College Avenue Safeway rebuild
  •  City Council Appeal:

    RCPC Appeal Letter
    Berkeley Residents Appeal Letter

  •  FEIR:

    The FEIR is available online RCPC Comment Letter

  •  Send comments to:

    Peterson Vollman (238-6167, pvollman@oaklandnet.com).

    Planning Commission members
  • Planning Commission Meeting 7/25/12:

    Wednesday, July 25, starting at 6 PM in the City Council Chambers, City Hall, Second Floor, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza in Downtown Oakland. Agenda available here.

June 13 store plans:

Safeway store from Claremont

New Safeway from College

COLLEGE AVENUE SAFEWAY REBUILD AND EXPANSION (6310 College at Claremont Avenue)

News in reverse chronological order

September 6, 2012: College Ave Project: Safeway, 1 ; Neighborhood, Zip

Planning Commission Approves College Avenue Safeway Project; RCPC Joins Berkeley Residents in Appeal

At the end of a four-hour long hearing dominated by neighborhood residents
opposed to the project, the Oakland Planning Commission unanimously approved Safeway's College Avenue Safeway Shopping Center Project at a public meeting July 26. RCPC's attorney, Michael Graf, joined by Rockridge and neighboring Berkeley residents, objected to the project's traffic, parking, air quality, toxics, and visual impacts, and cited its inconsistency with the zoning and general plan designations for the site.

Several College Avenue merchants related their concerns about how the project will damage Oakland's most successful neighborhood shopping district.

The Planning Commissioners brushed all concerns aside, saying it was more
important that the new project would provide construction jobs and benefit Safeway's employee union.

Only five of the seven commissioners participated in the decision. Commissioner Huntsman (who also supports the project) was absent, and newly-appointed commissioner Jim Moore recused himself because he had already spoken and written a letter in favor of the Safeway proposal before being appointed to the commission. Commissioner Chris Pattillo stated she thought the project would benefit this part of College and Claremont (even though the project places an employee parking lot and loading docks on its Claremont Avenue frontage, contrary to the C-31 zoning standards).

Oakland planner Peterson Vollman dismissed the many impacts identified by speakers as inconsequential, saying all were properly addressed in the project's environmental impact report (EIR). He also said he expected the city of Berkeley to accept the proposed intersection "improvements" intended to mitigate the project's impacts on Berkeley streets. This despite the Berkeley City Council having, a week earlier, unanimously voted to reject the improvements and to restate its strong opposition to the project. Vollman also asserted that the project was fully consistent with the site's general
plan designation and zoning because it would be a better fit than the existing
Safeway store.

Commissioner Pattillo did express concern about the project's parking insufficiency, particularly during construction, and its impact on the already-congested College-Claremont intersection. She suggested placing diagonal parking on Claremont, a proposal staff vetoed as infeasible, and asked that staff continue to investigate how to address the intersection's problems.

Berkeley Residents and RCPC File Formal Appeal

RCPC and an ad-hoc group of 54 Berkeley residents – joined by Berkeley City
Councilmembers Wozniak and Worthington – have appealed the planning commission's decision to the Oakland City Council. According to planner Vollman, the appeals will likely not be heard by the council until late October.
A summary of the Planning Commission hearing and copies of the appeal letters can be found on the Rockridge.org website.

Community Donations Sought for Appeal and Legal Costs

RCPC is collecting donations in support of the appeal through its Rockridge Legal Defense Fund. Mail checks to RCPC, 4123 Broadway, PMB 311, Oakland, CA 94611. Make online donations at www.rockridge. org. (Tax ID no. 94-3011284).

July 10, 2012: Safeway on College Project Controversy Comes to a Head

"A 62,000 sq.ft. self-contained shopping center with a 50,000 sq. ft. second-floor Safeway "Lifestyle" store and 12,000 sq. ft. of "small shop" street-level storefronts on College at Claremont."

"Safeway's proposal to more than double the size of its store at College and Claremont avenues and convert it into a self-contained shopping center is headed for a showdown at the Planning Commission later this month."

The Planning Commission will consider certification and project approval at its public hearing, Wednesday, July 25, starting at 6 PM in the City Council Chambers, City Hall, Second Floor, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza in Downtown Oakland. Agenda available here.

Make your views known now to the Commission:
______________________

**** E-mail your comments to Planning Commission members and City Planner Peterson Vollman. Unless the Planning Commission hears from you, either orally or in writing, before it makes its decisions (which may well be at the July 25 hearing), you may have lost forever your ability to influence those decisions, both on certifying the EIR and on approving the project. If you have something to say/write, the time to do so is NOW. (Written letters may be mailed to the Planning Commission, c/o Planning and Zoning Division, 250 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612.)

Make sure to state that your letter is a comment on the Safeway Shopping Center - College and Claremont Avenues (File ER09-0006) and ask that your comments be forwarded to the remaining commission members. You may also send copies to Council Member Jane Brunner (jbrunner@oaklandnet.com) and Mayor Jean Quan (officeofthemayor@oaklandnet.com with copy to acampbell-washington@oaklandnet.com).

