College Avenue Safeway rebuild

ROCKRIDGE CENTER SAFEWAY REBUILD AND EXPANSION (51st/Broadway)

News in reverse chronological order

June 2, 2012: Likely Late Summer for Rockridge Center Draft EIR

Daren Ranelletti (DRanelletti@oaklandnet.com; phone 238-3663), the Oakland planner handling this project, says that Safeway's revised plans for the major expansion of this retail center will be submitted shortly. RCPC has, as yet, received no response from Safeway to the list of 10 issues that North Oakland community groups asked it to consider in its revised plans. The draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this project will likely be published some time later this summer. Watch for details.

April 4, 2012: DEIR Will Be Released Late-Summer or Fall, CVS Lease Extended Through 2012

The release date for the Draft EIR on this 292,000 sq. ft rebuild/expansion proposal (put forward by Safeway, the master tenant at the site) has again been pushed back. The DEIR might now be released in late summer or fall. The lease for the shopping center's CVS store has been extended to the end of 2012. CVS's management says they will be restocking some areas, but it appears many of the most popular departments, including hardware, housewares, and fabrics, have been permanently eliminated or greatly scaled back.

Representatives of RCPC and other North Oakland neighborhood groups hope to meet soon with Safeway's management to discuss concerns and issues still needing to be addressed in Safeway's proposal.

February 4, 2012: Land Use Committee Report

The Draft EIR for this project, which involves demolishing and rebuilding the shopping center while adding approximately 120,000 sq.ft. of additional retail, is, according to Oakland planner Daren Ranelletti (dranelletti@oaklandnet.com, phone 238-3663), still in process, and an administrative draft has not yet been received. Among other things, the city is still awaiting revised project plans promised by Safeway, the master tenant and project sponsor, in response to comments at last January's design review committee hearings.

The RCPC Land Use Committee, joined by John Gatewood of Urbanists for a Livable Temescal-Rockridge Area (ULTRA), discussed trying to identify a single community alternative for the project. Rather than try to redesign the project, however, the committee recommended a number of principles that should be addressed in the project's final design. The principles are intended to create a pedestrian and transitfriendly urban shopping area. They included:
■ Safe, convenient, and pleasant pedestrian access to the Safeway store and other shopping from both Broadway and Pleasant Valley shopping center entrances;
■ Extend the city street grid into the center so that extensions of Coronado and Gilbert Streets connect within the center and extend to the quarry pond and all parking structures;
■ Replace most of the surface parking areas with structured parking so that the land is used efficiently and appropriately for an urban area;
■ Activate the quarry pond frontage with restaurants or another activity center;
■ Better AC Transit access to the center, including a possible onsite station;
■ Direct pedestrian access to shopping from Pleasant Valley;
■ Better landscaping and sidewalk amenities on the Pleasant Valley frontage, in surface parking areas, and on the "shopping street;"
■ Prominent pedestrian crossings (e.g., speed tables) across access roads on site;
■ Provide space for a future phase to include housing.

These principles will be reviewed by the RCPC Board and other North Oakland community groups, and if accepted, could form the basis for discussions with Safeway.

September 4, 2011: DEIR Will Be Released Late-September or October

According to the latest word from Darin Ranelletti, the Oakland planner assigned to the case, the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for this project, which would rebuild the entire shopping center in three phases, adding about 120,000 sq. ft. of developed space, is due for release in late September or October. RCPC, along with other North Oakland community organizations, has developed a series of alternative proposal for development of the site.

June 4, 2011:Strong Feelings About Safeway

"There is a lot of interest in this project," City Planner Darin Ranelletti said, speaking of Safeway's expansion plans for the shopping center at Broadway and Pleasant Valley avenues.

"A lot of people hate it, a lot of people love it, some are in the middle; it's all over the place," he told audience members at the RCPC Town Hall meeting Thursday, May 19.

Following presentation of the plans to the Planning Commission's Design Review Committee in December, a divided Committee voted to forward the plans and public comments to the full Commission for review. This set the stage for an environmental review now expected to be ready for public response by July or August, Ranelletti said.

