Safeway wants to bring “Lifestyle” store to Rockridge

Safeway is hoping to update and expand their store on the busy corner of College and Claremont avenues in Rockridge. The two-year-old project proposal is waiting on final approval from Oakland’s Planning Commission. The proposed plan for a “Lifestyle Safeway” has hit some bumps as opposition to the project have organized in an attempt to pressure the city of Oakland to require that Safeway downsize their project. But some shoppers couldn’t disagree more.
“I think it’s about time. This is exactly what we need – to get that ghetto looking Oakland store updated,” said Mallory Sydnor, frequent shopper to Safeway and mother to a 7-year-old boy. “I work six days a week, and a full-service store would accommodate the limited time I have to shop.”
The Safeway has been at the Oakland-Berkeley border for 46 years, and since the closing of the neighboring 76 gas station a few years ago, Safeway has been trying to gain support for a plan to expand the Safeway onto the rest of the 2.1 acre lot. There is a picture of the proposed project in the Safeway parking lot and underneath an urge from Safeway: “Express your support for a new store at Safewayoncollege.com.”
Safeway’s plan has grown several times; the current proposal entails a second story addition with the grocery store on the second floor and eight small retail shops that would face out onto the street. The second floor would feature a restaurant with a rooftop terrace, and an elevated walkway. Some residents and merchants are wary about the size of the new store that would grow from 25,000 sq. ft to 51,400 sq. ft especially in a neighborhood that is known for its charming small shops, bakeries, and specialty stores.
Safeway first held community meetings in 2008 to introduce their idea for a new, larger, and more modern store. Carl Davidson, general manager of Vino — a wine shop directly across the street, was at that meeting, and all the meetings since.
“It’s a giant store in a small neighborhood,” said Davidson, adding that as a resident his concern is with the incongruity with the neighborhood, “I’m not afraid of the competition.”
Safeway has been emphasizing the benefits the new project will have on the community and the city of Oakland on Safewayoncollege.com, starting out with the 108 to 128 new jobs the new store and additional retails shops will add. Safeway also projects an annual revenue of almost a half million dollars to the city of Oakland by way of sales and property taxes.
A Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) was produced by Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency last summer, to assess the impact that the new project would have on the neighborhood. The report included such factors, as traffic, aesthetics, and noise.
But the local merchants association, Rockridge Community Planning Council (RCPC), has alleged that the DEIR has underestimated the impact the project would have on traffic in the area, as well as the impacts on air quality, water quality and greenhouse emissions. In a letter written to Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency in response to the DEIR, RCPC stated: “Based on these failures, RCPC recommends that the EIR be rewritten to address the deficiencies and then re-circulated for another round of public comments.”
The Safeway is about half a block from the Berkeley city limit, but nearby Berkeley residents have taken issue with the Safeway project too. Berkeley City Council listened to local residents objections last fall.
“Safeway has not been a good neighbor to Berkeley residents,” said Meri Simon a Berkeley resident during that September meeting, adding that Safeway has failed to respond to complaints about trash from the store accumulating along Alcatraz where Simon lives.
Other concerns about the project included increased traffic, issues with parking, and overall size of the project overtaking the neighborhood.
Consequently two letters were sent to the city of Oakland’s Planning Commission from Berkeley City Council. Berkeley councilmember Gordon Wozniak of the Oakland adjacent District 8 admits in the letter that, “Although the proposed project is entirely in Oakland, its impacts will extend into Berkeley and many residents will be strongly impacted due to their proximity to the project.”
The nine-point letter outlines concerns including scale, parking, construction hours, and greenhouse gas emissions. “ … The Planning Commission should reject the current Safeway expansion and not certify the EIR.”
Councilmember Jane Brunner of Rockridge district said in a news conference that while the city of Berkeley’s concerns will be considered, the decision to approve the project would be Oakland’s.
Safeway did not return calls and emails for comment.
RCPC has commissioned a third party consultant to evaluate the Safeway project, its impact on the neighborhood, and draft another Environmental Impact Report.
The proposal is before the Oakland Planning Commission. No news when a decision will be made.

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A Walk Down College Avenue

See Click Fix Comes to Oakland

SeeClickFix a website, also available as a mobile APP for cell phones, is making it easier to get that pothole or broken streetlight in your neighborhood fixed.

Now Oakland residents can log onto SeeClickFix, and report non-emergency problems to the Oakland Public Works Department.  Complaints such as graffiti or an intersection with a hidden stop sign are logged online, and then sent to the Oakland Public Works Department.  Reporters of issues, can also upload a picture online, as well as comment on another person’s complaint.

Complaints, and remedies are also tracked online.  Each complaint is read, and the status can be seen online — when the issue is reported, when it is received by the city, and when it is fixed.

“I think it’s a great idea, I haven’t had a chance to use it, but maybe I’ll download the APP,” said Rockridge resident Joshua Geta.

