Tag Archives: Pleasant Valley

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:

John Gatewood: Former opponents united in opposition to Safeway plan for Rockridge Center

14 Jul

This guest post was written by John Gatewood, one of the co-founders of ULTRA (Urbanists for a Livable Temescal Rockridge Area), which supports higher density mixed-use development along the major transit corridors of north Oakland. John works in the Graphic Arts Industry and is a resident of Temescal.

I hope all who oppose the construction of another suburban-style auto-centric strip mall in Oakland will come to the Planning Commission meeting on July 15 to voice their opposition to what Safeway has proposed at the site of the Rockridge Center Mall at Broadway and Pleasant Valley in north Oakland. This proposal is so offensive and so disrespectful of our city and our neighborhoods that it has managed to unite in opposition all the neighborhood groups who until now had been on opposite sides of the various development debates in north Oakland these past four years. And for those who have experienced how contentious these debates have been it is indeed a powerful statement that we all oppose this proposal.

A little background – In 1998 the City of Oakland, to its credit, adopted a visionary General Plan. The overarching goal was to steer new mixed-use development to the transit corridors in our city. Certain major transit corridors in Oakland also carry the designation “growth and change” because these are the transit corridors that the city thinks should be the location for higher density housing development in Oakland. The Broadway corridor is designated as “growth and change” from the 580 freeway underpass to College Avenue and the intersection of Broadway, Pleasant Valley and 51st Street has the further distinction of also being the center of a stretch of upper Broadway designated as a; “Target Area for Community and Economic Development.” It is also states that for this Target Area the city should; “conduct land-use study to determine the feasibility of higher density housing.” The city did just that in the Conley Report released in June 2008 that studied all of Oakland’s retail opportunities. This report singled out this intersection as one of only five “finalist nodes” in the entire city as; “an opportunity to redevelop the pattern of land use to one that is less auto-oriented, and supports creation of a pedestrian environment that serves the adjacent neighborhoods.” In the report, there are multiple alternatives presented as to how higher density mixed-use could be built on this site.

After all this quite clear direction from the city as to what its vision for this major transit node in Oakland is, imagine the community’s surprise and anger at being presented with a strip mall proposal that walls itself off from the neighborhoods!

The July 15 Planning Commission meeting is a “scoping” session for this project to help determine what the EIR will study. It is very important that the Planning Commission hear that the community does not want another strip mall in Oakland! Our hope is that the Planning Commission will instruct staff to study multiple alternatives to the proposal but that these alternatives must include housing. The city needs to use the EIR to encourage Safeway to help achieve the vision the city has for this junction where three neighborhoods meet. There is now an opportunity to build a project that could knit Temescal, Rockridge and Piedmont Avenue together instead of continuing to divide them and it is up to us to convince the Planning Commission to make this happen.

The Planning Commission meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 15th at 6:00 pm in Hearing Room 1, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza and the full agenda can be read here.

July 13-19 Oakland Political & Community Events

12 Jul

Monday, July 13th – BART Police Department Review Sub-Committee Meeting

The BART Police Department Review Sub-Committee will meet on Monday, July 13, 2009, at 9:00 a.m. in the BART Board Room, which is located in the Kaiser Center 20th Street Mall, Third Floor, 344 20th St., Oakland, CA. If anyone attends this, I’d be very interested in hearing a report of what happens.

Monday, July 13th – Summertime in the East Bay Mixer, EBYD Style

East Bay Young Dems are hosting a summertime mixer on Monday. If you made it to our awards gala or inauguration party, you know that EBYD knows how to put on a good party. Join us for a cool summertime drink with fellow young leaders and organizers, local elected officials, and meet candidates in the 10th Congressional District race. Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan will also join us to update Oaklanders about the city’s vote-by-mail election coming up and the city’s package of proposed measures.This happy hour is FREE for members. (We request a $5 donation from non-members, though no one will be turned away.  All are welcome!) If you’d like to become a member, you can do so at www.ebyd.org. The mixer will be held Monday, July 13th from 6:30-8:30pm at the beautiful and new Grand Tavern, 3601 Grand Avenue, Oakland. Food will be provided for early arrivals and our brief program will commence at 7:15. Please find more details and RSVP on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 14th – Public Works Committee Hearing on Oakland Airport Connector