**** Attend the Planning Commission public hearing.
Join your neighbors, as well as representatives of FANS and RCPC, at the Planning Commission's public hearing to let them know what you think about both the EIR and the Project.

RCPC and FANS have roundly criticized the EIR as being inadequate in ignoring or sweeping under the rug significant impacts from the Project.
FANS and RCPC have also stated that it is improper to dismiss project alternatives as infeasible just because they don't meet all of Safeway's goals for the project. RCPC has criticized the project itself as being inconsistent with the general plan's "maintain and enhance" strategy for Rockridge, as well as with College Avenue's C-31/CN-1 zoning.

At a more practical level, RCPC and FANS have pointed out that the Project will negatively impact the area's already overtaxed parking and traffic capacities and, as a result, will drive potential customers away from existing College Avenue retailers.

If you agree with these critiques, the Planning Commission needs to hear from you.

The FEIR is available online (select Current Environmental Review Documents, number 3: College Avenue Safeway; Final Environmental Impact Report, Vols. 1 and 2)

June 2, 2012: July Date Likely for College Avenue Safeway EIR Release; Planning Review Date Could Crimp Community Response

This project would replace the current 22,500 sq.ft. Safeway store with a 62,000 sq.ft. shopping center, including a 50,000 sq. ft. Safeway "Lifestyle" store. The latest update from Oakland planner Peterson Vollman (pvollman@oaklandnet.com; phone 238-6167) is that he expects to release the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR), including the responses to comments, at the beginning of July. The Planning Commission would then consider certification and project approval later that month. (Just in time to conflict with people's vacation plans!) Thus far, Mr. Vollman has shown no inclination to delay the Planning Commission hearing until the fall.

May 5, 2012: Summer Date Likely for College Avenue Safeway EIR Release; RCPC Retains Attorney

RCPC has retained an attorney who specializes in California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) issues, Michael Graf, to advise it during the remaining portion of the administrative process for this project, which would replace the current 22,500 sq.ft. store with a 62,000 sq.ft. shopping center. Peterson Vollman (pvollman@oaklandnet. com, 238-6167), the city planner assigned to the project, is still reviewing the 2000- page administrative draft of the city's EIR consultant's responses to comments on the Draft EIR (circulated for public comment last summer). At the moment, he expects the final EIR will be released to the public and submitted to the Planning Commission for certification some time this summer. (Just in time to conflict with people's vacation plans!) We hope, given the document's size and the inconvenient time, that the city can be persuaded to wait until September to consider whether to certify the document.

September 3, 2011: City's Consideration of Safeway College Avenue Shopping Center Continues to Roll Forward

Despite summer vacations, Oakland's approval process for the Safeway College Avenue Shopping Center Project has continued to move forward. The draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the project was released the Friday before the July 4 weekend, and the comment period closed August 16, 46 days later. Despite the pleas of RCPC and many others (including the city of Berkeley, whose city council is in recess until September), Oakland planning staff and the Planning Commission refused to extend the comment period.

The commission did make one concession. The public hearing to accept oral comments on the DEIR, scheduled for July 20, drew such a huge crowd that the hearing had to be moved from the usual hearing room to City Council chambers. With well over a hundred people submitting speaker cards, it was clear the commission could not hear everyone's comments that night. The commission opted to hear some speakers, but also to continue the hearing to its August 3 meeting.

The August meeting was also packed. By the time the commission plowed through all the speaker cards submitted at both up and gone home. The majority of the speakers were there to criticize the DEIR and point out errors and omissions in its analysis. Many complained the report underestimated traffic impacts and failed to address effects on surrounding neighborhood streets. Speakers also found fault with the DEIR's analyses of air quality, land use, and visual impacts.

To be fair, Safeway had done an extensive job mobilizing its supporters, so there were speakers who extolled Safeway's expansion plans and urged the project's approval, despite Chair Vien Truong's initial plea that speakers restrict themselves to comments on the DEIR, not on the merits of the project.

At the second hearing, Commissioner Michael Colbruno interrupted the stream of speakers to complain that almost all the topics raised by speakers had been addressed in the DEIR. He said he wished speakers would restrict themselves to pointing out additional topics not already discussed in the DEIR. This prompted a rejoinder from RCPC Chair Stuart Flashman, who noted that the question was not whether the DEIR had a subject heading, or even some commentary on a topic, but whether there was substantial evidence in the DEIR to support its conclusions. He noted that many of the critical comments were about the DEIR's lack of factual evidence and the shortcomings in its analyses. These, he said, were legitimate concerns that should be taken seriously.

In his remarks on behalf of RCPC, Flashman (who noted that he practices land use and environmental law) laid into the DEIR as a "shoddy" piece of work with multiple deficiencies. He, along with many other speakers, urged the commission to withdraw the document for extensive revision. That plea went unheeded.

Nevertheless, at the hearing's close, several commissioners expressed concerns about the DEIR. Newly-appointed commissioners Chris Pattillo and Jonelyn Whales promised to submit written comment letters.

