Rendering of the Lowney Architecture design for the proposed Rockridge Safeway

Plans to rebuild the Safeway store on College and Claremont on the Oakland-Berkeley border have been on the drawing board for more than two years. In fact, the store has put a number of different proposals in front of the city of Oakland and local residents. And, while the latest design, by Lowney Architecture, has met with broad approval, the scale of the project and its impact on local traffic are still stumbling blocks to development.

Local residents and small business owners, from both sides of the border, came out in force to a July 20 hearing of the Oakland Planning Commission’s Draft Environmental Impact Report on the redevelopment of the store, which is at 6310 College Avenue. The turn-out was so large, the crowd had to move from the Planning Commission chambers to those of the City Council. The meeting was continued until August 3rd.

Current plans call for the Rockridge store to more than double its square footage, and they show eight new retail shops, a restaurant and an elevated walkway, among other amenities.

It’s not the first time locally that residents have opposed the Pleasanton-based supermarket chain. Residents in north Berkeley put the kibosh on a full-scale renovation to the Gourmet Ghetto Safeway last year. And plans for a revamp in Albany also met resistance.

As the Chronicle reports today, Safeway’s mission to reshape neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area with new “lifestyle” stores — which might include smoothie kiosks, outdoor seating, natural light, new floors, rooftop gardens and wider aisles — has not gone as smoothly as they no doubt hoped.

People who live near the Rockridge store — such as Fourth Street developer Denny Abrams whose home is on 63rd Street, and who spoke at the EIR hearing — are concerned that the small businesses on College, opposite the store, may suffer. One of them, Berkeley’s Chimes Pharmacy, opted for a buy-out last month.

And the sheer scale of the potential new store alarms some residents, both in terms of the competition it represents and the amount of extra cars and delivery trucks it may engender. Berkeley councilmember Laurie Capitelli told the Chronicle that size doesn’t always mean greater variety. “It could mean we get 60-foot aisles of soda pop, stacked four shelves high,” he said.

Meanwhile, Safeway spokeswoman Susan Houghton pointed out that more than 600 people have signed a petition in support of the new store. And she said: “There’s a lot of new competition out there, but we’ve been here a long time, and we look forward to being here a long time in the future.”

The Safeway on College website has details on the proposed new store.

Related:
Safeway buys Berkeley’s Chimes Pharmacy, to consolidate [07.12.11]
North Berkeley Safeway given green light to remodel [01.21.11]
New plans unveiled for Safeway store on Shattuck [07.27.10]
Safeway plans for Albany store meet resistance [05.28.10]
Adieu revolving pumpkin: Demise of Rockridge 76 [11.05.09]

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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74 Comments

  1. It’s easy to be critical of the activism of others while sitting on your butt at your computer.  I support local activism at any level, for any non-offensive cause.  I support the rockridge community and their struggle to decrease the expansion of big box stores.  As for you boys, it seems like those with “priority” issues are the ones without a community or cause worth fighting for.  And last time I checked, activists didn’t need to get your stamp of approval before caring about something.

  2. “Only difference is I live here and apparently you don’t.”

    That is not the only difference.

  3. OK.  We disagree.  Only difference is I live here and apparently you don’t.  

    The Safeway spokesperson says the store will become a destination.  They are likely to have a Starbucks, Subway etc.  Elmwood did well to fight the chains in the 90s which is why that neighborhood is what it is.  Why shouldn’t Oakland have the same type of environment?

  4. If you like ugly surface parking lots, this project will make the neighborhood a less pleasant place to live.  If you like walkable neighborhoods, this project will make it a more pleasant place to live.

    Yes, this neighborhood is not suburbia, which is why the current Safeway store doesn’t belong here.  When it was built, it was an intrusion that was totally out of character with the existing neighborhood.  If someone proposed demolishing a row of existing storefronts on College Ave and building a store with a big surface parking lot, would you support that? 

    The proposed store is much more in keeping with the historic character of the neighborhood, since it has storefronts facing the sidewalk, as the rest of the street does.

    It would be interesting to research what was on the site before the Safeway was built.  I expect you would find that the original structures on the site were similar to the other buildings on College Ave – which means they were higher density than the Safeway that is there now.

    Saying that the “neighborhood is what it is” is a meaningless statement that can be used to argue against any change. 

  5. I was giving you suggestions on how to present your opinion that you think the possible chain stores that could fill those spaces will “destroy the charm of the area” but of course you are free to ignore good advice if you wish. It’s a free country, after al! 🙂

  6. Thanks for the advice.  Except, if it is okay, I will express my opinions and not yours.  

  7. A ground-level parking lot and run-down example of horrible architecture from the 1960s make Rockridge a pleasant place to live?

    If Safeway leaves, whoever buys the lot will probably want to make it even higher density than the Safeway plan calls for. Probably something more akin to the Trader Joe’s building on the corner of University & MLK, with several stories of small apartments perched on top of ground-level retail.

  8. You should band together with other opponents and make specific demands. Either demand that they get rid of the additional retail spaces and retain the parking lot, or demand that the spaces be rented out with a preference toward mall local businesses.