Although people disagree on the most satisfactory design elements, Ranelletti said people broadly see two differing general goals for the project, goals he does not find mutually exclusive: "One view of the project is as an economic stimulator, generating sales tax for the city. The other view calls for a design that would extend nearby urban patterns into the project.

"Regardless of one's point of view, however, Ranelletti said the project's size and location mean it will have definite environmental impacts that regulators – the Planning Commission – will be ruling on as the proposal comes under review.Ranelletti encouraged audience and community members to add their comments to the process, so the Planning Commission has as full a community response as possible.

Send comments to Darin Ranelletti, 238-3663, e-mail dranelletti@oaklandnet.com.

May 5, 2011: Land Use Update: Rockridge Shopping Center Reconstruction Project (Corner of Broadway and Pleasant Valley) and College Avenue Safeway Shopping Center (Corner of College and Claremont Avenues)

As reported in last month’s Land Use Committee Update, the Draft Environmental Impacts Reports (DEIRs) for these two large and important projects have again been delayed.

Darin Ranelletti (238-3663, DRanelletti@ oaklandnet.com), the planner assigned to the Rockridge Shopping Center project, now says that the DEIR for that project can be expected, perhaps, some time in June. Once released, there will be a 45-day public review and comment period, including a public hearing before the Planning Commission.

That meeting will not, however, be when the Commission considers whether to approve the project. That won’t happen until all of the comments on the DEIR have been responded to in writing and the Planning Commission has decided whether to certify the Final EIR as adequate.

Bottom line: don’t expect this project to come up for possible approval until some time in the fall. At that point, the Planning Commission may look a bit different. Doug Boxer and Vince Gibbs have left the commission, giving Mayor Quan two appointments to the commission. In the meantime, RCPC and other community groups will continue trying to convince Safeway that a better project would, in the long run, be in everyone’s best interest.

On a related note, Safeway has extended the lease for the CVS store until December. The store had already begun closing down departments and emptying out shelving areas. Now, it appears they will restock the store, at least temporarily. Does this mean there’s a possibility that Safeway has had a change of heart about kicking CVS out? Don’t count on it. More likely, it just indicates they’ve realized they won’t have a project approved any time soon, and don’t want to leave the store sitting vacant. Still, one can hope.

If you want to write to Safeway about this, the address is:

David Zylstra, Chief Operating Officer Property Development Centers 5918 Stoneridge Mall Road Pleasanton, CA 94588-3229

Concerning the College Avenue Safeway store project, it looks like Peterson Vollman, (pvollman@oaklandnet.com , 238-6167), the planner handling the project, hasn’t met his goal of having the DEIR for that project released in April. As of press time, there’s no word back from him about when to expect public release of the DEIR.

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.

March 5, 2011: Reconstruction Update

Following up on the Planning Commission design review committee’s 2-1 vote approving Safeway’s plans for rebuilding and expanding this 50-year-old shopping center (The Rockridge News, February 2011), RCPC’s Land Use Committee and board discussed next steps. While the committee’s approval is disappointing, we are hopeful we can convince the full commission to improve on the current plans, especially for the project’s crucial second phase. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is in preparation and due to be released this spring.The Oakland planner assigned to the project is Darin Ranelletti, 238-3663, DRanelletti@oaklandnet.com.

Jan. 6, 2011: Old Wine in a New Bottle?

Two years ago, Safeway proposed initial plans for rebuilding the Rockridge Shopping Center.  This fifteen acre strip mall at the corner of Broadway and Pleasant Valley Avenue is North Oakland's largest commercial center.  (The O/E Bay Bridge East shopping center at 40th Street and San Pablo Avenue is larger, but half of it is in Emeryville.)  Those plans were widely criticized for an unimaginative suburban design.

In July of 2010, Safeway came back with a new development team and a new design.  The new design has about the same square-footage as the old one, but incorporates an internal "shopping street" fronted by two-story structures, giving it a somewhat more urban feel.  Here are some of Safeway's architectural drawings on the site plan.

While it improves over the earlier design, the new plan still leaves a lot to be desired.  Representatives of five North Oakland neighborhood groups: RCPC, Urbanists for a Livable Rockridge Temescal Area (ULTRA), Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue (FANS), Standing Together for A Neighborhood Development (STAND) and Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League (PANIL) got together and developed a critique of Safeway's proposal.

