Land Use Update: College Ave Safeway, Rockridge Shopping Center, College Ave. Retail Zoning

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The November Land Use Committee meeting is Wednesday, November 26, 7:30 p.m. in a meeting place to be determined (library meeting room unavailable). Check at this website for location and agenda, or call co-chair Stu Flashman at 652-5373. Meetings are open to the public.

College Avenue Safeway Project - College and Claremont Avenues: You have probably noticed, if you've been past the site, that construction on the College Avenue Safeway store is moving along, but not at the pace Safeway had hoped. The opening date has now slipped into December. Still, the street and sidewalk work is almost done, so disruption to pedestrian and automotive traffic should soon be a thing of the past. (Whew!)

Call RCPC (869-4200) with any problems or concerns you may have. Safeway has not yet confirmed who the tenants will be in the retail building, so last month's listing must still be considered tentative. Some tenants may also require use permits, which will, in turn, require a public process. The latest construction snafu is that the oak tree planned for the ÒpointÓ at the corner of College and Claremont avenues may conflict with placement of a traffic signal at that corner. Latest negotiations are still in progress.

Rockridge Shopping Center - Broadway and Pleasant Valley
This large project is supposed to begin construction next month with the tear-down of the CVS store building. Jamba Juice and Starbucks have already moved over to the AAA building across the parking lot, because their old building will also be demolished. Construction of the new Safeway may start as early as January. Side note: Demolition in preparation for the new Merrill Gardens senior housing project across Broadway from the shopping center should also be starting shortly.

Discussion: College Avenue Retail Zoning Study
As last month's Rockridge News announced, Cole Hardware will be opening on College Avenue in the space formerly occupied by the Fenton MacLaren furniture store (and before that, by Such a Business, a children's store). The backstory is that it almost didn't happen.

As it turns out, that building space is more than 9,000 sq. ft., and College Avenue's CN-1 zoning requires a use permit for any use occupying more than 5,000 sq ft. The provision is in recognition that generally large uses have greater impacts (e.g., parking and traffic) and are more likely to be inconsistent with College Avenue's intended pedestrian orientation. However, a hardware store is a traditional use for a neighborhood retail area, and a hardware store - at least, a successful one - can't exist unless it's at least 5,000 sq.ft.

Thus, the question raised is whether CN-1's uniform 5,000 sq.ft. threshold for a use permit is too broad, and perhaps ought to be more fine-grained.

To discuss this and other related College Avenue zoning questions (e.g., should use permits be specific to their approved location and end when the business closes or moves), RCPC has opened discussions with the Planning Department about looking at what makes sense for the future of College Avenue's zoning. RCPC representatives will meet with the city in the near future to discuss whether it makes sense to initiate a detailed study of how College Avenue can continue and improve upon its current success as a neighborhood retail area. More on this in the December issue.