    Instead of just making blanket statements about how Safeway is awful and you hope they leave, work together as a group to make specific and implementable demands in one or two key areas.

    If you work together and represent yourself as a group of concerned area residents who have specific demands that they can actually meet, they’ll be much more likely to pay attention to you than they will if you come at them with comments about how you hope they shut down and their business isn’t right for the neighborhood because it doesn’t fit into your upper-middle-class lifestyle.

  9. These lifestyle stores are also nice if you don’t have the money to shop at the fancy ultra-premium shops that make up most of the Rockridge neighborhood. Let’s not kid ourselves here, most of the shops you’re talking about in Rockridge are extremely expensive, and are outside the purchasing power of the average Oakland resident, not to mention the amount of time and energy it takes to visit a half-dozen specialty shops instead of one supermarket.

    The building currently on that site is ugly, poorly constructed, and no amount of “light remodeling” will change that building enough for it to be a good fit for the neighborhood.

    People keep complaining about the “cookie cutter” nature of Safeway stores, but what about Whole Foods? Their stores are also all “cookie cutter” affairs that ignore “what the neighborhoods actually need and want” yet I can’t remember ever seeing protests of this kind against a Whole Foods market going into a neighborhood.

    A lot of the complaints about this store reek of elitism. It’s fine if
    you don’t like Safeway and don’t shop there. I don’t shop at Safeway
    either. But clearly someone does or they wouldn’t want to invest a bunch
    of money into improving the store.

  10. We’re not talking about flattening a complex of thriving local businesses to build a Safeway. We’re talking about replacing a Safeway that already exists with a nicer version of the same store that will be a better fit for the neighborhood.

    The business condos are an issue that I think deserve to be discussed at length and that Safeway should be forced to make some major concessions about (such as setting aside at least a certain number solely for locally owned businesses) but most of what you’re discussing here doesn’t really apply since Safeway is already in the neighborhood and is simply improving an already existing store.

  11. We’re not talking about flattening a complex of thriving local businesses to build a Safeway. We’re talking about replacing a Safeway that already exists with a nicer version of the same store that will be a better fit for the neighborhood.

    The business condos are an issue that I think deserve to be discussed at length and that Safeway should be forced to make some major concessions about (such as setting aside at least a certain number solely for locally owned businesses) but most of what you’re discussing here doesn’t really apply since Safeway is already in the neighborhood and is simply improving an already existing store.

  12. Max

    Why am I not supposed to be concerned about the quality of life in my neighborhood? I think I can decide what issues I am interested in without your advice.  I don’t even understand your point.  Is it bad to have a point of view on the Safeway and to try to influence what happens?  I don’t hink I am required to share your priorities although I don’t think you have any idea what else I am interested in.  I notice your tweet calls those interested in this issue “assholes.”  Classy.

  13. You say:

    All that organizational ability, all that education, all that
    wealth, and all that good-hearted liberalism could be put to use
    pressuring this city to do something about it’s public safety crisis,

    Not unless you serve wine and invite some B+ circuit guests.

  14. Conditions of Use can only be placed on stores above the 5,000 sq.ft. CN-1 zoning limitation, or on stores requiring CUPs like ground floor office space or food uses.  The City of Oakland, unlike Berkeley and San Francisco,  has no mechanisms in place for placing limits on national chains.

    It is interesting to note that the store size on College Avenue was DOWN ZONED in April.  Under the old C-31 zoning, the maximum store size was 7,500 sq.ft. before a CUP was called for.  The change was no error – it followed much discussion and was a product of the General Plan adoption and implementation process that designates College Avenue as a Maintain and Enhance zone, not a Grow and Change zone.

  15. Ah, you took the easy path. 

    Those small businesses that grew came out of a unique environment that government cannot – or certainly has not – been able to create anywhere else in Oakland.  It is always a good thing when independents succeed, but there is also such as thing as outgrowing your incubator!  College Avenue nurtures its small stores (average size is only 1,200sq.ft. btw) and the little guys pay us back with personal service, interesting product selection and loyalty to Oakland.

    Safeway has a slew of abandoned (often blighted) stores all over Oakland – one here in Rockridge that was built in 1960 as the second coming…touted as loudly as this one is as a benefit for the community that would serve for decades.  It lasted 16 years and Safeway abandoned it.  It sits next to the DMV on Claremont, an unlovely sight, underused and often unoccupied over the years.  Then there’s the one on 40th Street at Telegraph (hideous building behind Import Motors), the one that sat empty for years on Broadway at 29th, now a Grocery Outlet and the (now) church at 27th and West at San Pablo.  Safeway “committed to all those locations too – all left when it suited their corporate purposes.  They also took their corporate HQ out of Oakland, firing 400 local employees in the process.  That’s why they are in Pleasanton. 

    It’s a multinational corporation that has no loyalty – just a profit line.  When it suits them, they’ll abandon whatever they need to to cut their losses.