By the end of the comment period, more than 75 letters had been submitted, including a five-page letter from RCPC with attached documentation and separate comment letters from professionals retained through community contributions and a matching grant from the Rose Foundation for Community and the Environment, addressing the DEIR's analysis of toxics, air and water quality, and traffic and parking impacts. The RCPC comment letter is posted on the RCPC website at http://rockridge.org. Letters from the city of Berkeley and neighbor's letters on traffic, toxics and additional hot topics are posted on Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue (FANS) site at www.fansco.org.

The next step is for city staff and the EIR consultants (hired by Safeway) to review and respond to all comments. The Planning Commission then decides whether to certify the EIR as complete and final or to require its revision and recirculation for additional public review and comment.

Once the EIR has been certified, the project itself will be considered by the commission. If there is an appeal, the decisions on both the EIR and the project could go to the City Council. All this will likely take at least another three to six months.

June 4, 2011: College Ave. Safeway Design DEIR Expected in July

Both of the College Ave. and Rockridge Center projects are slowly moving forward toward release of draft environmental impact reports (dEIR) within the next month or two. According to Darin Ranelletti (238-3663, DRanelletti@oaklandnet.com), the planner assigned to the Rockridge Shopping Center Project, that project's dEIR will probably be coming out in July for a 45-day public review and comment period. See the Safeway Rockridge Center update here for more information.

As of press time, Peterson Vollman, (pvollman@oaklandnet.com, 238-6167), the planner handling Safeway's College Avenue shopping center project, had not responded to recent inquiries, but Ranelletti said that the dEIR for that project will also likely be released some time in July. It looks like Rockridge residents will have plenty of vacation reading in August.

Both of these projects can be expected to have multiple impacts on Rockridge, ranging from traffic, to air and water quality, to overall quality of life. RCPC expects to be involved in commenting on both EIRs, and encourages Rockridge residents to participate in the public review process.

Nov. 6, 2010: College Ave. Safeway Design Review Committee Public Hearing December 8, 4pm

Design aspects of this large proposed project on College Avenue were another topic at the Land Use Committee’s October meeting. Other than the project’s large size and failure to fit into the surrounding commercial district, specific concerns included the project’s large barren area along Claremont Avenue, the disruptive effect of the four-lane garage entrance/exit on College Avenue pedestrian movement, the monolithic appearance of the second-story College Avenue frontage, the problematic nature of the second-floor café area College Ave. drivewayat College and Claremont and the lack of any easily accessible public space within the project.

This project will also be discussed soon by the Planning Commission’s design review committee. RCPC has posted most of the project plans here. Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue (FANS), of which RCPC is a member, also has its own Web site at http://www.fansco.org. An EIR in preparation for about the last six months may be released for public comment within the next month or two. RCPC is raising funds for professional review of the adequacy of the EIR’s technical analyses. (See that campaign.) The assigned Oakland planner is Peterson Vollmann; tel: 238-6167; pvollman@oaklandnet.com.

Oct. 1, 2010: College Ave. Safeway Design Review Committee Public Hearing Oct. 27, 4pm

On Wednesday, October 29th, at 4 PM, The College Avenue Safeway Shopping Center will have a hearing before the design review board of the Oakland Planning Commission. Those interested can submit written comments to Planner Pete Vollman before the meeting and/or speak at the hearing.  (Speakers are usually limited to two or three minutes apiece.)

Design review deals with the physical appearance of the project.  It does not deal with environmental impacts (other than visual, aesthetic, or shadowing impacts) and does not deal with consistency with the zoning or general plan.  Topics that are germane to design review include the size, shape, color, architectural design, and landscaping of a project, as well as the degree to which it does or does not fit into the surrounding area’s architectural style and visual appearance.

Some design element people may want to comment on include:  the surface parking area along Claremont Avenue, the building façade along Claremont Avenue, the tower on College near 63rd Street, the parking entrances off of College and off of Claremont, the isolation of the second floor “café seating” area at College and Claremont, the signage above the walkway between College and Claremont, and how the structure will appear to neighbors living behind the store on Alcatraz.

The City's staff report will be posted on the Friday prior to the hearing. Check back for an update.

Sept. 5, 2010: RCPC Seeks Community Help with College Ave.Safeway Review.

The city of Oakland will soon release a draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on Safeway’s proposed 62,000 sq. ft. College Avenue shopping center project.The report will look at the ways in which the City believes the project, which almost triples the size of the current 22,500 sq. ft. store, will affect the surrounding community. Topics include traffic, bicycle and pedestrian safety, air and water quality, noise, aesthetics, and perhaps land use.

Once the DEIR is released, the community will have 45 days to review and comment on the report. The City must then respond to those comments in writing. The result will be a Final EIR, which the Planning Commission, and potentially the City Council, will use in deciding whether to approve Safeway’s project.

An EIR is a technical document, usually requiring special expertise to determine whether its analysis is accurate.

Realizing this, RCPC applied to the Rose Foundation for Community and the Environment, whose office is, coincidentally, located on College Avenue, and received a $10,000 matching grant to pay the needed experts. However, RCPC only gets to use this money if it can be matched by community donations. That’s where you, Rockridge News readers and Rockridge community members, can help.

In addition to your comments on the Safeway project, we need your donations to help fund the experts who will assure that the project’s impacts on Rockridge are fully and fairly disclosed, discussed, and, where possible, mitigated. These experts will also help compare Safeway’s proposal to other proposed alternatives.

