Saturday, November 21, 2009

College Avenue Safeway Moving Forward

Despite vocal opposition from a small cadre of nearby residents, the College Avenue Safeway continues to move forward in the entitlement process to rebuild the Safeway in Rockridge at College and Claremont. They have purchased the Union 76 Gas Station, closed it and fenced it. The City has also held a scoping meeting for the EIR. You still have until December 1st to identify issues you believe should be addressed in the EIR.

We Fight Blight believes the project will remedy an area of aesthetic blight by removing the gas station and surface parking and creating a relationship with College Avenue with a pedestrian oriented facade. However, we also believe Safeway must adequately address traffic as the most significant issue. Concerns about consistency with the C-31 zoning are overblown. The Oakland Planning Code provides sufficient discretion to the Planning Commission to approve the project with certain conditions. Ironically, opponents who support a paint and patch approach as keeping in character with the essence of Rockridge essentially argue to maintain a quintessentially suburban form in the midst of a relatively dense urban village.

Below is a letter from Elisabeth Jewel, a consultant to Safeway, describing where they are at in the process.

November 20, 2009

Dear Safeway Neighbors:

This week the Oakland Planning Commission conducted the first hearing on the proposed rebuild of the Safeway at College and Claremont . This meeting was a scoping session designed to discuss what items will be studied in the Environmental Impact Report.

Safeway’s architect, Ken Lowney, made a presentation to the Planning Commission of the slides and drawings you may have seen on the website at The hearing room was full of neighbors and other interested parties such as bicycle and pedestrian advocates. The Commissioners heard from about 21 speakers whose comments ranged from questioning the purpose of the rebuild to challenging the zoning conformity and asking for alternative projects to be studied (including one with senior housing). An architect representing a group of neighborhood architects presented a plan that made a small addition to the store while extending the parking area to cover most of the lot including the gas station parcel. Many conveyed concerns over traffic, zoning, parking, air quality, conformity with C-31 zoning, environmental sustainability and pedestrian/bike safety.

The Planning Commission agreed with the Oakland City Planning Department staff position that the EIR will study transportation and traffic, noise, and air quality. In addition, the Planning Commissioners requested that the EIR study the possible addition of housing, impact of the driveway on 63rd St., parking lot usages as well as bicycle and pedestrian impacts. The EIR consultant, working at the direction of the Planning Department, will now study these issues and prepare a comprehensive report in about six months. There will be another Planning Commission meeting scheduled when the draft report is released.

Commissioners will continue to receive written public comment until December 1st. In the mean time, please feel free to direct your comments or questions about the project to me. We have posted 4 informational handouts that Safeway gave Commissioners on our website. Please continue to check the website for updates. You can also read more about what happened at the meeting by going to

Thanks for your continuing interest in the rebuilding of this Safeway store.



Elisabeth Jewel
Community Affairs Consultant to Safeway
510/849-4811 ph
510/849-4827 fax

Friday, November 6, 2009

Update on Nic Nak Liquors and the Appeal to City Council

In a large outpouring of support against the approval of the Nic Nak Liquor Store, the North Oakland Community raised the filing fee to appeal the Planning Commission's approval of the Nic Nak Liquor Store. Community members banded together donations ranging from ten to one-hundred dollars. In this down economy, that is a significant indication of how much the North Oakland Community does not want to see another liquor store in its midst. A 37 page appeal detailing the faulty decision of the Planning Commission and the inadequacy of their findings was submitted to the Planning Department. The Planning Department has been preparing a response to the appeal and discussing the legal ramifications with the City Attorney's Office. It is likely the appeal may be heard in January after the holiday season.

In the meatime, the Nic Nak Liquors is precluded from selling any liquor until the matter is decided by the City Council. Jane Brunner, the City Council President and represenative for North Oakland will play a key role in determining whether the Nic Nak Liquor Store can peddle liquor in the already over-saturated liquor market.

Interestingly, We Fight Blight missed another liquor outlet in North Oakland at the corner of Alatraz and College. The approval of Nic Nak would actually result in 20 liquor outlouts within a mile of 6400 Shattuck Avenue, rather than the 19 previously reported. Regardless, the fact is that North Oakland and South Berkeley are plagued with problem liquor outlets. Adding one more liquor store does little to support economic revitalization. One area of interest is that homes in the North Oakland neighborhoods near Nic Nak have been selling quite briskly, indicating a high demand for the area. Unfortunately, Nic Nak Liquors represents a foregone way of life that is no longer supported by the North Oakland Community. Mr. Pannell would do well to reconsider his market and provide a product the community truly wants.

On another note of interest, we understand that Mr. Pannell has released Clinton Killian as his legal representative on the project. A former Planning Commissioner, Mr. Killian has had a checkered past. An expose in the East Bay Weekly during the last City Council election, where Mr. Killian was running for the at-large City Council seat now occupied by Rebecca Kaplan, revealed that Clinton Killian had significant legal and financial problems including unpaid bills and allegations of sexual harrasment. It is unclear whether Mr. Pannell dumped Mr. Killian because of his baggage or whether Mr. Pannell simply does not have the financial resources to keep him on the payroll. In any event, Mr. Killian is out.