    Interestingly, Safeway is almost alone among grocery purveyers in America in building these behemoths in urban neighborhoods.  Starting with Wal-Mart, which is pushing out a whole bunch of Wal-Mart Expresses (max. 30,000 sq.ft.) grocery chains in America are rushing to build in the sweet spot – 15,000 to 30,000 sq.ft.  And so is Safeway in many other regions of the US like Chicago, where they bought the Domenic’s chain specifically to get into that size of urban stores.  Could it be we have one retro executive in the Northern California Region?  You never know…

  16. Safeway has stated a preference for national chain retailers.  Their real estate department does not deal with independently owned retail business in leased space.  Many have tried..none have succeeded.

    Quite apart from that, the retail condos will be expensive, and unaffordable to most small independent business people.  They most likely will be purchased by national chains or real estate speculators who will rent to national chains – no one else will be able to afford the rents.

    I would personally like to see the store seriously modified to give a face to the street.  It’s an awful building as it stands.  Yet, even today, Safeway still builds many stores that present these horrible blank walls to the pedestrian side – examples abound online, and it it a huge missed opportunity to engage the street and bring in shoppers. 

    I think that a modest expansion would be fine, but since Rockridge is not the suburbs, I think that should top out at 30,000 sq.ft.  Given that the current store is 22,000 sq.ft (Safeway’s figure of 25,000 is inaccurate according to their own PR from the store’s opening and an independent measurement of the exterior walls), that would amount to a nice addition in which to accomplish some of their stated goals.

    It’s a Safeway Lifestyle Store, a formula that is rather rigidly followed all over the country.  Their inflexibility may be why they are scrambling to maintain/regain market share that has been fast eroding to nimbler corporations.

  17. Max – pretty much everything we do in life is petty. Eating, walking our neighborhood, voting, writing our Congress, seeing friends, working at our meaningless jobs (if we’re lucky enough to have one)…What are you doing that rises above pettiness?  Putting down “liberals” for having an opinion about something in their neighborhood?  

  18. Sorry. It’s just more than a little depressing.

    Here’s a neighborhood full of well educated white baby boomers, many of whom will tell you at length about their volunteerism and activism for good causes in the civil rights and vietnam war protest era.

    All that organizational ability, all that education, all that wealth, and all that good-hearted liberalism could be put to use pressuring this city to do something about it’s public safety crisis, the grotesque lack of transparency and accountability at City Hall, and unending fiscal irresponsibility and budget crises.

    So yeah. Maybe I’ll offend some people by calling this Safeway dispute out for being petty. So what. It is petty.

  19. This area is already pretty high density.  This project will make it ridiculous density.  

    I really do not understand what you are saying.  This is not New York City or even San Francisco.  It is also not “suburbia.”  It is what it is, and the present Safeway plan will make it a less pleasant place to live.  

  20. For people who are concerned about what stores Safeway will put in the retail spots, you should consider arguing for conditions of approval to the project that specify what types of uses would be allowed (and what wouldn’t be allowed).

  21. I should say  that I have mixed feelings about this project. 

    I like the fact that it makes the neighborhood more walkable by filling in a parking lot and instead having retail stores facing the sidewalk. 

    I don’t like the fact that it includes a corporate mega-store.  I myself never liked shopping at  the old Safeway on Shattuck and Rose, because even that felt too big for me, so I am sure I will not like the expanded Safeways; I myself haven’t shopped at Safeway for many years.  As I have said in other comments, having a large number of smaller stores (like Trader Joes) means that people travel a shorter distance to shop, so it generates less traffic and less energy consumption. 

    There are better ways of dealing with parking and traffic congestion.  On parking, Donald Shoup has come up with the best ideas, and they will be tried out in San Francisco by SFpark over the next year.  On congestion, there is talk about replacing Level Of Service standards with trip generation standards; rather than requiring developers to widen intersections to maintain the LOS, the new standards would require developers to pay a fee that will go to trip reduction, balancing the new trips they generate.

    The conventional suburban method of dealing with congestion is low densities and wide streets, and the conventional suburban method of dealing with parking shortages is to pave over most of the site to make it a parking lot.  Those methods are a failure: they create ugly, dangerous cities, and they are a major contributor to global warming. 

    That is why I get annoyed when I hear residents calling for more parking and for less development (= lower density) to fight congestion.

    If you really wanted to use that approach on College Ave, you would have to tear down two-thirds of the businesses there and replace them with parking lots.  Then you would reduce traffic enough to end congestion, you would have plenty of parking – and you would also have an ugly suburban strip mall instead of an attractive, walkable street. 

  22. It seems to me that it is the proponents who want suburbia.  

    Generally, I walk to do my shopping in the neighborhood.  I do need to drive to other places, I like to park within hailing distance of my house and children and pets spend some time in our street.  So, creating a shopping center with chain stores a block away is not my idea of a good plan.

    The traffic problem is that traffic backs up into the College and Alcatraz intersection already.  Adding bicycles or skate boards to the mix is not going to help.

    To me, all of this points to an improved market with less access from College, not 8 more chain stores.  And frankly, if the Safeway closed, that is okay also.  Even if they do solicit me for a charitable donation each time I check out.