Make your contribtion by credit card or Paypal at RCPC’s website: http://rockridge.org/Safewayfunds.html. donations can also be made by mail, using the coupon on the webpage.

May 8, 2010: FANS to Pursue Reduced Scale for Safeway Project.

The city is expected to release the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a 45-day public review and comment period in June or July. The 61,000 sq. ft. project is proposed to replace the current 23,000 sq. ft. Safeway store and the “76” service station at the Claremont/College intersection.

Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue (FANS), the local community coalition challenging the project, is preparing a technical-legal-political campaign to convince Safeway and the city to scale down the project to a more appropriate size for the location. FANS can be contacted via rockridgefans@gmail.com. RCPC is a member of FANS.

The case planner handling the project is Peterson Vollman (238-6167, pvollman@oaklandnet.com).

November 30, 2009: Residents Flood Planning Commission with Concerns About College Ave Safeway Center Plans.

Video footage of the Scoping hearing came be viewed here.

Over 60 residents of the Rockridge, Temescal, and Elmwood neighborhoods recently squeezed into a City Hall hearing room to tell the Planning Commission their concerns about Safeway’s proposed College Avenue shopping center.

The center, plans for which Safeway unveiled last spring, consists of a 50,000 square foot Safeway store and eight small shops totaling an additional 11,000 square feet. The complex would replace the current 22,500 square foot Safeway store, which dates back to the mid-1960s.

Held early in November, the hearing was called to hear about what environmental effects should be studied in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that the city will prepare for the project. The city had prepared an Initial Study of the project’s effects that concluded only traffic, air quality, and noise needed to be considered. Hearing attendees, however, were almost unanimous in feeling that there were additional impacts that ought to be studied.

Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue (FANS), served as the organizing force for the public comments. FANS grew out of the group of “stakeholders” that Safeway convened more than a year ago to discuss plans for replacing its College Avenue store. In addition to RCPC, the stakeholders included Concerned Neighbors of the College Avenue Safeway, the Rockridge District Association (RDA), Berkeley’s neighboring Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Asso-ciation (CENA), the contiguous merchants across College Avenue from the store, and the contiguous neighbors along Alcatraz Avenue behind the store. In addition, a group of local architects and planners was formed to look at alternatives to Safeway’s plans. While the stakeholder meetings collapsed over the groups’ disagreement with Safeway’s proposal, the stakeholders decided to stick together to unite the community around alternative proposals.

FANS had pulled together an organized presentation involving 16 speakers to identify the environmental issues needing study. Those issues included, in addition to the traffic, noise, and air quality concerns raised by the city, impacts on land use, aesthetics, cultural and historic resources, pedestrian and bicycle safety, sustainability, blight, shadowing, and cumulative impacts. The groups also proposed three alternative projects designed to be more consistent with the site’s current C-31 zoning. Local group Urbanists for a Livable Temescal Rockridge Area (ULTRA) added a mixed-use alterna-tive that would include senior housing.

Unfortunately, planning commission Chair Blake Huntsman initially would hear none of it. Prior to the meeting, he indicated he would limit FANS speakers to a total of 10 minutes. Safeway was given 15 minutes for its presentation at the meeting. He also pointedly said that he didn’t want to hear about any land use issues, opining that he felt the project was totally consistent with the C-31 zoning.In the end, faced with more than an hour of testimony even with speakers being limited to a minute each, Huntsman relented and accepted a compromise. Thirty-nine speakers agreed to relinquish their speaking time. In return, six FANS speakers were given a total of twenty minutes, and 15 other speakers (including one speaker supporting Safeway) were given two minutes each.

After the speakers had all finished, the commissioners had the chance to give direction to staff about what topics the commission felt should be added to the EIR. Commissioner Boxer stated that he wanted study of pedestrian and bicycle safety impacts and consideration of ULTRA’s mixed use alternative. He also asked staff to study an alternative that would remove all the parking structure entrances from College Avenue, putting all garage access points on Claremont Avenue. None of the other commissioners added other impacts.

Peterson Vollman, the city planner handling the project, pointedly asked the commissioners whether they wanted to add land use or aesthetics to the EIR topics, pointing out that while staff had screened these topics out, the audience comments appeared to support their inclusion. Commissioner Boxer’s response was that the commissioners had already provided their opinion on what topics needed study.

The scoping period is open to December 1. Once scoping has ended, city staff will give the EIR consultant direction on preparing the draft EIR. Depending on the final scope of the EIR, it will likely be between three to six months before the draft is released for a 45-day public comment period

.RCPC submitted a nine-page scoping comment letter to the City. That letter, and additional information on the project is available on this website.

November 12, 2009: Planning Commission hearing November 18 to discuss environmental impacts on the community of the proposed 64,000 sq. ft. project.

The Oakland Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Safeway's 64,000 sq.ft. College Avenue Shopping Center Project.  This project would replace Safeway's existing 23,000 sq.ft. store at the congested College/Claremont intersection. The hearing is a chance to give your opinions about how the project would affect you and your community

The hearing will be next Wednesday, November 18th, at 6 PM at Oakland City Hall (1 Frank Ogawa Plaza) in hearing room #1.  RCPC will be part of a coalition of groups presenting community concerns to the commission.  Please attend, either to speak or to "donate" your speaking time to another speaker.  If you plan to attend, please RSVP to chair@rockridge.org.