However, it's one thing to throw stones, it's another thing to provide a constructive alternative.  The five groups decided to work on coming up with alternative designs that would fit better into Rockridge's urban environment.  Four alternatives were developed -- two by ULTRA and two by RCPC members.  The four plans will be presented at RCPC's January Town Hall meeting, Thursday, January 20th at 7:30 PM at the Rockridge branch library.

Safeway's plans will soon be presented at the January 26th meeting of the Design Review Committee of the Oakland Planning Commission.  The five neighborhood groups plan to present their alternative designs as well.  Here's the full report the groups submitted to the Planning Commission.  Rockridge residents are encouraged to attend and voice their opinions about what works best for the Rockridge community.

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Nov. 6, 2010: Land Use Committee Discusses the Center

The Land Use Committee discussed design aspects of this very large project at its October meeting. The committee expressed concerns about the large amount of surface parking being proposed, the location of the Safeway at the rear of the center and far removed from transit stops, the ineffective use of the project’s frontage on the adjoining quarry pond, and the relative inactivity of the design’s Broadway and Pleasant Valley street frontage.

The Planning Commission’s design review committee will tentatively discuss this project, as well as the College Avenue Safeway Shopping Center project on December 8. Some of the design documents have also been posted on the RCPC site and the full set is available from the City (see below). An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is in preparation. The Oakland planner assigned to the project is Darin Ranelletti; tel: 238-3663; DRanelletti@oaklandnet.com.

 

Sept. 4, 2010: Residents Critique Revised Rockridge Shopping Center Plans at July Town Hall

RCPC’s July Town Hall meeting hosted David Zylstra, CEO of Safeway’s Property Development Centers division, presenting revised redevelopment plans for the 15.4-acre Rockridge Shopping Center at Broadway and Pleasant Valley Avenue.

Safeway plans to add about 120,000 sq. ft. to the present 185,000 sq. ft. shopping center space, including a new 65,000 sq. ft. Safeway to replace the existing 50,000 sq. ft. store. Safeway still plans to demolish the current shopping center anchor, the 80,000 sq. ft. CVS store. CVS doesn’t plan to stay in the rebuilt center.

Responding to many vehement audience comments, Zylstra said Safeway is trying to retain the CVS store’s many functions, especially the nursery/garden center. He admitted that it is proving hard to find a store willing to provide that function.

Responding to earlier criticisms, Safeway added internal streets, and a new entry and traffic light off of Broadway opposite Coronado Avenue [Wendy’s]. Several buildings will be two-story, with a three-story building at Broadway and Pleasant Valley and storefronts along both streets, possibly with direct street entry. Cars will park on a surface lot and two rooftop parking lots.

Audience members commented on the difficulty for elderly and the disabled to get to the new Safeway location at the rear of the site, and suggested the need for an internal shuttle bus. Zylstra said AC Transit staff has rejected both a bus station within the shopping center, and making the center the turnaround point for the 51A/51B bus lines. RCPC Chair Stuart Flashman promised that RCPC would pursue this issue with AC Transit.

The sense of the audience was that the project was a lot better than Safeway’s origi-nal proposal, but still has a long way to go.

May 4, 2010: Safeway's Rockridge Center Plans Revamped

Safeway’s plans to remodel and enlarge this important commercial center were panned by both the community and the Oakland Planning Commission. (Safeway does not own the site, but is the master tenant and has been given control of the remodeling project.) Safeway has now revamped its plans and hired Larry Tramatola, a well-known local political consultant, to bring them forward to the community. RCPC is discussing a joint presentation for the Rockridge, Temescal, and Piedmont Avenue communities, all of which use the center heavily. We hope this will initiate a productive dialog that will lead to a project the community can be proud of.

September 4, 2009: Safeway's Rockridge Center Plans Panned at Planning Commission Scoping Hearing.

Safeway has said it wants to hear from the public about its proposed plans for dramatic remodeling of the aging Rockridge Shopping Center located at Pleasant Valley Road and Broadway. The company got an earful at the Planning Commission’s July public hearing held to receive comments on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to be prepared for the project.