    I don’t see how Rebecca’s blog addresses any of these issues.

  23. It seems to me that it is the proponents who want suburbia.  

    Generally, I walk to do my shopping in the neighborhood.  I do need to drive to other places, I like to park within hailing distance of my house and children and pets spend some time in our street.  So, creating a shopping center with chain stores a block away is not my idea of a good plan.

    The traffic problem is that traffic backs up into the College and Alcatraz intersection already.  Adding bicycles or skate boards to the mix is not going to help.

    To me, all of this points to an improved market with less access from College, not 8 more chain stores.  And frankly, if the Safeway closed, that is okay also.  Even if they do solicit me for a charitable donation each time I check out.

    I don’t see how Rebecca’s blog addresses any of these issues.

  24. It seems to me that it is the proponents who want suburbia.  

    Generally, I walk to do my shopping in the neighborhood.  I do need to drive to other places, I like to park within hailing distance of my house and children and pets spend some time in our street.  So, creating a shopping center with chain stores a block away is not my idea of a good plan.

    The traffic problem is that traffic backs up into the College and Alcatraz intersection already.  Adding bicycles or skate boards to the mix is not going to help.

    To me, all of this points to an improved market with less access from College, not 8 more chain stores.  And frankly, if the Safeway closed, that is okay also.  Even if they do solicit me for a charitable donation each time I check out.

    I don’t see how Rebecca’s blog addresses any of these issues.

  25. It’s perfectly possible to like this and also be concerned about traffic.  I think this is a vast improvement over the run-down, asphalt eyesore that is there now.  But it will create some traffic flow issues.  That’s probably the worst corner in Berkeley for traffic.  This may make it worse for sure, but it’s still an improvement to the neighborhood.  An empty lot would help traffic immensely, but no one wants that…

  26. Excellent post, Rebecca.  I think this paragraph says it all:

    “On one side was this great strip of small stores and tons of people
    walking around. It epitomized much of what I had come to love about the
    Bay Area. On the other side was a huge parking lot and an ugly Safeway,
    epitomizing what I had come to loathe about the suburban community in
    San Fernando Valley that I grew up in (and at that time was desperately
    ready to leave). … the current Safeway does not fit in with the neighborhood and in fact
    detracts from business and foot traffic in the area. This redesign is an
    opportunity to mimic the other side of the street with foot traffic
    attracting businesses and elegant architecture.”

    Some of the opponents of this project sound like they would prefer to live in suburbia.  Their main concerns are fast flow of automobile traffic, easy parking, and some even wanted to preserve their local gas station.  They don’t think about what needs to be done to make this a better place to walk and a better place to be, which is your point throughout your post. 

    They don’t seem to realize that, even though they drive to do their shopping, they get out of their cars when they get there.  They don’t realize that they like to shop in this neighborhood because it is a attractive place to walk, not because it has a local gas station. 

    I look forward to your next post on the subject.

  27. Sounds a lot like a tweet I put out a couple weeks ago, Jack.  😉

    I agree with the sentiment.  

    Hey Rockridge:
    You’re part of Oakland. If the bickering over the design of a Safeway is your priority for civic involvement, the design of the Safeway isn’t your problem. Your priorities are your problem. 

  28. Well Sharkey, one of the ‘improvements’ to the Solano Ave. store is taking the current entire aisle of wine/beer and expanding it to 4 aisles.  These ‘lifestyle’ stores are nice if one does not have access to local, high-quality fruit/veg, bakeries and wine merchants.  The areas we are talking about have all of these readily available within close walking distance.  Safeway’s own corporate reports talk about implementing the lifestyle store plan (between 52,000 sq. ft. and 55,000 sq. ft.) in EVERY community.  It’s a total cookie-cutter corporate plan which doesn’t take into account what the neighborhoods actually need and want from their local store.  I would be delighted for Safeway to remodel the stores rather than taking 12+ months of heavy demolition, excavation and construction (and please do not forget that it will involve heavy trucks coming up and down Shattuck, Solano and Claremont/College) when remodeling the existing stores will provide all the benefits that you tout.

  29. Thanks for posting this Marcus. The other thing I do in my blog post is explain that at the last hearing, there were about an equal number of opponents and proponents speaking. It would have been nice for this story to have covered that fact instead of making it seem like only opponents spoke.

  30. To your list of the too often ignored externalities of the bate and switch, add “capital flight”, “export blocking”, “wage deflation and working condition corruption”, and “anti-competitive practices”:

    By “capital flight” I mean that these national and international stores spend a lesser percentage of their revenue locally than a local business would.   A greater percentage of the dollars they take in are, so to speak, just shipped off to corporate headquarters.   This can be a win for the local municipality if the business has a huge and often full parking lot that draws in lots of people (and their money)  from outside the municipality but, otherwise, it weakens the local economy.

    By “export blocking” I mean that these national and international stores displace and block local production.    They mainly do this by centralizing production where labor protections and environmental regulation are weak, taking advantage of their economies of scale to exploit slave wages and unsustainable agriculture for profit.   Local producers can’t compete on price when their competitor can disregard human rights and sustainability.