The City’s case planner is Peterson Vollman (238-6167, pvollman@oaklandnet.com).

July 4, 2009: Safeway Corp application initial study in preparation, scoping hearing later this summer.

Safeway submitted its completed application for this large project, including a subdivision map application to make the small shops into condominiums. The City is preparing an initial study of the project’s potential environmental effects and the Planning Commission will hold a “scoping” hearing later in the summer for the project’s environmental impact report. The City’s case planner is Peterson Vollman (238-6167, pvollman@oaklandnet.com)

June 6, 2009: Safeway Corp application plans big on space and short on parking

Safeway has now filed its formal application with the City for a new store complex, including a second-story Safeway of just under 50,000 sq. ft., located on top of parking (173 customer spaces, with a separate surface lot for employees and delivery trucks) and 11,000 sq. feet of small shops along College Avenue. While the design for the complex is better than Safeway’s previous proposal, RCPC remains opposed to the project due to its large size and associated environmental and economic impacts on the community.

The various stakeholder groups that had participated in trying to work with Safeway on new store plans have now formed themselves into a coalition called Friends And Neighbors of College Avenue (or FANs of College Avenue, for short). Over the next few months, as the City starts its environmental review of the project, FANs will be working on trying to get Safeway to rethink and revise its proposal into something more in keeping with its College Avenue location. Please check for updates on FANs and its activities.

May 1, 2009: Safeway Corp presents new plans to underwhelmed audience

Safeway gave its newest plans for rebuilding its College Avenue store a showy premier – in a ballroom at the Claremont Hotel and Resort on the Oakland/Berkeley border.  The milieu was very different from its last two public presentations for its store plans, both of which had happened in local public school auditoriums, but the crowd in attendance was very much the same – residents of the surrounding area of South Berkeley and North Oakland – as was the atmosphere of distrust of Safeway’s smooth corporate presentation.

This time, Safeway took no chances about having hostile audience members taking control of the microphone or the meeting.  Instead of a formal public presentation, there were posters of various rendering of the proposed store seen from differing angles and perspectives. 

There were also not-very detailed diagrams showing some of the main features of the store.  However, as several architects in attendance pointed out, there were no accurate scaled architectural drawings or elevations of the sort that would accompany a formal application. 

These must be in preparation, because Safeway announced that it planned to submit its formal application within a week, but Safeway must have felt this wasn’t an appropriate time, place, and audience to show them.

While details of the design weren’t evident from the drawings, some could be pried out of the Safeway personnel in attendance.  The gross square footage of the store itself is to be just under 50,000 square feet.  In addition, there would be about 11,000 square feet of small shops that would wrap around the College Avenue frontage of the parking structure Safeway wants to put under its new store. 

The parking area, which would be partly subterranean, would be accessed from one entrance just opposite 63rd Street on College Avenue, and a downsloping ramp off of Claremont Avenue just opposite Auburn Ave. and Mystic Street.  (The latter would get a traffic signal to regulate the intersection.) 

The parking area would contain around 180 spaces.  There would also be a separate employee and truck parking area with a street-level entrance off of Claremont Ave.  According to Pete Vollmann, the Oakland planner assigned to the  project, the City expects Safeway to provide enough parking for not only its own store and associated retail spaces, but also some additional parking for the stores across the street.  Vollmann says that’s just part of the price staff expects Safeway to pay for asking for such a large store.

Inside the store, the new Safeway would have all the departments of a typical Safeway “lifestyle” store, including a florist, deli, and full-service butcher and seafood departments.  Safeway claims this would fill a community need and points to marketing studies showing that grocery-shopping dollars are “leaking” out of the store’s sales area. 

Skeptics say the “leakage” is to stores like Berkeley Bowl, and that Safeway won’t ever capture those dollars.  They also point to the many small shops across College Ave. from Safeway and say there’s no need for the extra departments, that those community needs are all being met better by current stores.  In fact, there’s an undercurrent of unease that Safeway may try to drive those smaller stores out of business, something it is rumored to have done elsewhere.  One local merchant in attendance suggested that if Safeway’s planned store goes in, the first casualty may be the Andronico’s store on Telegraph Avenue. 

Safeway’s 50,000 square foot store would need a major conditional use permit from the City of Oakland (as would any store of over 7,500 sq. ft.).  Before the planning commission considers that, however, there will very likely need to be an environmental impact report (“EIR”) to consider such issues as parking, traffic, air quality, and visual impacts.  The EIR could also (but wouldn’t necessarily) look at the project’s economic impact on the community.  The EIR will likely take 3-6 months to prepare, followed by a 45 day comment period and then several months to prepare responses to the comments.  That would mean the planning commission might not consider Safeway’s application until next winter, or even next spring.  Between now and then, there will be a hard-fought battle for the hearts and minds of area residents and shoppers, as well as Oakland politicians.

April 9, 2009: Safeway Corp to present the company’s latest plans for the College Avenue store on April 29.