Oakland’s Public Works Department says that due to limited resources, issues that need attention are not getting it.  SeeClickFix is helping the city do what it needs, while giving citizens an easy-to-use forum to see their issues logged and tracked.

Paper or Plastic? The Safeway Expansion on College Avenue

The corner of College Ave and Claremont Ave is one of the busiest intersections in Rockridge with four streets intersecting at once.  The businesses on the small block of College Ave. from 62nd to 63rd street, have been there since the early 1970’s, and just on the opposite side, Safeway, is proposing a remodel plan that promises a 21st century shopping center.  And some shoppers can’t wait.

 

“I think it’s about time.  This is exactly what we need – to get that ghetto looking Oakland store updated,” said Mallory Sydnor, frequent shopper to Safeway and mother to a 7-year-old boy.  “I work six days a week, and a full-service store would accommodate the limited time I have to shop.”

The Safeway on the corner of College Ave. and Claremont Ave., has been there for 46 years, and since the closing of the 76 gas station a few years ago, in front of the grocery store, Safeway has been trying to gain support for a plan to expand onto the rest of the lot.  Opposite the grocery store entrance is a picture of the proposed project and underneath:  “Express your support for a new store at Safewayoncollege.com.”

However, these plans have been met with some opposition by neighbors and local merchants.

Safeway first held community meetings in 2008 to introduce their idea for a new, larger, and more modern store.  Carl Davidson, general manager of Vino — since 1997, a wine shop directly across the street, was at that meeting, and all the meetings since.

Safeway’s plan has grown several times; the current proposal entails a two-story grocery store, 8 small shops that would face out onto the street, and a restaurant with a rooftop terrace.  Some residents and merchants are wary about the size of the new store, especially in a neighborhood that is known for the charm of the small shops, bakeries, and specialty stores.

“It’s a giant store, in a small neighborhood,” said Davidson, adding that as a resident the concern is more with the incongruity with the neighborhood, “I’m not afraid of the competition.”

Approval for the project is based on the results of a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR).  A DEIR was produced by Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency last summer, to access the impact that the new project would have on the neighborhood.  The report included such factors, as traffic, aesthetics, and noise.

But the local merchants association, Rockridge Community Planning Council (RCPC), has alleged that the DEIR has underestimated the impact the project would have on traffic in the area, as well as negative impact on air quality, water quality and greenhouse emissions.  In a letter written to Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency in response to the DEIR, RCPC stated:

“Based on these failures, RCPC recommends that the EIR be rewritten to address the deficiencies and then re-circulated for another round of public comments.”

Safeway did not return calls and emails for comment.

RCPC has commissioned a third party consultant to evaluate the Safeway project, and its impact on the neighborhood.

The proposal is now before the Planning Commission, no news when a decision will be made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rockridge at First Sight

Oakland gets a bad rap; you can tell by the way people react when you tell them you live in Oakland.  I guess to some it takes a certain kind of hard-core person to live in Oakland.  While certain parts can definitely be “sketchy “ there are some real gems of neighborhoods; Rockridge is one.  It borders Berkeley; it’s also referred to as North Oakland, and boasts some 80 plus restaurants and shops along its business district street of College Ave., according to the Rockridge district business association.

            Walking along College Ave. you pass small cafes — a lot of cafes, restaurants, and shops that sell everything from oriental rugs to arts supplies, and much more in between.  It seems that Rockridge is the perfect little haven for small businesses.  Besides the Trader Joe’s, and Safeway, which judging by the signs in their lot is hoping to remodel and utilize the whole corner it lies on, there are no large or chain stores.

Street traffic includes families with small children, and middle-school-aged children from the nearby Claremont Middle School.  At night this changes, as the scene turns into people scurrying into the many restaurants, from French to Burmese, Rockridge’s dining scene is varied and award winning, with many restaurants displaying proudly their mentions in SF Gate, Zagat ratings and more.

            The middle of Rockridge’s business district would be the Rockridge Bart station.  There you can sometimes find a street musician serenading commuters with his saxophone as they exit the Bart station.  This is it for street people — there aren’t many panhandlers, or homeless, at least none that I saw.  If you travel a couple miles north on College Ave., into Berkeley, the shift is evident, as street vendors become common, as do panhandlers, and homeless young adults.

            The residential neighborhoods are lined with beautiful homes, and well-trimmed lawns, and besides the occasional house with children playing outside, are very quiet.  There are a few neighborhoods with apartment complexes, but these are not the norm.   

            From first impressions the neighborhood looks to be made up of well-to-do Caucasians, although the students that attend the nearby middle school are surprisingly racially diverse, as if by design.  It’s easy to see why Rockridge is the most sought after Oakland neighborhood; even the city busses that roll down College Ave. look newer, and shinier than the rest of the city. 

            For anyone who has negative ideas about what Oakland’s like, they need to visit – and should start with Rockridge.