a surburban style parking lot, I immediately point to the West Hollywood Target.

    I also concur that Safeway, Lucky’s etc would do us all better to join Whole Foods in stating the sourcing and distance traveled by the food they provide, at the very least the produce. This can come from an engaged consumer base that demands it but when we can have assistance from government leadership in this regard it helps hasten the fight.

    • Becks July 16, 2009 at 11:10 am #

      I’m all for local food Sean, but I just don’t think it’s an issue to be studied in an EIR. I do think it’s something our city, state, and federal government should encourage in other ways though.

      • Michael Colbruno July 17, 2009 at 7:20 am #

        The issue of locally grown produce is exactly the type of thing that we should be asking about in an EIR. This is how major change comes about, by asking the big, visionary questions. It seemed like a stretch when I first made a notation about it, but the more I thought about, I realized that is imperative that we ask this question. It will change the way we deliver food, it will be good for the environment and it will benefit the local economy. It would also be a smart business decision for Safeway as it was for Wal-Mart when they stopped selling milk with growth hormones.

        • Becks July 17, 2009 at 7:32 am #

          Michael – you clearly know more about EIRs than I do, but I’m having a hard time understanding how this fits into an EIR. Can you explain what you envision being covered? Has this issue been included in an EIR anywhere else?

        • Transbay July 17, 2009 at 8:04 am #

          There are a number of ways you could hook the local food thing into CEQA if you wanted to, depending on the circumstances. For one thing, if the greenhouse gas emissions for your project are out of control or cumulatively significant, project sponsor could agree on locality as a mitigation measure. Shorter delivery distance for reduced GHG emissions.

  4. Robert July 16, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

    Just a comment on the push for housing on the Pleasant Valley site. I will pass over the questionable economics of housing in this economic climate, and the problems inherent in Safeway leasing the property and not being the owner, and just look at the environmental impact of adding housing. This site has the potential for having a positive impact on greenhouse gases, but housing won’t actually generate the positive impact. The greatest positive impact is not obtained by having people be able to walk to the supermarket, it is going to be created by diverting trips from the community from Walnut Creek, etc., to this center for comparison goods shopping. It is well situated to capture at least some of the retail leakage that is occurring. And getting people to drive a mile or two to this center has a huge positive impact compared to driving twenty miles or more to WC or Pleasanton, and even is better than driving to Emeryville. Cutting down on trips of less than a mile to buy groceries has a much smaller impact.

    I am actually pretty neutral on the housing issues, but only if it doesn’t impact retail. Anything that diverts comparison retail to other uses is an environmental negative. There are plenty of other opportunities in the area where high density housing can be added in the future when the economic climate makes more sense, such as up and down Broadway. Those areas are not as well configured to support larger format comparison goods stores, while the Pleasant Valley center is. In addition, a focus on retail can help Oakland capture some of the sales taxes that are currently being lost to other cities.

    The Conley Report, which has been used by several to support housing on this site, is actually silent on the issue. While the one example sketch does show housing, there is no mention of it in the text, nor is it indicated or implied in the enhancements or priorities, whereas improved comparison goods retail is supported in the report.

    • V Smoothe July 17, 2009 at 8:24 am #

      Two things, Robert. First the Conley Implementation Plan, which I linked for you previously, does specify a preferred development option with housing on the site – one with 230,000 SF of housing, specifically. So I simply cannot comprehend why you keep saying it doesn’t. It’s very clear in the report.

      Second, the current design of the proposed project does not support comparison goods retail (again, as explained clearly in the report), so it will not be preventing any trips to Walnut Creek. If you want comparison goods shopping, you have to radically redesign the project.

      • Robert July 17, 2009 at 11:38 am #

        I keep say it’s not there because it’s not there in the Implementation Plan. The implementation plan presents one diagram of the site, with no indication that it is the preferret site, or why this option was choosen. and there is no indication in the implementation plan of the specific amount of housing suggested for the site. So the drawing without any context or justification cannot be taken as an endorsement. These things may exist in the other, unknown report, but not in this one.

        With the exception of grocery and drug stores, most convenience shopping tends to be smaller format. So the four indicated major tenants are likely to be comparison goods. Since tenants have not been identifed it is not a sure thing. I guess they could all be banks, but that seems somewhat unlikely. Also, if you had read my comment, I was suggesting putting more retail on this site to further enhance the benefit.