Safeway has announced a meeting to unveil its latest plans for a 50,000 sq. ft. store plus small shops. The meeting will be held Wednedsay, April 29, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Claremont Hotel (self-service parking available, carpooling advised).  Please come out and let Safeway know what you think of their new plans!

A group of local architects had  met with Safeway’s newest architect and presented the community’s concerns, but by all accounts the new store plans remain “supersized”. RCPC’s position is that it’s simply not possible to have a store of that size at that location without creating major traffic problems and disrupting the human scale of this successful retail area.

This may be another tough fight through the planning commission and up to the City Council. Between Red Oak Realty and Safeway’s proposals, perhaps our College Avenue area needs a new slogan: “If it ain’t broke, for gosh sakes, don’t break it!”  The planner is Peterson Vollman, phone 510/238-6167, or e-mail pvollman@oaklandnet.com. Safeway website: www.safewayoncollege.com

February 6, 2009: Safeway ends stakeholder process, plans to proceed with 50,000 sq. ft. store

In an e-mail to community members who had signed for notifications, Safeway announced that it was not proceeding with the long-delayed “stakeholders group” meeting originally planned for December.  Instead, it has brought in yet a third architect to design a replacement for its current College Avenue store.  The new architect, Ken Lowney, designed Whole Foods’ reuse of the Oakland Cadillac dealership building on Harrison Street.  Safeway did not indicate any plans to change its 50,000 square foot “bottom line” for a new store.  However, it did agree to have Lowney meet with the group of local architects (including RCPC Land Use Committee member Glen Jarvis) that has been working on designs for a smaller, more neighborhood-friendly alternative.  Safeway also announced that it will schedule a community meeting for April to unveil its newest plans, and expects to submit a formal application to the City shortly after that. To read the email, visit the Safeway website: www.safewayoncollege.com

February 5, 2009: Safeway terminates stakeholder process

The participants in Safeway’s “stakeholder process” — including RCPC, the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, the Rockridge District Association, Neighbors Concerned about the College Avenue Safeway, College Avenue merchants neighboring Safeway along College, and residents living behind Safeway along Alcatraz Avenue — decided unanimously to request of Safeway that the upcoming (and perhaps final) community stakeholder meeting include presentations of Safeway’s corporate plans for a new 50,000 square foot store and an alternate design being prepared by a group of local architects.

Safeway never responded directly to the proposal. Pamela Hopkins of Enact Global Consulting, the facilitator for the stakeholder process, said that Safeway was apparently abandoning the stakeholder process and would proceed on its own to convene a future meeting to unveil its building plans.

This development puts the question of a community response in the hands of the stakeholder groups.

Options include having the community architects submit their plans to Safeway for its consideration, holding a separate meeting to present the local architects’ plans to the community, and simply asking Safeway to drop its plans for a new store and proceed with cooperative planning for a modest remodel of the current store.

These options will be discussed over the coming weeks. Community opinion is important to the discussion. You may mail your views to RCPC, 4123 Broadway, PMB 311, Oakland, 94611, or write via e-mail to chair @rockridge.org.

December 30, 2008: RCPC decides 50,000 sq. foot store unacceptable.

After Safeway’s stunning November announcement that it would not even consider a new store of less than 50,000 square feet, both the RCPC Land Use Committee and the RCPC board decided that Safeway needed to be told that a 50,000 square foot store was unacceptable. (The store’s present size is about 24,500 square feet.).

Still under discussion is what to tell Safeway about its stakeholder process. Obviously, if that process were to focus on a store of that size, further RCPC participation would be futile. However, a remodel or some other less ambitious project might still provide a useful focus for community discussion.

RCPC is in discussion with other community stakeholders about the direction to go from here

December 7, 2008: College Ave Safeway Meeting Ends With Ultimatum From Safeway.

.It seemed at the beginning that it could be a promising meeting between Safeway representatives and community stakeholders, one that might resolve the design issues separating the two groups. Instead, the meeting foundered when Safeway representative Todd Paradis delivered Safeway’s bottom line: a 50,000 sq. ft. store with parking for 150 cars. The alternative? A minor “patch and paint” remodel of the existing store.

The November stakeholders’ meeting for the College Avenue Safeway rebuild project had been much anticipated. At the October meeting, stakeholder representatives had presented a “Proposed Program for Safeway on College.” It called for rebuilding the store with far greater respect for the surrounding neighborhood. Safeway had promised to respond to that proposal at the November meeting.

The meeting began with a comparison of the stakeholders’ program with public input received at earlier meetings. The program’s topics were placed in one of two categories: “areas of alignment,” i.e., general agreement; or “open items,” topics where facilitators said there was “a wide range of opinions.” Althought most topics were in the “alignment” category, the facilitators claimed there was divergence over:

  • ■size of structure (including use of gas station parcel);
  • ■whether a cafe, a florist, and a bakery would be included in the store;
  • ■location of parking (rooftop or surface or underground).

The audience questioned what “a wide range of opinions” meant.