    By “wage deflation and working condition corruption” I mean the way that large firms have the purchasing power to lower wages and benefits, worsen conditions, and bust unions.   By contrast, local businesses are more often (not always) smaller and more accountable to the community.

    By “anti-competitive practices” I mean that national and international stores can and do operate a loss in order to eliminate local competition.   They can do this because profitable stores elsewhere in the world can subsidize initially unprofitable stores where you live.   From a macro perspective it seems like an innocent case of money being less expensive for these big players — nobody ever said life was fair.   From a local perspective, it is local mom and pop stores being permanently driven out of business by big speculative box stores that never turn a dime and, as you note, often leave behind an empty shell.   (The safeway acquisition of that pharmacy is another example of an anti-competitive practice.)

    A lot of Berkeleyside comments seem to me reflexively and ideologically opposed to, for example, quotas, zoning regulations, and nearly any and all public opposition to any proposed development.    A problem with that point of view is that it doesn’t take a realistic view of how strangely distorted the market dynamics are at the macro level, and how that relates to local economies.    Protectionism makes more sense than some people admit in this climate.

  31. Her part about traffic did not really discuss traffic.  Presumably it will increase because of the retail condos and the “mitigation” measures do not seem up to the task.

  32. I am against the generic chain stores that seem likely to fill the retail spaces (see Raised in Rockridge above)  It will destroy the charm of the area and the function as an incubator for small businesses, which I think was the point about Noahs.  

    Also, you do not mention the TRAFFIC, which is the number one concern of neighbors.  Improved produce, bakery and meat sections will inevitably cut into the nearby local businesses, but I suppose that is inevitable.  The additional chain stores are not.

    If there is comforting information from Safeway on either of these points, I have missed it.

    And on Chimes, it was a pharmacy with additional appropriate products, not a semi-variety store like Walgreens.  John has given us excellent, small town pharmacy service that I do not expect from Safeway.  I don’t care if they offer Chia Pets or frisbees.

  33. A fair point, but you have to admit that praising Rockridge for spawning chains and then damning businesses for being chains smacks of cognitive dissonance.

    I agree completely that a Subway or Starbucks would be less than ideal for the neighborhood, but it seems strange to assume that any newly available retail space will be filled by that kind of business rather than by more of the idiosyncratic small businesses that currently populate the district.

  34. I’m also a huge fan of this neighborhood, including Ver Bruegge, Yasai Market, Heartworks and Vino.  I think box stores are a bait and switch – they look like an immediate boon to the community in terms of jobs but the externalities of traffic and the impact on surrounding businesses are never appropriately taken into account.  I lived for a time in Chicago and a study of the Latino business community on 26th Street there concluded that its small businesses were generating a huge amount of revenue as well as providing a diverse interesting local economy. 

    And when a box store fails, the community gets left with the empty shell (see the years the failed Safeway on Claremont was a shell, also the Elephant Pharmacy on Shattuck).  This is a local business environment that is serving its community well and why anyone would want to emulate the box store mode so prevalent in other communities simply eludes me.

    Glen O. 

  35. Your snark isn’t on point, Sharkey. Noah’s on College is not “good” now that it is a chain.  The quality of food deteriorated when they went National.  For that matter the idiosyncratic charm of the store was lost as well.  

    I’m not automatically against the new Safeway, in fact I like the initial image, but it should be done carefully and with neighborhood input. It is wise to be careful what kind and size of stores go into a shopping district. 

    What Rockridge District customers like myself find attractive in the district are the idiosyncratic small businesses.  Why bother to come if the offerings are like any other mall?  

    Hmm – but perhaps there’s a small irony here – we might end up relieving traffic when we stop shopping here… 

  36. I’m fine with the proposed remodel and having far more parking spaces + underground parking + entrance via Claremont all sound like winners to me. And, while i could quibble with design details, overall it looks nice, and will be a big improvement over the 50s/60s design thats been there forever

    While I’m all for walking to do one’s shopping, it’s just not realistic to walk for many people if they have to do a significant amount of shopping and/or walk more than a few blocks, or if they just don’t have the strength to carry a bag or two (not 3) of groceries. I love walking to retail stores but in my opinion most people don’t do it most of the time unless they live very close to the store they are going to, like within 3-4 blocks.

    As for the takeover of Chimes, I hate to say it, but Chimes was lame. It’s a tired store that was kind of poorly lit, a bit musty and dismal. Furthermore their selection is poor; and the owner always seemed crabby and weary when I went in there. I got the sense he didn’t enjoy his work anymore (as he said he wanted to go back to being a pharmacist and not be consumed with what must be a huge amount of overhead & paperwork). Frankly I go to Walgreens on Telegraph (probably 5x the distance from my house) because they have great selection, relatively easy parking and good service). if Safeway can help him offer better products and service then that’s a win.

    On parking, I’ll go out on a limb and guess that some of us have *occasionally* parked in the Safeway lot while shopping at the great local stores on College. I rationalize it by thinking to myself that I shop at Safeway often so it’s ok if I use their lot once in awhile when I dont buy something there. Even more frequent is the multi-stop trip to buy something at Safeway, and a quick trip to Yasai, La Farine or whatever. Who doesn’t occasionally benefit from leaving their car in one place while knocking off a few more errands?