Safeway’s plans call for increasing the size of the shopping center, currently about 185,000 sq. ft., by 110,000 sq. ft. Most of the center’s buildings would be replaced by two story structures, with the Safeway store itself expanding from 50,000 sq. ft. to 65,000 sq. ft. and moving to the space now occupied by the Longs drugs/CVS store. (That store would be replaced by a much smaller 15,000 sq. ft. conventional drug store.) Most of the parking (1,000 spaces in all) would continue to be surface park-ing spread over the lot. Some underground parking is planned, as well.

Planning commissioners heard from several neighborhood groups, including RCPC, and other interested citizens. In addition to its testimony at the hearing, RCPC submitted a six-page comment letter.

The dominant theme of the comments was that Safeway’s plans had major problems and would need a lot of revision.

Other neighborhood groups weighing in included Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue (FANS), the Temescal area’s Standing Together for Accountable Neighborhood development (STANd), and Urbanists for a Livable Temescal Rockridge Area (ULTRA). A fifth group, Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League (PANIL), submitted written comments but did not attend the hearing.

While the groups have sometimes been at odds with one another on past North Oakland development projects, they were conspicuously unified in rejecting the Safeway proposal. Indeed, several commissioners commented on how unusual it was to have the entire community speak with one, united, voice.

Speaker after speaker pointed out the project’s potentially damaging transportation, air quality, and public safety effects. Speakers also emphasized the need to look beyond Safeway’s proposal at more urban, transit-oriented, and community-integrated alternatives. Several specifically referenced a study that the City itself had commissioned two years earlier for a commercial “node” at the Broadway and 51st Street intersection.

After the speakers finished, the commissioners had their say. After complimenting the speakers for exceptionally cogent and well-thought-out comments, the commissioners, one after another, chastised Safeway for its unimaginative, suburban-style proposal. Commissioners echoed the speakers in asking for a more urban alternative proposal, and made it clear that major changes would be needed if Safeway expected to get Commission approval.

It remains to be seen how well Safeway heard the message.

July 4, 2009: Safeway Planning Major Changes for Rockridge Shopping Center.

Safeway’s commercial real estate division unveiled plans for a redesigned Rockridge Shopping Center, including an enlarged Safeway store, at two open houses held June 23 and 25. The Rockridge Shopping Center, at the corner of Broadway and Pleasant Valley Avenue, is the biggest shopping center in North Oakland, serving not only Rockridge but also Temescal, Broadway Terrace, Piedmont Avenue areas, and Safeway wants to demolish and replace the Safeway and Long’s stores and redevelop and add other buildings. While Safeway isn’t the owner of the property, it has been allowed to control its development.

“The project would contain a total of approximately 304,000 square feet of commercial space and 1,000 parking spaces. Also proposed are modifications to adjacent streets including additional vehicle travel lanes and/or turn lanes.”

The current shopping center, dating back to the 1960s, includes about 185,500 sq. ft. of space, including Safeway, a Long’s drugs, and a Chase bank (formerly Washington Mutual Bank). Safeway’s proposed rebuild would add about another 110,000 sq. ft. of commercial space to the complex, putting a second story on most of the site’s single-story buildings and adding buildings along the Pleasant Valley frontage.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the proposal is to move Safeway onto the site now occupied by Long’s drugs. According to Safeway, CVS, the new owner of Long’s, isn’t interested in maintaining the current 87,000 sq. ft. store, and will, instead, move into a much smaller (approximately 15,000 sq. ft.) store. Once the new Safeway is finished, the current store would be torn down and replaced by a two-story structure, including several major retail tenants and some second-story office space.

The community’s reaction at the June 23 open house was decidedly mixed. While many welcomed the expansion of the retail space, some complained that the proposal was still too auto-oriented and not pedestrian or bicycle-friendly. Several members of the group ULTRA (Urbanists for a Livable Temescal Rockridge Area) felt that the proposal was too suburban and needed to be far denser. They wanted to see four, and perhaps even eight-story buildings on the site, including residential units in the upper stories. (Safeway said that was impossible and explained that the site’s long-term master lease did not allow residential use.)