With that introduction, Safeway architect David Blair presented streetscape sketches for the new store, showing two plazas, one at the corner of Claremont and College, the other on College facing 63rd Street. The sketches showed a row of small shops along College and hinted at a second story above the shops. Also included were sidewalk “bulb-outs” along College Avenue, displacing current on-street parking and reducing College Avenue to two travel lanes and one [west side] parking lane.

There was considerable discussion and dissension over whether these designs respected College Avenue and the neighborhood. The discussion then focused on Safeway’s refusal to declare what size store it was actually planning. Safeway representative Todd Paradis finally stated in frustration that Safeway would drop the small shops and focus on the store itself. He then gave Safeway’s bottom line: a 50,000 sq. ft. store with a minimum of 150 parking spaces (more if the parking was also intended to serve College Avenue merchants). He said this would mean essentially full-lot coverage with rooftop parking.

Paradis said that if this was not acceptable to the community, Safeway would limit improvements to a minor refurbishment of the existing store — a clean-up, repair, and repaint job — and perhaps a repaved parking lot, for a total cost of under $1.5 million. He said nothing in between would make financial sense for Safeway. He also said that under the refurbishment plan, the gas station site would probably be converted to additional parking.

The next stakeholder meeting was set for December 9, when the architects would present their ideas, designed, presumably, to fit one or the other of Safeway’s alternative scenarios. However, Safeway has now cancelled that meeting and proposed one in January. No new date has been set.

Check for updated information at RCPC’s Web site at http://www.rockridge.org or Safeway’s Web site at http://safewayoncollege.com.

October 8, 2008: Stakeholders develop program for College Ave. site, Safeway reply expected at Nov. 12 meeting. Next stakeholder working group meeting Oct 22.

Stakeholder representatives proposed renovation guidelines at the October 1 Safeway stakeholder meeting. Safeway manager Todd Paradis agreed to present the guidelines to the Safeway corporation. Safeway expects to respond at the November 12th stakeholder meeting.

STAKEHOLDER'S PROGRAM SCOPE OF WORK: Major renovation with limited expansion of existing store as a satellite to the Rockridge Center megastore on 51st and Broadway. The following are key components:

  1. Individual and unique architectural design compatible with the best of contemporary Rockridge/College Ave. –No generic shopping mall design
  2. Limit project to existing parcel.  (i.e., remove gas station parcel from project)
  3. Parking plan that supports the strong interdependency of our shopping neighborhood, and that incorporates an overall landscaping design. (The neighborhood appreciates and is happy with our local merchants)
  4. Sound and visual buffers for Contiguous Neighbors to mitigate noise, odor and pest impacts on neighbors.
  5. The redesign should not result in worsening of traffic on College Ave. in or causing traffic problems on nearby streets.

More program components here.

September 30, 2008: Third stakeholder meeting Oct 1, 7-9pm, public invited. First & second stakehold meetings discussed.

There have now been two Safeway-sponsored “stakeholder representative” meetings: the first on September 10 and the second on September 22. The stakeholders consist of RCPC, Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association (CENA), Rockridge District Association (RDA), Concerned Neighbors, the store’s Alcatraz Avenue (Berkeley) neighbors, and a representative of the merchants on College Avenue across from Safeway.

Safeway also invited two “independents” Ito Ripsteen, owner of the building at 3170 College Avenue (northwest corner at Alcatraz Avenue); and Rockridge resident Fred Hertz, a land use attorney who shares office space with Safeway’s attorney, Rena Rickles. At the first meeting, Concerned Neighbors, RCPC, and CENA all objected to the participation of the named persons as “independents.” Discussion at the second meeting left the issue unresolved, but the groups were emphatic that the Safeway appointees not be allowed to block the rest of the groups from reaching agreements.

Each stakeholder group has presented its position. All of the groups felt the proposed size of the replacement structure was a paramount issue. Other big issues included traffic, design, protecting the C-31 zoning and the vitality of the College Avenue retail district, and minimizing impacts on neighbors and the community. One other issue was whether Safeway was taking anything off the table as non-negotiable.

At the second meeting, Safeway presented what it calls “essential elements”. These include use of the Safeway logo and other characteristics that identify the store as a Safeway “lifestyle” store including the peripheral departments (deli, bakery, florist, etc.) that are part of their larger stores. Safeway representative Todd Paradis said he was willing to present other options to Safeway’s management if the group agreed on them, but said he was pessimistic that management would change its position. The major meeting topic again was size, and no conclusions were reached, other than that Safeway’s recent proposed building was too big and didn’t fit the neighborhood. Safeway was asked to bring designs from some of their recently built, smaller stores to the next meeting.

More meetings are set for October 13, and 22, and November 3, each starting at 7 p.m. at the Claremont Middle School gym. Please check this page and the RCPC e-newsletter for updates.  All meetings are open to the public, with a public comment period at the meeting’s end.

September 9, 2008 Stakeholder representative first meeting Sept. 10, 7-9pm, meetings open to public

Safeway has proposed a series of meetings with stakeholder representatives from RCPC, the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association (CENA), Rockridge District Association(RDA ), "Concerned Neighbors of College Ave Safeway" group, the store’s Alcatraz Avenue residential neighbors, an independent Rockridge resident, and local merchants to discuss appropriate criteria for a new store design.  The meetings will run by a professional facilitator hired by Safeway. Sept. 10 agenda available >

Six meetings are scheduled: September 10th and 22nd, October 1st, 13th, and 22nd, and November 3rd. Location: Claremont Middle School gym, 7-9 pm. All meetings open to the public, public input session begins at 8:45pm.