  5. John Gatewood July 16, 2009 at 3:26 pm #

    Response to Robert – Actually the Conley Report does discuss housing. You need to read the; “Oakland Retail Strategy – Illustrative Design Plan.” It is the more detailed report that contains multiple alternatives for the Safeway site. The “Oakland Retail Strategy – Implementation Plan” is a separate, shorter document and is the one you are referring to in your post.
    In the “Illustrative Design Plan” please turn to page 67 of the report. It lists 208,100 SF of residential housing in the report’s “Option 2” for the site. On page 74 the report lists for “Option 3” 230,800 SF of residential housing. “Option 1” which appears earlier in the report is roughly comparable to Safeway’s latest proposal for the site and has no housing.

  6. Robert July 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm #


    As I have requested before, do you have a link to it. It is not searchable on oaknet, and was not part of the CEDA agenda provide by V.

  7. Max Allstadt July 16, 2009 at 6:07 pm #

    Does housing need to be an immediate component? If the ground floors of some of the structures on site are build to hold another four stories of stick framed housing, that component could be built in a second phase, like they did at Bay Street in Emeryville.

    When I think about STAND and ULTRA agreeing on this, it actually makes sense. ULTRA wants to add density everywhere. STAND probably sees this site as a great way to add density away from their beloved obsolete single-family-detached neighborhoods. Everybody wins! (I wonder if Lowney Architecture is going to get a call about this. Or if they have already…)

  8. CLH July 16, 2009 at 6:38 pm #

    Thanks so much for this terrific & thorough summary of last night’s meeting. Still, I don’t understand why you’ve got to take a “jab” at the folks who want to see Safeway rebuild the College Ave Safeway better and take into consideration the cumulative impact and respective uses/needs of both sites. It’s not unreasonable to differ, nor are those people unreasonable who sometimes differ in their perspectives . . . last night being a good example. I stand by what I’ve said before: you’ve got a lot to offer, but demonizing or demeaning folks who see things (only a little bit) differently seems gratuitous and unconstructive.

    • Becks July 16, 2009 at 8:54 pm #

      You’re welcome CLH, but I’m not sure I understand what you mean. I’d admit that I’ve taken jabs in the past at people who have vehemently opposed the College Safeway, but I didn’t do so in this post. I actually only mentioned that in an off handed way. I’m very curious to know what in my post you found “demonizing or demeaning.”

      Also, I actually think that the people who oppose the College Safeway remodel see things more than a little bit differently than me, at least when it comes to city planning.

      • CLH July 18, 2009 at 12:17 pm #

        I guesss I thought this phrase was gratuitous “RCPC members, for example, had to take the opportunity to take jabs at the College Safeway project,” especially since cumulative impacts and effects are real, one mile apart, and had a legitimate place in the discussion. In my opinion, the points don’t need to be dismissively characterized as “jabs” and RCPC/FANS didn’t “take the opportunity” so much as assert the relevance of those impacts.

        I suspect you’re right that there are more than mere differences between your vision for city planning and the various neighborhood groups’ hopes & concerns for that space. That said, “the people who oppose the College Safeway remodel” is a handy & fantastic generalization. I know from experience that there is no single monolith, and I hope you’ll consider a less good-and-evil approach . . . is all. I think there’s more to be gained & learned than demagoguery, from any camp, will permit.

        • Becks July 18, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

          Fair enough. Maybe the phrase was a bit gratuitous – I was just trying to show that the Pleasant Valley Safeway project hasn’t suddenly brought RCPC, STAND, and ULTRA together on other projects.

          However, I don’t think grouping people together who oppose the College Safeway remodel is a generalization in and of itself. I never said they all think exactly the same way about everything, but I do think they think differently about city planning than I do. And I know some of these people say they don’t oppose a remodel of the College Safeway, but realistically, they oppose any remodel that would be financially viable for Safeway.

  9. Naomi from Oakland July 16, 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    I think the whole project could use an analysis of how it will meet city objectives (even if not legally required yet) for green building and green business. Where are the solar panels? How are they ensuring the least amount of diesel use in deliveries? What are the recycling goals? Could they reduce the amount of plastic packaging? Can they give up on plastic bags? In addition to full traffic analysis, of course. But also: some Safeways deliver groceries; could they use electric vehicles for this? In addition to real solid attempts to encourage non-car travel, there are many other things they could do to cut waste, to reduce energy use, and to set an example. Is there a way to reduce runoff from the enormous paved surface? Could a lot of it be permeable? Many such measures may raise initial cost slightly but should reduce overhead costs over the longer run.

  10. OaklandSpaceAcademy July 16, 2009 at 9:41 pm #

    Max is on to something here. This site is just too big, our ambitions too great, and the economic climate too uncertain to think of this in one piece. This is a 12-18 year, 2-4 phase project.

