Rockridge Area Safeway Projects Still Problematic

Thursday, September 12, 2013

>> Update: The Rockridge Shopping Center Final EIR has been issued and a certification public hearing set for Sept. 25. Revised project drawings and FEIR available here.

>>College Avenue Store Replacement: In Its Haste to Start Construction, Safeway Violates Agreement

Final EIR for Rockridge Shopping Center Rebuild to be Issued Soon

Safeway's second Rockridge area project, rebuilding the Rockridge Shopping Center to add 120,000 sq. ft. of additional retail and office space and replace the existing 50,000 sq.ft. store with one 15,000 sq.ft. larger, appears heading for a Planning Commission hearing in late September. The final environmental impact report (FEIR), which will include responses to comments on the draft report, is, according to Oakland Planner Darin Ranelletti, due to be published "early in September."

The project at Broadway and Pleasant Valley Avenue between the Rockridge, Temescal, and Piedmont Avenue communities has a long history, including two major revisions to respond to criticism from the community and from the Planning Commission. Most observers feel the revisions have significantly improved the project, but serious concerns remain about traffic impacts on surrounding residential streets.

RCPC initially focused its concern on making sure the project was appropriate to its urban location. More recently, concern has shifted to pressing Safeway to improve the project's transit, bicycle, and pedestrian accessibility, especially given its location near the Rockridge and Macarthur BART stations. Obviously, the more people who use alternatives to the private auto to access the center, the less will be its traffic impacts.

A meeting between Safeway and local community group representatives for Safeway to present its latest project plan revisions was scheduled for just after Labor Day. RCPC is hopeful those revisions will continue to show responsiveness to community concerns.

Update: The latest design is shown in this video

College Avenue Store Replacement: In Its Haste to Start Construction, Safeway Violates Agreement

Demolition of the old Safeway store at College and Claremont Avenues has begun, and Safeway is barreling ahead towards starting construction of its new shopping center. Unfortunately, in its haste, Safeway overlooked a key provision in the settlement it reached last winter with RCPC and two other community groups.

The agreement, reached after many hours of arduous negotiations, calls for Safeway to meet with representatives of the three groups Ð RCPC, Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue (FANS), and Berkeleyans for Pedestrian Oriented Development (BPOD) - to discuss any major design changes between the plans approved by the city in December and the drawings that would guide the actual construction of the store. That meeting was to happen before Safeway submitted its application for a building permit to the city. Its purpose was to allow the community groups to comment on the changes and resolve any disagreements about whether they were warranted. In case of disagreement, the groups could ask the city to review, and potentially reject, the changes.

Apparently, Safeway never told the construction manager about the provision, so he went ahead and submitted the permit application without any meeting. Upon learning of the breach, the groups contacted the city's planning department. Pete Vollman, the planner handling the project, agreed to suspend processing the permit until the required meeting occurred.

That meeting, scheduled for September 4 at City Hall, is to allow the groups to review changes, including significant alterations to the retail building's design and an increase in the height of the building's Claremont Avenue frontage.

The building's architect and Rockridge resident Ken Lowney, who has not been involved in preparing the construction drawings, is compiling a list of the major design changes, and has indicated that he has misgivings about some of them.

The three groups hope to reach an agreement with Safeway so the project can get back on track towards construction.