The Oakland City Council, via the Public Works Committee will finally have a chance to review the Oakland Airport Connector this Tuesday. This project has changed significantly since they last reviewed it so it is incredibly important for the Council to have another opportunity to weigh in. Please come to the meeting on Tuesday to voice your opposition to the current project and to ask the Council to support a study of a rapid bus alternative. The meeting will be held at 9:00 am in Hearing Room 1, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. For background on why the City Council should weigh in on this project, check out my previous post on the subject. If you plan to attend, please RSVP on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 15th – Planning Commission Hearing on Pleasant Valley Safeway/Longs Project

This Wednesday, the EIR Scoping Session will be held for the Safeway Pleasant Valley project. As was abundantly apparent from my two posts on this project, many readers here care a lot about this development and have strong opinions. Whether your main concern is retaining the offerings of Longs or improving pedestrian access, this will be your first opportunity to weigh in. The meeting will be held at 6:00 pm in Hearing Room 1, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza and the full agenda can be read here.

Wednesday-Saturday, July 15th-18th – The Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival

If you like fire and art but don’t want to deal with a week on the playa at Burning Man, the Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival is what you should check out instead. The past several Fire Arts Festivals have been incredible, more fantastic year after year, but this year’s should be the best yet since they’re moving it to a MUCH larger location. That means more art, more entertainment, and most importantly, more fire! Out of 40 art installations, 35 of them will involve fire. Plus, there will be fire dancers and other fire performances. The festival will be be held Wednesday-Saturday, from 8pm-Midnight at 2020 Engineer Road in West Oakland. There will be a free shuttle from West Oakland BART, which sounds like the most convenient option, since free parking is a couple blocks away from the event. You can find out all the other details and buy tickets at the Crucible’s website. For photos and write-ups of the past two years of Fire Arts Festivals, check out my posts on the 2008 and 2007 festivals.

Thursday, July 16th – Temescal Street Cinema

This Thursday will be the last opportunity this year to enjoy the Second Annual Temescal Street Cinema at 49th and Telegraph (Bank of the West Building)! There’ll be live music and free popcorn, with the event getting started at 8 PM. Movies will start when it gets dark, no sooner than 8:30 PM. Come early or bring a chair! This Thursday will feature Migrations, a series of shorts: “Everyone’s moving from place to place, so travel from a border crossing simulation in Mexico to a giant Chinese mall, the biggest in the world.” Find out more details at the Temescal Business Improvement District’s website.

Thursday, July 16th – Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Meeting

Oakland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meets monthly to discusses bicycle and pedestrian issues. The BPAC is extremely inclusive – any Oakland resident who attends three consecutive meetings becomes a voting member of the committee – so if you’re interested in bike and ped issues, you should consider attending. The BPAC will be meeting from 5:30-7:30pm in Hearing Room 4 of City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Saturday, July 18th – BEAST Bloggers Camp

“East Bay” is Pig Latin for “beast”, a name that has all the power of bloggers in the SF Bay Area who are the eyes and ears of the East Bay community. In honor of all the East Bay bloggers, Spot.Us, Tech Liminal and A Better Oakland are hosting their first BEAST Bloggers Camp. A BarCamp is an international network of user generated conferences — open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants. The day consists of sessions proposed by attendees and the schedule is created on site the morning of the event. BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn from each other in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants. The camp will be held from 8am-5pm at at TechLiminal, 268 14th Street in downtown Oakland. You can find out more details at A Better Oakland.

Sunday, July 19th – JC Cellars Summer Beach Party

JC Cellars is holding its annual summer beach party this weekend. Pouring over 13 different blends and vineyard designates. Embracing our urban environment with a taco truck (spicy salsa is optional). DJ Brett will be spinning groovy beach beats. A children’s craft table will keep the little ones entertained. Admission costs $20 advanced or $25 at the door and includes plenty of wine, snacks, and fun. Sunglasses and flip flops are encouraged! The event will be held from 1-4pm at JC Cellars Winery 55 4th Street, Oakland. Take BART to Lake Merritt, the ferry to Jack London Square or drive to the winery. Find more details and buy tickets at the JC Cellars website.

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.

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.