    But I do think Safeway (and/or the property owner) needs to show some good faith. Locate the buildings correctly, develop some ancillary commercial buildings and/or housing concurrent with the new store, and then come back and develop the site more densely.

    But, at least from the flickr images posted, I just don’t see the West Hollywood development as all that great of a model. It has that weird urban festival marketplace vibe that permeates Jack London Square and vast swaths of Emmeryville. C’mon folks, aim higher!

    • Max Allstadt July 16, 2009 at 11:47 pm #

      The West Hollywood pics definitely show an aesthetic that will never fly in Rockridge.

      However, because the site is bounded by a cliff, a quarry and two avenues, and because it is controlled by a big company, I don’t think we can expect anything other than some variation of a mall. I’m just hoping for a better mall. Baystreet has airyness. Paseo Nuevo in Santa Barbara has a great pedestrian feel. Both are somewhat sterile, but in this country, all shopping centers are sterile.

      • dto510 July 17, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

        How about a real mall? We could use a Beverly Center….

        • das88 July 17, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

          Thanks but no thanks.

          I think I liked it better when it was Ponyland.

    • lorraine - Rockridge HOA July 17, 2009 at 8:42 am #

      hey OaklandSpaceAcademy!

      at the wednesday mtg, you mentioned a development in your old stomp back east. Where was that and are there any links to it? I’m becoming a disseminator on info for our HOA here and want to give them a feel for what you were talking with the CPC member were talking about.

      Becks, Nice recap! I’m adding the link to this page in my correspondence about the mtg.

  11. OaklandSpaceAcademy July 17, 2009 at 10:19 pm #

    Lorraine – I wasn’t referring to a specific development, but rather a complete reworking in the late 90s of Milwaukee’s zoning code into one based much more on urban form. This essentially outlawed suburban-style building in the city and promoted urbanism. Even in the furthest reaches, on nominally suburban traffic arterials, you now find new commercial buildings built to the sidewalk with parking in back.

    Basically, Milwaukee made it real easy for developers to do the right thing and really hard to do the wrong thing, and guess what, most now do the right thing. Development became straightforward and predictable, which resulted in a building boom (developers like predictable). Here, everything is hard, with the resultant huge decreases in affordability that hard entails.

    Milwaukee also worked to eliminate parking requirements (mins or maxs) because markets are much better than governments at determining the correct supply and price of parking. In fact, the City got out of the off-street parking business almost altogether, selling off city-owned lots so that they could be built upon, taking land off the public dole and putting it into productive, tax-generating use. But Milwaukee wasn’t anti-car, Mayor Norquist was famous for his Saturday morning drives with traffic engineers, asking them why there wasn’t a parallel parking spot here or there, and when unsatisfied with the dumb answers usually given (it blocks drivers views (what, so folks can drive faster?!!), he would order a meter installed.

    Even though their plan sucks and their ears are made of tin, I kinda feel for the Safeway team. I’m sure they don’t know quite what hit them. At the end of the day, they were just following what the zoning code told them they could do.

    • Robert July 18, 2009 at 4:26 pm #

      I am inclined to feel pretty sorry for Safeway, particularly in the context of the Colege Ave discussions. On College neighbors complaigned that the plan was too big, it was out of scale for the neighborhood, and they didn’t think anything needed to change, just spruce up the building. So on Rockridge Safeway presents a plan that doesn’t change much, is not a lot bigger, is very much in scale with the buildings on the other sides of both PV and B’way, is compatibile witht he auto-centric nature of much of their market in Upper Rockridge, Piedmont and Lakeshore/Crocker Highlands, and they get blindsided by the neighborhood activists, some of whom were the same folks who were complaigning about the College store. And the tone, at least in the blogs, has been very dismissive of Safewya’s attempt. I could understand if they think that Oakland is totally schizo. I would be very sympathetic if they feel somewhat abused.

      As you noted, they complied with the zoning code and with the general plan, and some of the changes demanded by the city and the neighbors will require variances from the existing zoning, such as the 4 of 5 story buildings suggested. (C-30 has a 45 foot height limit I think.) There are also seem to be setback requirments for the PV frontage.

  12. Karen Hester July 18, 2009 at 9:22 am #

    Thanks Becks for the incisive recap of the meeting. I appreciate Naomi’s commnets about how to “green” the whole project. The only thing missing from the mix I think is to ask Safeway to provide a “community room” in the project. I was just at Berkeley Bowl West last week and they have built a gorgeous laarge (maybe 2500 sf) community space that I assume will be rented by non-profits etc. I’m not sure if they came up with the idea on their own but it seems smart for them to do in terms of community relations. I could see all kinds of lectures and events at such a place in the Rockridge/Temescal. Think chefs teaching cooking classes. etc and other food related seminars and tastings.

