Land Use Update

Friday, April 5, 2013

In this update: College Avenue Safeway Project: College & Claremont Avenues, and Rockridge Shopping Center: Rebuild and Expansion Project, Broadway & Pleasant Valley Avenue

College Avenue Safeway Project: College & Claremont Avenues

This project was approved by the City Council last December, with the final project a result of a settlement negotiated between Safeway and neighborhood groups (including RCPC). Safeway is now in the midst of converting the pretty pictures presented to the City Council into the working drawings that will guide the actual construction. The settlement agreement calls for periodic meetings between Safeway and the community groups as construction preparations move forward to ensure that any last-minute changes in the project don't take the community by surprise. The first group of drawings have just been released, and, at first glance, don't appear to contain anything alarming.

However, the architects in the groups will review them carefully.

Construction of the project will probably begin towards the end of 2013, and is expected to last about a year.

Rockridge Shopping Center: Rebuild and Expansion Project, Broadway & Pleasant Valley Avenue

This project would, in three phases, replace the current shopping center with an expanded center, enlarging the Safeway from 50,000 to 65,000 sq. ft. and adding 120,000 sq.ft. of retail and office space. The comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) closed last month, and the city and its consultants are now working on preparing responses to the many comments received.

Representatives of RCPC, Piedmont Avenue, and Temescal community groups met with our new council member, Dan Kalb, and with Darin Ranelletti (238-3663, dranelletti@oaklandnet.com), the planner handling the project, to discuss community concerns and how the Final EIR will address them. Two topics were uppermost - housing and traffic.

Safeway's master lease with the owner of the shopping center property prohibits any residential use on the site. All the community groups, and several planning commissioners, felt this was unfortunate, and that the community would be better served if the project included a residential component. Council member Kalb has promised to try to arrange a meeting with the property owner to discuss whether the prohibition against residences can be modified.

Of the many traffic concerns raised by the project, perhaps the most important has been the prospect of increased cut-through traffic on nearby residential streets. The Draft EIR dismissed the project's effects on this traffic as insignificant, but the neighborhood groups are united in insisting that a more thorough study is needed.

Presently, the only measure the city uses for traffic impacts is congestion, as measured by intersection level of service calculations. However, cut-through traffic can destroy a residential community's peace, quiet, and safety even if the traffic isn't slowing to a crawl.

The groups are pushing the city to find better ways to measure traffic impacts on residential streets. The groups also suggested that the city report back to the community on how it's dealing with this and other important issues before it finalizes and issues the final EIR and moves ahead on considering project approval.

At the moment, the city says it expects to publish the final EIR early this summer.