Safeway Project at 51st Gets the Green Light for Complete Makeover

October 28, 2013

Politics, Streets

PR-1

For those of us who live in North Oakland, the redevelopment of the Safeway store and its surrounding parcels at 51st and Broadway is the biggest development to happen in the area for possibly the next 50 years after MacArthur’s BART makeover. At their September meeting, the Planning Commission unanimously gave the green light to Safeway to completely raze the current site in two phases. Safeway has the master lease for the whole site and its main motivation has been to compete with the upscale and thriving markets in Oakland and Berkeley including Berkeley Bowls and the two Whole Foods as well as Trader Joe’s. Another extreme makeover for the Safeway at College and Claremont also received Planning Commission approval last summer after a long fight with local neighbors. Demolition has already been completed on that site.

PR-2

What the Project Includes

The project involves the redevelopment of the existing Rockridge Shopping Center located at the corner of Broadway and Pleasant Valley Avenue, including demolition of all 185,500 square feet of existing buildings on the site and the construction of a new Safeway store and other retail, office, and restaurant space, totaling approximately 330,942 square feet of commercial space (approximately 296,753 square feet of gross leasable floor area and an additional approximately 34,189 square feet of common space).  A total of approximately 967 off-street parking spaces are proposed.  Parking would be located in surface parking lots, on the rooftop of the new Safeway store, and in a three-level garage located above commercial space.  Also proposed are modifications to streets in the project vicinity, including changes to the Broadway/51st Street/Pleasant Valley Avenue, Broadway/Coronado Avenue, Broadway/College Avenue, Pleasant Valley Avenue/Gilbert Street, and Pleasant Valley Avenue/Montgomery Street intersections.

PR-3

A good website includes a lot of background info and drawings plus a wonderful simulation that takes you on a magic carpet ride (open in your browser to full screen) through the development. When the present architect (JRDV) presented the simulation at the Planning Commission meeting, most in attendance almost swooned as the scale of the project became real. Even though I have been a critic of the project since 2009 since the first incarnations were basically no more than window dressing, I had to give Safeway some cred. They saw the writing on the wall with a possible appeal to the City Council by RCPC (Rockridge Community Planning Council) and PANIL (Piedmont Avenue neighbors) so they sweetened the pot to $500,000 for a bond to pay for traffic calming measures in case the redevelopment caused major traffic uptakes in the adjoining neighborhoods. Those of us in ULTRA (Urbanists for a Livable Temescal and Rockridge Area) have been much more concerned about what the architecture would look like and the fact that it didn’t include any housing. Safeway claims it had no leverage to build housing since its lease forbids it but, if it had really wanted to, it and the City could have pushed the owner to include housing. Instead, Safeway claims that it can always build 79 units of housing over the surface parking lot at a later time. Oh well, we shall see.

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Responding to the Community

What the whole messy process showed was that when the community groups came together and spoke as one more or less voice, Safeway and the Planning Commission had to listen. Heck, I was surprised when one idea I wrote on a sheet of ideas way back in 2009 was incorporated into the final design–a 1,000 square foot community space. Now that inclusion was worth the time of going to that particular community input meeting! Now let’s hope Safeway makes the community space free to non-profits, just as the local libraries do. Otherwise I’ll have another bone to pick with them. The only real disappointment was the inclusion of a drive through for the updated Chase bank. Geez, I feel like we are regressing to Texas suburban mall standards but maybe Chase can still be convinced to drop the drive through as the long term carbon footprint it will create is ridiculous for an urban infill project.

 

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About Karen Hester

Karen Hester is a community activist and events coordinator who lives in North Oakland in Temescal Creek Cohousing. Her event productions website is hesternet.net. She lives and breathes the fight to stop more billboards in Oakland and started ScenicEastBay.org

View all posts by Karen Hester

5 Responses to “Safeway Project at 51st Gets the Green Light for Complete Makeover”

  1. Oakland_Will Says:

    Yeah, the more I look at this, the more it seems like Bay Street (North Oakland edition). That’s better than what’s there now, but it doesn’t seem like many of the retail or restaurants will be a natural extension of the neighborhood.

    Reply

  2. Oakland_Will Says:

    Karen, thank you for sharing this with us, and thank you for your involvement and advocacy. I certainly agree with you about the drive-thru bank and the lack of housing. My biggest concern has always been that any major development put the buildings on the street, not set back behind an expanse of parking lot. It seems like this accomplishes that. The architecture looks a little corporate – pretty similar to Bay Street, perhaps – but not horrible. Overall, this (looks) better than I expected. I hope car traffic won’t be too bad at the new entrance off Broadway bordering CCA(C), with the weird intersection with College.

    Next, can we bring light rail (back) to Broadway and 40th?

    Reply

  3. rcspitzer Says:

    I would like to make an addition to the description of events: The
    Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League and the Rockridge
    Community Planning council also advocated for housing on the site, as
    well as a denser, more “urban” plan that would connect better to the
    existing street grid; there was no split in the community coalition of
    that issue, or on the appearance of the project. PANIL and RCPC share
    ULTRA’s disappointment with the bank drive-through, but Safeway
    indicated that it was a requirement by Chase for vacating their current
    site,
    where their lease gives them the right to stay for much longer. If
    Chase had stayed at its current location, it would have made many of the
    positive aspects of this project impossible, so it was a trade-off.

    The
    only difference in opinion between the groups was that RCPC and PANIL
    wanted to hold Safeway accountable for potential spillover traffic
    impacts in the neighborhood side streets, whereas the ULTRA
    representative’s stated position was that “the more miserable traffic
    becomes, the more [ULTRA thought] it will force people out of their
    cars,” so ULTRA did not support traffic mitigations.

    Reply

  4. casacaudill Says:

    This is a huge improvement over what’s there now.

    Reply

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