  13. david vartanoff July 18, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    To summarise.
    Safeway project requirements.
    1. NO employees may commute by auto in the entire project area. Emloyers will subsidise transit passes, a small quantity of ‘zip’ share cars will be available for the occasional emergency.
    2. minimum of TOP LEED certification for each and every building.
    Full solar PV as in enough to provide the entire project stand alone power AND include charging plugs at parking spaces.
    3. Buildings on B’way, PV will have sidewalk entry doors open during business hours.
    4. AC to cycle through the area–see Transbay Blog’s better project map for revised streets.
    5. Include housing on upper floors.

    As many others have noted, this is not in a vacuum and if done right will be useful for at least a couple decades. A chance for Oakland to achieve a superior project.

    • Max Allstadt July 18, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

      #1 and #2 = so not happening. LEED certification, maybe. Silver? If we’re lucky. A Platinum certified mall? Very very unlikely.

      Standalone power? Nopw.

      3-5 are totally achievable. Though I don’t think you need to actually bring busses into the lot in order to make the most of transit.

      • Robert July 18, 2009 at 4:06 pm #

        #3 seems unlikely, although if you can find successful small retail owners that would consider that to be desirable space I would reconsider. With little pedestrian traffic on the street, most retail would prefer to face inwards where bulk of the mall customers are. Once the other side of broadway is more inviting, facing the street on that side would be more feasible.

        #3 I dont’ care, but I am not sure how making everyone travelling on the bus spend another few minutes driving through a mall is a good thing for ACTransit riders overall.

        #2 I too would like to see charging stations, but there aren’t any standards yet.

        And david, “requirements” is such an unfreindly term. It sounds too much like “demands”.

        • Max Allstadt July 18, 2009 at 7:15 pm #

          especially with “NO” in all caps.

        • James F July 19, 2009 at 11:34 am #

          I, too, feel the “requirements” posturing as counter productive here.

          Putting forth the perception that the community is unwilling to comprimise and/or work with the applicant to reach a middle ground which benefits both sides is a great way to kill a project, or at the very least lessen their willingness to engage and work with the community.

          Establishing a clear dialogue and fostering an understanding of wants, needs and limitations on both sides will make the process more efficient and beneficial for all involved.

  14. david vartanoff July 18, 2009 at 10:27 pm #

    3. So in the next ac transit cuts plan, some change is likely to the 12 which if it lost two minutes getting through the shopping center in trade for a stop in front of the current safeway while it remains open would make the store more transit useful.I believe I suggested in a different thread on this topic that changing the route to access children’s hospital as a direct crosstown seemed moe useful than the short run on 55th. Further, in ac’s plans they are contemplating breaking the 51 in two at the rockridge bart. If instead, as another poster suggested, they created a limited or express 51st would be a logical endpoint because express and college avenue aren’t congruent.

    As to leed, solar, and transit passes/no auto commuting, well, yes city regulations are demands. Kinda like no left turn signs, no smoking, etc. We as citizens do empower our city to regulate some behaviors. To me insisting on greener buildings flows directly from the recently enacted state law calling for ghg reduction. And, looking back at other efforts to change societal behaviors, if now is not yet the right time to push for these goals, when will it be?

  15. OaklandSpaceAcademy July 19, 2009 at 9:11 pm #

    Count me among those who think David V’s “requirements” are mostly silly, when not downright counterproductive. Why anyone interesting in making this development green would consider LEED is beyond me. The main premise of LEED is that we can solve the environmental problems buildings create by choosing better carpet. Like most building codes, LEED is essentially anti-urban, though LEED-ND is a step in the right direction. Like most monopolies, LEED is incredibly inefficient, and inefficiencies are by definition anti-environment. Cities like Oakland need to be pushing back against LEED, not further cementing it.

    The notion that we should treat employees visiting the site different from others is ridiculous. Can you imagine the amount of paperwork and enforcement that would be involved in ensuring NO employees commute car? Far better would be to decouple parking from housing to create a micro-market for parking on the site. If an employee can afford to park their car all shift, so be it.

    Finally, having AC Transit troll through side streets should be a non-starter. Buses should keep to main thoroughfares – that walk from Safeway back to Broadway and/or Pleasant Valley just needs to be much nicer.

    Entrances on Broadway and Pleasant Valley and housing and upper floors are good ideas though.