    Lastly, while a lot of people love to disparage Safeway, the fact is that it’s a very popular and busy store and we shop there frequently. We also shop, even more frequently, at Star Grocery up the street. Stores like Star, Ver Brugge, Cole Coffee and La Farine thrive and will continue to thrive by offering great products and great service to their customers. As someone said, Safeway is already there, and has been there for decades. Opponents of the remodel are arguing that a popular business shouldn’t be allowed to improve their service which really doesn’t make sense to me. And, while they are indeed a national grocery chain, they are based in the Bay Area and they do employ local people so letting them improve their business does help the local economy.

  37. You make some good points, Ms. Hong! I wish more people who had issues with this proposal were as educated about it as you are.

    First of all, increased square footage does not mean an increased quantity of goods or shoppers. I refer you to my comments about how people who are complaining about this renovation should visit some other examples of Safeway’s new “upscale” style of store before making their complaints. Part of the increased square footage is increasing the open space of the stores for larger aisles that afford a less cramped shopping experience, expanded in-house service/production counters (bakery, deli, etc) and more functional produce section.

    Are the current parking spaces at Safeway always or usually full? Do we want to encourage people to drive to do their shopping, or to walk to do their shopping? Does it seem a bit hypocritical for someone who’s making claims about a “green economy” to be complaining that the new proposal won’t promote/maintain car-based destination shopping?

    Why do you assume that only national chains can fill the retail condos, when you cite many examples of small businesses that do great in those locations?

    Instead of just saying No, no, no! Bigger is bad! like so many protesters are doing, try to come up with some concrete proposals for modifications to the plan that Safeway can take into consideration.

  38. You make some good points, Ms. Hong! I wish more people who had issues with this proposal were as educated about it as you are.

    First of all, increased square footage does not mean an increased quantity of goods or shoppers. I refer you to my comments about how people who are complaining about this renovation should visit some other examples of Safeway’s new “upscale” style of store before making their complaints. Part of the increased square footage is increasing the open space of the stores for larger aisles that afford a less cramped shopping experience, expanded in-house service/production counters (bakery, deli, etc) and more functional produce section.

    Are the current parking spaces at Safeway always or usually full? Do we want to encourage people to drive to do their shopping, or to walk to do their shopping? Does it seem a bit hypocritical for someone who’s making claims about a “green economy” to be complaining that the new proposal won’t promote/maintain car-based destination shopping?

    Why do you assume that only national chains can fill the retail condos, when you cite many examples of small businesses that do great in those locations?

    Instead of just saying No, no, no! Bigger is bad! like so many protesters are doing, try to come up with some concrete proposals for modifications to the plan that Safeway can take into consideration.

  39. The 8 stores that are proposed as ground floor retail are to be sold as retail condos.  If what has happened at other Safeway developments holds true, you can expect a parade of national chains.  This is planned as a Safeway lifestyle store.  All of them include a Jamba Juice and Starbucks.  In other cities they have also added chains like Subway, Cold Stone Creamery etc. 

    College Avenue currently does not have a national retail presence except Safeway and Trader Joe’s.  Even Parmaca is limited to a few locations in a few western states.  There are no national chain eateries because the small landlords won’t rent to them, as they are not compatible with the character of the Rockridge district.

    On the contrary, Rockridge has spawned one national chain (Noah’s Bagels – yes, the one on College at Alcatraz is the original), and several local and regional chains – La Farine, Zachery’s Pizza, Cactus Taqueria, Diesel, a Bookstore and Vino!, Paul Marcus Wines and Market Hall.  Locally owned chains Crepevine and Pasta Pomodoro grew substantially after opening a location on College Avenue.

    College Avenue is the most powerful business incubator in Oakland.  And it has grown to be that organically, without government help.  Local initiative, local ownership = local success.

    And the top revenue producer for the entire city of Oakland among neighborhood retail districts.  Rockridge pays a lot of the bills in this town – what people are defending is something that works to benefit ALL of Oakland.

  40. There will be significantly less parking per square foot of retail space than exists for the current store. There are currently 106 parking spaces for a 22,042sq.ft.store, or one space for every 208 sq.ft.  The Safeway proposal is for 171 parking spaces for a total of 62,000 (51,500 sq.ft. Safeway plus 10,500 sq.ft. of retail stores) or one parking space for every 363 sq.ft.

    Additionally, all the street parking on the east side of the street will be eliminated, and half the diagonal spaces on the west side of College as well.  There will be almost no street parking to serve the local independent merchants.  The Safeway DEIR does not address where the employees and customers of the 8 proposed retail condos (10,500 Sq.Ft. of retail) will park.

    Parking is already very tight for Cole Coffee, Yasai, The Meadows, Heartfelt, Southie, Wood Tavern, Vino, VerBrugge and La Farine.  Additional lack of parking can starve them out of business.  Given that La Farine employes 45 people, and Jerry VerBrugge’s whole extended family earns their living at the butcher shop (except the guys who work on the fishing boat and supply the local fresh seafood he sells), Yasai supports several families, etc. this is a non-trivial impact.

