Land Use Update: Safeway, Restaurants, Off-Street Parking

Friday, November 8, 2013

College Avenue Safeway Project (College & Claremont Avenues)
As previously reported, Safeway violated its settlement agreement with the three local community groups (including RCPC) by submitting a building permit application to the city without first meeting with the groups to discuss changes to its plans that differ from what the City Council approved last December. Those changes were considerable, and not for the better.

In subsequent meetings, the groups got Safeway to restore some portions of the earlier design, but on one major issue - building height - Safeway's current plans are still several feet higher than what the Council approved. Safeway remains firmly obstinate on this issue, claiming it had underestimated how thick some building structural elements needed to be. The groups have continued to negotiate, but, under the settlement agreement, Safeway might ask the city to move ahead with its current proposal and leave city staff to decide whether to hold the company to the Council-approved plans. Negotiations continue.

Safeway also provided revised plans for the retail shops building. There were some significant changes, although nothing as shocking as a five-foot height increase. Here, too, the community groups suggested changes to bring plans closer to what the Council had approved, some of which Safeway accepted. However, Safeway has also submitted a building permit application for this building.

The difference in Safeway's approach to the community in this project, and the Rockridge Shopping Center project, where Safeway representatives have been generally more cooperative, is like night and day.

Bourbon & Beef Restaurant, 5634 College Avenue
This new restaurant replaced the Water nightclub, after about a two year hiatus. While RCPC is happy to have that storefront space occupied and active again, some of the tenants who live above the restaurant have not been as overjoyed. It seems there have been noise and garbage problems with the new business. The Land Use Committee met with tenants and the building owner, and the building owner then met with the restaurant owner. It appears that remedies are in the works. RCPC is happy to have played a role in getting the problems resolved.

Bica Coffee Shop, 5701 College Avenue

This popular coffee shop and hang-out at the corner of Miles and College had planned to apply for a beer and wine license, but now has decided to apply to the city to be a full restaurant, which would require a conditional use permit. The Land Use Committee will be considering the application at its November 27 meeting. The committee will seek feedback from community members, especially nearby residents.

Residential Off-Street Parking Report
As part of its city-wide rezoning process, Oakland has been considering changes to its off-street parking requirements for residential and commercial buildings. A particular focus has been "transit-rich" areas, which include College Avenue and the area around the Rockridge BART station. In a small study of the relationship between transit accessibility and residential tenants' use of off-street parking spaces, the city looked at three areas: the Fruitvale BART station, Jack London Square, and Telegraph Avenue. The city had hoped to find that tenants in buildings with better transit access didn't use cars as much, so perhaps off-street parking requirements could be decreased. The results of the study were less than spectacular. The study was small to start with and participation was not strong.

As a result, although the study attempts to claim good transit access correlates with less auto use, the numerical results were unimpressive and not statistically significant.

RCPC intends to submit a comment letter pointing out the study's weakness. It might be that reduced parking requirements make sense, but this study doesn't justify that conclusion.