UPDATE: Though some public comment was made on the Safeway DEIR at the 7/20 Planning Commission meeting, the item was continued until Wednesday, August 3rd. At that meeting, public comment will continue and the planning commissioners will provide their feedback on the DEIR.
After years of community meetings and plenty of delay, the College Avenue Safeway is finally going to the Planning Commission tonight (Wednesday, July 20th) for a hearing on its draft environmental impact report (DEIR). I had hoped to write a post about this last week well in advance of the hearing, but I got busy and then spent a long time reading the DEIR. So the long substantive post will have to come post-hearing, but I wanted to at least alert folks that the hearing is happening.
To refresh your memory, since it’s been more than a year and a half since I’ve blogged about this project, the proposal is to replace the hideous Safeway on College and Claremont that is surrounded by a sea of parking and a gas station. You know, this place:
As I wrote in 2009:
The current store has real negative impacts on the neighborhood that affect 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.
I can’t imagine many designs that would be worse than the current store, but the most recent design presented by Safeway in the DEIR is a huge improvement.
Actually, it’s not much different from what Safeway proposed back in 2009. Here’s what I wrote about it then:
I love that the design is much more bike and pedestrian oriented than the current store and parking lot. Nearly all of the parking will be hidden behind the retail stores on the ground floor and underneath the larger Safeway store that will be on the second floor. Safeway is giving up some of its property to increase the width of the street and the sidewalk. Also, there’s tons of bike parking and places to sit.
I do have a few concerns about pedestrian impacts though. They’re keeping the driveway on College, which I think is a very bad idea. It causes traffic jams and is dangerous for pedestrians. Also, there’s going to be a bus stop on College but no actual space for the bus to pull into. I’m not sure I understand how this will work, but I was promised that this was what AC Transit wanted. On the bright side, Safeway is working with AC Transit to put in a bus shelter complete with NextBus, which will be a huge improvement over the current bus stop that doesn’t even have a bench. And Safeway is looking into providing AC Transit eco-passes for its employees.
As for the store, it will be 49,000 square feet, compared to its current 25,000 feet. I think an expansion is sorely needed. The current store has very narrow aisles and just isn’t very pleasant to shop in…
They’ll have 175 parking spaces in their lot (compared to the 106 spots they currently have), all of which will be available to Safeway customers and the public. They’ve planned a closed area for trucks because neighbors have complained about loud trucks at night. They’ve also moved their generator as far from residences as possible.
The proposal includes space for up to eight new small retail spaces along College underneath the Safeway store, including a space for a restaurant at the corner of College and Safeway. On top of that corner space will be a rooftop plaza open to the public that includes much outdoor seating, which is sorely needed in the area:
And Lowney Architecture did a beautiful job with the design:
Of course, such a big change will have plenty of impacts on the neighborhood. I think most of those impacts will be great impacts, particularly drawing more shoppers to the area. But there are of course some negative impacts, mostly related to traffic, so Safeway has proposed many mitigations in the DEIR. Those mitigations involve new signals, adding left turn lanes, adding pedestrian bulbouts at 63rd and College and much more. I’ll delve into the details in a later post, probably next week, but if you’re interested, check out the full DEIR.
Please join me tonight, Wednesday, July 20th at the DEIR hearing. The Planning Commission meeting starts at 6pm but the item cannot be heard until 8pm or later. The meeting takes place at Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 1.
If you can’t make it to the hearing, you can submit comments on the DEIR until August 15th to planner Peterson Vollman at email@example.com. I’ll be tweeting the meeting so you can follow along by following me @oaklandbecks.
Previous posts on College & Claremont Safeway:
- 11/19/09: Safeway on College – The cost of doing nothing is not nothing
- 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