    Many of those independent local retailers have served our community for decades – pumping business taxes into Oakland’s coffers, and sticking it out through good times and bad.  They serve a vital function providing locally sourced food, almost always at totally competitive prices to Safeway.  And unlike Safeway, these locals return 68% of their income to our community versus the 43% a national chain like Safeway leaves here.

    This is about a green economy – something a 228% bigger Safeway does not represent.

  41. Does anyone know where to write in concerns about this project. The Safeway link has a place to show support, but it would also be great if the article mentioned where one might write in w/ concerns.
    Thanks in advance

  42. I remember some residents  in meetings held about the N. Shattuck store fearing (how Berkeley) the impacts on the “beloved cheeseboard.” They had a point; would the Cheeseboard be able to handle the increased business?

  43. Once again, the is no problem with a major renovation. There could be a significant improvement, by using the existing footprint, and having a new design, both inside and out. The gas station, which provided service to the area is sorely missed, but that’s done and over. But keeping the project “in scale” with the neighborhood AND the limited parking and congested traffic is the sensible approach, IMHO

  44. I agree that we should not be reflexively against progress, and I like the idea of having the entrances and exits be on Claremont rather than College.  I probably let myself get provoked by the rudeness of the first comment and over-reacted.

    That being said, this was a neighborhood market and, in my view, should stay a neighborhood market, not a shopping center.  The aisles should be widened and the shelf space increased.  If the meat and produce are upgraded great, but this project seems out of scale with the neighborhood.  I do not want a market meant for Pinole in our rather tightly packed neighborhood.  

    The takeover of Chimes Pharmacy also spooks me.  Why did they offer the owner buckets of money to become a Safeway pharmacy?  It is creepy there now.  Are they planning to similarly pick off other merchants?  Are they going to rent their spaces to Subway and Starbucks?  I don’t really think we need more storefront space on College.  

    As a nearby resident, my first concern is increased traffic on our streets and parking.  At present, not too many cars park on Eton and Lewiston to go shopping. There are times when Shawl-Anderson patrons take all the available spaces, but we can live with that.  I plan to read the EIR and see what they say about that.

  45. I don’t generally like modernist supermarket designs, but this one seems rather well done. It gets rid of a building that is horribly ugly by any standard, makes good use of the awkward shaped lot, and gets rid of the eyesore of the surface-level parking lot. From the outside, what I see in that image is much, much better than what’s there right now.

    Based on many of the comments both here and in other articles about this issue, I’m lead to believe that many of those who are protesting against this have never actually been inside one of the renovated “upscale” Safeway stores, either here in California or on the East Coast. When Safeway changes a store design, they also change the quality and type of items sold in it. The regular pre-packaged and frozen junk will still be there, but the produce, meat, and bakery sections will be enlarged and improved as part of the redesign.

    The intelligent fight to be having right now wouldn’t be the one over trying to stop Safeway from putting a better looking building on the site. The ingelligent fight to be having right now would be over what the interior of the store is going to be like – what the width of the aisles will be, how high the shelves will be, how big different departments within the store will be, and what kind of specialty items Safeway will stock at this location. These are the kind of complaints and comments that Safeway is very receptive to, and friends of mine have had great success in getting significant concessions on things like aisle height and width at other Safeway remodel locations.

    Now that they have set their giant corporate hive-mind to it, Safeway is going to demolish and rebuild this location. That is without question. The “best” that the people who are whining about the scale and exterior of the building will accomplish is retaining the ugly above-ground parking lot and getting rid of some street-level storefronts that could have been used by small local businesses, just like they did in Berkeley.

    For those who are against this, I encourage you to go and visit some of the remodeled Safeway stores in the Bay Area so that you have a better understanding of what you’re fighting against. Look at the improved produce section. Look at the improved bakery section. Look at the wider aisles, better lighting, and expanded selection of specialty products. Come back to the table with specific changes you would like to see that would help customize that type of store for your area.

  46. These sound like exactly the same kind of complaints and doomsday-scenario-style predictions that people made about the new Trader Joe’s location at University & MLK.

    Other than the fact that the building is hideously ugly thanks to some bizarre paint choices, none of those predictions have come to pass. Traffic hasn’t changed, most people who patronize the store actually walk there from nearby homes, and it appears to be an extremely popular addition to the community.

  47. The entire store is going to be gutted and more than 17,000 sq. ft
    (> 35%) of new retail space added.  It don’t get more “full-scale”
    than that.

    It gets more “full-scale” in that even greater renovations were originally planned before community whining made them scale back their plans.

    Original plans = full scale
    Revised plans = diminished scale

  48. I’m not sure if the people in the area have simply never been into one of the improved Safeway stores (They’re nice! I swear!) or if they’re simply so anti-competition and anti-business that they don’t want a tax-paying member of their local business community to have a chance to succeed.

