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


Anonymous said...

I really don't understand why Safeway is SO adamant about having a parking entrance on 63rd. As far as traffic planning goes, it doesn't make sense regarding traffic coming up Alcatraz or Claremont. With the changing demographics in the lower Rockridge/Bushrod area, it is crazy for them to be completely ignoring this part of THEIR market.

Plus, increasing the walk-ability of the neighborhood will increase their rental income from their building leases along College.

We Fight Bligh said...

We agree. Traffic circulation will be a big issue with this development. The City will likely impose conditions to ameliorate the potential problems. One could be to eliminate this driveway. The other may be to close off 63rd and no longer have it be a through street.

Anonymous said...

Safeway,expansion fights blight? I am interested to know if anyone knows how many thousands of more dollars will Safeway spend on expanding their Alcohol selection.