July 28, 2008 Safeway withdraws plans for College Ave. store, to hold a community process.

In response to RCPC's letter and other community opposition, Safeway has withdrawn plans unveiled at the June 19 community manner. Safeway proposes forming a new stakeholder group, including members from various community groups such as RCPC, local merchants, customers and others. The stakeholder group would work alongside Safeway to review proposed site plans, provide constructive feedback and find solutions to community concerns. Meetings to occur throughout the fall.

The full text of Safeway's letter to RCPC can be found here

July 10, 2008 RCPC board votes to oppose the current Safeway Project:

RCPC Board of Directors, acting on the unanimous recommendation of the RCPC Land Use Committee, has unanimously adopted the following position on this project:

The Rockridge Community Planning Council opposes the current Safeway College Avenue Rebuild Project for the following reasons: • The project is too big and will cause major negative impacts on the community; • In addition to the project’s size, its design is incompatible with the surrounding community; • The information provided to the public is totally inadequate for serious discussion of the project.

The full text of RCPC's letter to Safeway can be found here

July 7, 2008 Rockridge News article: Safeway Presents Revised Plans for College Avenue Store Rebuilding

Revised development plans for the Claremont and College Safeway store were presented publicly at a standing-room-only meeting co-hosted by City Councilmember Jane Brunner, the Rockridge Community Planning Council (RCPC), and the Claremont- Elmwood Neighborhood Association (CENA) at Peralta Elementary School.

Jane Brunner welcomed almost 300 people to the meeting held June 19, and introduced RCPC chair Stuart Flashman and CENA president Dean Metzger. In their introductory remarks, both neighborhood representatives indicated that their organizations had significant concerns about the size of the development, the potential increase in traffic, and the proposed project’s incompatibility with the intent of the College Avenue C-31 special retail commercial zone regulations. (See Oakland Municipal Code, Click on Title 17: Planning, Chapter 17.48.) Concerned Neighbors of College Ave Safeway, represented by founders and Rockridge residents Susan Shawl and Nancy McKay, also made an introductory statement, noting their group’s concern about the proposed project’s design and troublesome traffic patterns it could introduce.

Safeway presenters Elisabeth Jewel and Todd Paradis then described the revised design proposal after which the meeting was opened to comments from the audience. More>>

June 19, 2008: Community meeting on revised Safeway design

June 13, 2008: Safeway releases revised plans on website

June 7, 2008 Rockridge News: Safeway announces release of revised plans for College Ave. store

In the midst of revising its plans for the replacement of its market on College Avenue at Claremont, Safeway Stores last month replaced its local architect, Kirk Peterson, with David Blair of MCG Architecture, a San Francisco firm, who will complete the revision.

According to Safeway consultant Elizabeth Jewel, the revised plans will be posted on a Safeway website, http://www.safewayoncollege.com , on June 13. Jewel said Safeway will present the plans privately to immediate neighbors before making them public. She also said Safeway would try to put the plans up earlier if that was possible.

The Rockridge Community Planning Council (RCPC), the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association (CENA), and Oakland Councilwoman Jane Brunner will co-sponsor a public presentation of the Safeway plans and community forum to be held in the Peralta School auditorium, 460 63rd Street, on June 19 at 7:00 p.m.

The meeting will also feature a presentation by Oakland planning staff explaining the administrative process for considering Safeway’s application. There will be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions and to comment on the plans.

Preliminary indications are that the new plans will include a series of small shops fronting on College Avenue and will focus all auto and truck traffic on Claremont Avenue, thus eliminating access to the store from College Avenue. As evident from the scope of the original plans, the project has the potential for either a positive or negative effect on the neighborhoods near the store. Attend the meeting to learn full details.

May 3, 2008 Rockridge News LUC Update

A neighborhood group, Neighbors Concerned with Safeway/College, has formed to “bird-dog” this major project. Contact safewayneighbors@sbcglobal.net to get on their mailing list. Also, Safeway has its own website for the project, http:// safewayoncollege.com where project plans will be posted when released.

Feb 2, 2008 Rockridge News PPRC Update

A preliminary application, defining the scope and intent of the project, has been filed with the city. Peterson Vollman, the city’s case planner, said the document shows a total store area of 62,000 sq. ft., nearly three times as large as the current store. The application also showed 219 parking spaces on the roof of the new store. The current Safeway store has a 23,000 sq. ft. floor area; there are 106 parking spaces. The preliminary application shows both truck and automobile traffic will enter the site from Claremont Avenue at the north end of the property where the automobiles will also exit. The current driveways on College Avenue will be eliminated. Safeway trucks will exit onto College via a new truck-only driveway at the Berkeley/Oakland border. Other features of the design include an arcade along College Avenue. Safeway’s architect, Kirk Peterson, intends to make a public presentation in the near future. An appointment to review the preliminary application may be made by calling the case planner at 238-6167.