  49. His point is that you can’t find 200 people in Rockridge to protest against social injustice, or even the multiple ongoing wars that America is engaged in, but you can get them to come out to protest against a chain of grocery stories trying to improve one of their stores.

    We could bicker about the potential effectiveness of said protests, but it’s a sad statement about the priorities of people who live in the area.

  50. Maintaining the current scale of Safeway means maintaining the surface-level parking lot. I don’t understand how a so-called urbanist could advocate for that.

  51. I live on the opposite end of town, but shop at Ver Brugge regularly. The traffic is HORRIBLE as it is now, parking is a nightmare, but it would be the increased traffic potential that is more of concern.  If I were a neighbor I would be 100% against an expansion of Safeway as it will create more traffic back-up along the College/Alcatraz corridor.  

  52. I see.  Local residents may have “put the kibosh” on a new store but not, I think, on “full-scale renovations.”  The entire store is going to be gutted and more than 17,000 sq. ft (> 35%) of new retail space added.  It don’t get more “full-scale” than that.  
    Your apparent belief that “full-scale renovation” can be synonymous with “demolish and replace” might be of some interest to the City Attorney; he is charged with arguing that when the voters approved a ballot initiative allowing for the “renovation” of the branch libraries they authorized the complete demolition of the existing branches and the building of new ones.  Seems a stretch to me, but that’s for the courts to decide.

  53. For the record I am against homicide and child prostitution, although I support due process for those who are accused.  

    Wasn’t the parcel tax supposed to pay for police?  Sounds like you were against it.

  54. I think it looks interesting.  Better than the ugly mess there now.

    It’s possible that the parking under the building that exits onto Claremont could help the back-up that seems perpetual along College in front of Yasai as cars currently pulling in and out of the gas station and existing parking lot stop traffic. 

    Perhaps if Safeway offered to open their parking lot to clients of the other smaller businesses nearby, the reaction to the change would soften.   

     

  55. I can only fret for those poor people sitting on the rooftop garden in the artist’s rendition of the new store. When the afternoon wind starts blowing, they will all be carried away, clinging desperately to their market umbrellas.

    Clearly, Safeway designed their superstores for Pleasanton and Pinole, not Berkeley and Albany. They need a different approach for dense, urban centers. We don’t need a prefab, turnkey neighborhood-in-a-box. We just need to have a well stocked grocery. They can scale back the restaurants and retail space to a point that it will be acceptable to the community.

  56. Won’t the store be adding parking in the basement level? Won’t that alleviate the parking problems that currently exist?

    I’m not for or against the giant Safeway. I don’t really shop there very much as their produce and meat are subpar. I’ve gone there a few times to stock up on basics like flour and spices, but that’s really it. 

    I think many of the people who shop at Safeway are those who can’t afford Ver Brugge and the likes, so the need for a store like Safeway (albeit not a giant one) is there. 

  57. Charles: If you read the linked article, it refers to the renovations being “a long time coming”. That phrase in turn links to a previous piece which talked about the many stages the design process went through before being approved by local residents.The original plans for a completely new store were scrapped and in the end the old store was merely expanded.  

  58. How about the same government body that 200 anti- Safeway demonstrators protested at 2 weeks?
    You know the Oakland City Council… the people who hire/fire police officers/execs, hemorrhage money, put a new parcel tax on the ballot and have to find a way to pay for 40 million dollars of  PFRS obligations next year?
    Just trying caring about something that doesn’t directly affect your property values for once, please.

  59. The new project is completely out of scale with the neighborhood, in terms of the strain that it will put on parking, traffic and the other businesses. There is NO GOOD reason to OVER DEVELOP the site. There is a HUGE Safeway just a mile away at Broadway and Pleasant Valley, so this should be a more local serving store that is in proportion.

    Have you driven South on College and experienced the blockage at Alcatraz that prevents cars from crossing up Alcatraz to Claremont? Think it’s bad now?

    I live and work in this neighborhood, and it will be a HARDSHIP to have a store of this size, given the limited parking and traffic resources.

    This isn’t about “NIMBYism” – it’s just good common sense.

  60. Can Tracey please explain in what sense “Residents in north Berkeley put the kibosh on a full-scale renovation to the Gourmet Ghetto Safeway last year?”  

    The linked article does not seem to support that conclusion.

  61. How does the shopping center part of the project affect the green grocer, meat store or bread shop?  The Safeway is already there offering competition to those local shops, and they’ve done well, no?

  62. How does this fit with our neighborhood?  College is already jammed on weekends and we like our local green grocer, meat store, coffee places and bread shop.  Chimes Pharmacy is already a victim, with the owner paid off and the competition gone.  Safeway can build a larger market and improve parking, but they do not need to build a shopping center.

  63. What?  Did you have a governmental body that we should influence to stop homicides or child prostitution?

  64. This is a vast improvement on the current Safeway and seems to fit with the neighborhood. I guess I don’t get why people are so upset.

  65. This is what riles up Rockridge Baby Boomers? Middle-brow grocer’s? Not the murder epidemic or child prostitution in their city?
    You’re making us look just as bad as San Francisco FYI