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Contested Walgreens Plan for Solano Ave. Submitted – Battleground at Planning Commission

Just after a controversial Walgreens was officially proposed on upper Solano Avenue in Berkeley, the Planning Commission on Wednesday will consider a ban on new drugstores within 1,000 feet of an existing one.

A rendering of the proposed Walgreens at Solano and Colusa avenues in Berkeley, submitted in the store's Jan. 9, 2014 use permit application. Source: Lowney Architecture
A rendering of the proposed Walgreens at Solano and Colusa avenues in Berkeley, submitted in the store's Jan. 9, 2014 use permit application. Source: Lowney Architecture
The expected application to build a Walgreens on upper Solano Avenue in Berkeley has been submitted to the city, and the contested plan will be in the spotlight Wednesday when the Planning Commission considers a proposed ban on new drugstores within 1,000 feet of an existing one.

The Walgreens, which would replace a gas station at Solano and Colusa Avenue, would be across the street from Sal's Pharmacy.

Critics of the plan have organized under the "No Solano Walgreens" banner, speaking against it at public meetings and collecting signatures in an online petition that had 1,831 signers as of 6:30 p.m. today, Tuesday.

The petition says Solano Avenue already has four drug stores, including Sal's, and that there are already five Walgreens in Berkeley, including one 1.4 miles away on Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley.

The Walgreens application for a use permit at 1830 Solano was submitted Jan. 9 by the firm Agree Berkeley Solano, LLC, based in Farmington Hills, Mich. It will go before the city's Zoning Adjustments Board at a date yet to be set.

The store would be 9,972 gross square feet, according to the application. The project also calls for a 22-space subterranean parking garage accessible from Colusa.

The Planning Commission's agenda Wednesday night includes a proposed ban on new or expanded drugstores within 1,000 feet of an existing one.

The agenda item is a belated response to a request from the City Council, which voted in April 2011 to ask the Planning Commission to draft a zoning ordinance with the 1,000-foot buffer between drugstores.

At the commission's December meeting, eight speakers spoke against a Walgreens on Solano and urged the commission to take up the council's request on the 1,000-foot buffer zone, according to the draft minutes of the meeting.

The Walgreens application says the outlet will benefit the neighborhood, while critics say it will harm the neighborhood.

The application says, "This proposed project will introduce a medium-sized retail format that will create a diversity of commercial spaces and retail experiences on Solano Avenue, and, by drawing a higher volume of pedestrian customers, will help support small neighborhood shops."

The anti-Walgreens petition says, "If Walgreens succeeds in opening, existing small businesses, local traffic and surrounding residential housing will suffer major negative impacts. Think gridlock. There is not enough parking as it is on Solano Ave. and the proposed 22 parking spaces are not enough for a 10,000 SF Walgreens!"

The Planning Commission meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center at 1901 Hearst Ave. The first item on the agenda is a public hearing on a proposal to increase commercial floor area ratios in the Telegraph Avenue Commercial District.

We'd like to know what our readers think about the proposed Walgreens and the proposed 1,000-foot buffer between drugstores. You can tell us in the comments.

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Bryce Nesbitt January 15, 2014 at 03:15 AM
The most harmful thing I see here is the 22 unit underground garage. Patrons will drive to the site, take the elevator up, and never interact with the other stores on the street. A 'walking' district needs feet on the street. Parking in such an area should be surface only and not "customers only".
Karen January 15, 2014 at 11:46 AM
If anyone doesn't like the Walgreens, they can just go to another store. Stop this silliness.

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