  16. david vartanoff July 20, 2009 at 6:08 pm #

    Okay, we have a plot of land which we hope will employ x and attract y customers. So, if we can decrease the parking spaces wasted by employees, we get more space for customers, or more square feet of of rentable space. What’s not to like? Having the city encourage or mandate fewer parking slots is really just reworking current zoning guidlines to reflect a change in attitude toward single occupancy vehicle usage.
    Why have the bus(es) cruise through? you ask. Currently AC is working on a major cuts/restructuring pland. As well their is a specific attempt to improve the 51 College Ave route. One of their ideas is to break the 51 in two at Rockridge BART. I think doing this at the 51st center might be more useful. Why? Because as others have noted, and AC’s documents show, the 51 has very little traffic interference south of College. Thus it w migh well be that the net bus runs south of 51st could be faster and more efficient if not delayed by the north half. Next item, the 12 crosstown is also up for revision. If you agree that the alternative vision here s a better plan, you might see that having transit access improved within the center could encourage usage. It is also possible that AC may trim the 12 such that the center could be a terminal. In the latter case a dedicated ‘inside’ point for layover/driver rest time would be useful–particularly providing toilet facilities.
    erhaps, all his is just a transit advocate’s dreaming.

    As to LEED, I admit to very little experience w/same–I was ttrying to indicate a desire for genuine Green building results. This project, the Safeway at Claremont, both give Oakland opportunities to correct mistakes of prior eras–kinda like tighter cafe/lower particulate regs. And as to solar PV/thermal within the mix, why not?

  17. david vartanoff July 21, 2009 at 8:51 am #

    Robert, please substitute ” smoking in the work area” and tell me again why a soft request will work, and a ban is unnecessary. I see single use petro based commutation as a similarly serious health issue and a socially divisive behavior.

  18. Frank Snapp July 25, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    We must prevent Safeway Real Estate from closing the now CVS Nursery that has been at this Pleasant Valley Road property/site for more than 30 years. There are other nurseries being forced out of business too. The problem with losing this one is that the prices are reasonable, the quality of the material is high, the WORKERS are going to lose their jobs and they are actually working for a business entity that I, as a long-time guerilla gardener heartily rely on to green my gorgeous section of Oakland, the City that I deeply LOVE!!! Please tell me where there are others here fighting this unnecessary and in our control to change death of a nursery. Thank you very much. We can not allow corporate greed, under ANY circumstances, close a single other magical thing in this City. That is a profitable nursery and I have CVS’ written commitment to keep that nursery open but for SAFEWAY’s malfeasance [greed] in this property redux development matter. We can stop this crime. We must do so. Frank Snapp North Oakland Geurilla Gardener.

    • lorraine - Rockridge HOA July 26, 2009 at 7:32 am #

      I feel ya’ Frank! I finally fulfilled a 35 yr dream to live in the east bay – PV condos at Broadway – a few yrs ago. Fairly new at the time, in Sept ’07, i went to a mtg Safeway set up at the, now privately owned, Monarch nursing home at Gilbert and PV. I was struck by the fact that many neighbors repeatedly said that Longs, specifically the Garden Center, was why they went to the center, and incidentally went to Safeway on their way out. The safeway rep finally went ballistic and said something like, “We ARE moving to the Longs site and there will be NO garden center… PERIOD!”

      When i first moved here i asked people where to get plants for my tiny balcony garden. I can’t count the times folks from every part of the east bay said, “No need to go to Berkeley Hortic or Grand Ace, or …. You know where the Long’s Super Store on PV is? They’re the best! Best prices. Great staff. They seem to magically know what we want each year and can bring in what isn’t there, if we ask.” Little did i know, i bought a place across the street from a beloved garden ctr, as well as being at the intersection of 3 great neighborhoods! (My condos are called “Rockridge”, even though we’re in the Piedmont neighborhood – go figya!)

      At the recent “open houses” conveniently set up so that there would be no “public comment” for us to organize around (as the last neighbor to leave, i overheard the COO say to one of his people), again the one theme that was heard was, please don’t close the garden center! Of course at that time – this is no exaggeration – the doe-eyed young woman said in a sweet, innocent voice, head cocked to the side, “But we don’t have anything to do with it. That’s CVS’ decision.”

      There was no mention of this at the city scoping mtg. Maybe it isn’t an EIR issue. Regardless, i’m going to review the list of EIR questions tonight, so that i can get my comments in to the city TOMORROW, THE LAST DAY FOR PUBLIC COMMENT TO BE SUBMITTED on the EIR. Checklist for the California Environmental Quality Act: Submit comments by email to

      Frank, there’s another active thread talking about this center at – – You might talk it up there too.

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