On the other hand, a resident in the condominiums that face the shopping center on the other side of Pleasant Valley Avenue was appalled at the prospect of looking across at a row of four-story buildings. Others commented on the need for a better connection to the community through the Broadway frontage, and referenced a site study prepared by the City several years earlier that tied the area to additional development on the west side of Broadway.

Regardless of what design is chosen, a major concern will certainly be traffic. The Broadway/51st Street/Pleasant Valley intersection already is subject to major delays during peak commute hours. Safeway proposes to add turn lanes on both Broadway and Pleasant Valley, but it seems likely that adding another 110,000 sq. ft. of space will make an already-congested section of Broadway considerably worse.

There will be a public hearing before the Oakland Planning Commission, tentatively scheduled for July 15, to consider the scope of environmental studies for the project. This is an opportunity for direct public comment on the project. Comments are entered into the record for consideration and response in the final report.

June 17, 2009: Safeway Corp to significantly expand Center retail space, close Longs. Public meetings June 23 & 25.

Safeway is holding two informational open houses in the coming weeks for neighbors to learn about and comment on its proposed plans for the 51st/Broadway Rockridge Shopping Center. Plans include closing the Long's Drugs and moving the Safeway store into its space. More than 100,000 sq. ft. of retail space would be added to the Center.

Informational open houses will take place:

  • **Tuesday June 23, 2009 7-8:30 pm Chapel of the Chimes Mortuary Piedmont Avenue
  • **Thursday June 25, 2009 7-8:30 pm Chapel of the Chimes Mortuary Piedmont Avenue

Rockridge Center Safeway Pre-Application Plans - Get more Business Documents

June 1, 2009: Safeway Corp flyer answers questions on the new design

Safeway Rockridge Center Flyer -

Pending approval by the City of Oakland, the Shopping Center at 51st (Pleasant Valley) Street and Broadway is scheduled for a significant “Make Over.” The “make over” will include a new Safeway, a new pharmacy and many new shops that the community has long desired. It will include a more pedestrian friendly layout and more stores on Pleasant Valley and Broadway.

Here are some preliminary answers to some questions:

When will the construction start and be completed?

The construction will have two phases. First phase is scheduled to start in 2010 and be completed by 2011. This phase will include the new Safeway. Phase II, which will include the balance of the center would be completed in 2012.

What will happen to the existing Safeway?

The Safeway will be moved to the site that Longs/CVS currently occupies. The old 90,000 sq. ft. building will be demolished and a new Safeway of approximately 65,000 will be built. This new Safeway will be using “green construction” and will be Safeway’s top of the line store. While construction takes place Safeway customers will continue to shop at the existing store.

What will happen to the Longs?

Longs has been sold to CVS. CVS is a major pharmacy and drug store whose typical size is 12,000 – 13,000 sq ft. CVS does not plan to carry all the items of the existing Longs and will focus on being a quality pharmacy. There are currently discussions with CVS to relocate them within the redeveloped center.

What will happen to Starbucks and the other stores?

Starbucks and many other shops will be part of the re-developed center.

Will new retail stores be added?

Yes, the new shopping center will be able to accommodate a number of new retailers selling a much broader variety of goods.

Will parking be added?

Parking will be added to the roof of the new Safeway and there will also be underground parking.

What transportation improvements will be made?

Patrons come to this shopping center in cars, buses, bicycles and on foot. Improvements will be made to improve transportation safety. The shopping center will be more pedestrian focused, with shops and plazas on Pleasant Valley. We are also proposing bicycle paths and a walking observatory along the water reservoir. While the number of parking spaces will be increased, the surface parking lot area will be reduced.

What is happening to the abandoned restaurant that was formerly Emil Villa’s?

This is not part of our project, as it is a separate parcel and not a legal part of the shopping center. However the building will be completely remodeled later this year and it is anticipated that it will become the new home of AAA following the remodel.

Informational open house will take place: Tuesday June 23, 2009 7-8:30 pm Chapel of the Chimes Mortuary Piedmont AvenueThursday June 25, 2009 7-8:30 pm Chapel of the Chimes Mortuary Piedmont Avenue

To read the full flyer, click here for the pdf.