Last night’s Planning Commission hearing on the College Avenue Safeway went well overall. Sure, the neighbors showed up in force to try to stop the project or at least to greatly reduce the scale of the project. But it was just a scoping session so staff and commissioners repeatedly reminded them to stick to scoping issues and that the merits of the project would be discussed later.
As I listened to speaker after speaker talk about their grave concerns about an expanded Safeway, I realized that they seemed to believe that the cost of doing nothing is nothing – that if we leave Safeway the way it is, there would be no cost to the neighborhood, environment, or the economy. I’d like to borrow a concept that Robert at the California High Speed Rail blog came up with about HSR – the cost of doing nothing is not nothing. Robert argued that not building HSR would end up costing the state much more in the long run, with increased air and car traffic, needs to upgrade airports and highways, pollution, etc.
In the same vein, we need to ask the question: what is the cost of leaving the Safeway as it is now? John Gatewood from ULTRA came up with these questions, about the environmental impacts of leaving the store as is:
- How efficient are the existing HVAC systems in the present store?
- How efficient are the existing refrigeration and freezer units?
- How efficient is the energy usage?
- How efficient is the existing loading dock? Do trucks need to idle longer because of lack of space, etc?
- How efficient is the existing parking lot configuration? Do drivers spend too much time looking for a space?
- What is the “embodied energy” of the existing structure, the energy that went into producing the materials used in the existing structures?
- What are the energy and carbon footprint coasts of demo’ing the existing structures and can these be recouped in the energy efficiencies and more environmentally sound new construction?
Beyond environmental impacts, the current store has real negative impacts on the neighborhood that effect quality of life and local business. In my comments to the Planning Commission last night, I told my story of being a pedestrian that frequently goes to that Safeway, as it’s a short walk from my home. Getting to the Safeway on foot is a nightmare – there are multiple opportunities to get hit by cars, and there are multiple times when both car driver’s and pedestrian’s views are obstructed. Part of the reason for this is that there are so many driveways – 9 in total on College and Claremont. Just the fact that the new Safeway will reduce the curb cuts from 9 to 4 will be a huge benefit to pedestrians, bicyclists, and to safety.
I’ve mentioned this before, but the current Safeway and its huge surface parking lot is a blight on the neighborhood that’s quite creepy at night. It is also entirely uninviting – unless I’m going to Safeway I avoid that side of the street entirely and often just go to a different part of Rockridge that’s more inviting to do my shopping.
The cost of doing nothing looks like this:
While doing something looks like this:
To me, the decision is obvious. I’m tired of this dangerous, ugly, and uninviting store being the center of the Alcatraz/College/Claremont shopping district. The cost of doing nothing is high, especially when we have the potential for a beautiful designed Safeway with hidden parking and more small, street level stories to keep the neighborhood dynamic.
If you’re interested in the details of the last night’s meeting, you can see coverage on Twitter #oakmtg. I just joined Twitter this week and will be using it primarily to cover Oakland meetings. You can find me @oaklandbecks.
Previous posts on College & Claremont Safeway:
- 11/12/09: John Gatewood: Safeway at College @ Claremont – Opportunity to Enhance an Urban Village
- 5/7/09: Safeway submits application, but “concerned neighbors” are not so happy about it
- 4/30/09: Safeway unveils new design plans for College Avenue store
- 2/15/09: College Safeway Update
- 12/8/08: Safeway stakeholders meeting canceled (or postponed?)
- 11/12/08: Safeway on College might be stuck with a “patch and paint” job
- 6/22/08: Safeway Community Meeting Turns into Public Venting Session