Council Rebuffs Safeway

Unanimous vote to oppose expansion; Safeway rep tells council Oakland can proceed 'with or without' Berkeley's support.

Residents called it a monster, a mega-store, obscene in scope; the company that designed it arrogant and insensitive

A parade of speakers at Tuesday's city council meeting warned of the nonstop traffic jams that would accompany a new Safeway at College and Claremont avenues more than double the size of the existing store.

As it stands, motorists waiting to turn left into the Safeway parking lot from College Avenue can bring traffic to a standstill. One resident said she can walk faster than traffic moves on the street. 

Others voiced fear that the large complex would threaten the livelihood of small businesses and the character of the neighborhood.

Watch the Berkeley City Council public hearing.

The 2.1-acre parcel sits on the Oakland side of the border, but because Berkeley would bear a heavy traffic burden, the city has the authority to demand suitable mitigation.

The expansion would impact four intersections:

  • Ashby and College avenues
  • Ashby and Claremont avenues
  • Alcatraz and College avenues
  • Alcatraz and Claremont avenues

Mitigations include a combination of added and coordinated traffic signals, reconfiguring lanes, moving an AC Transit bus stop and replacing diagonal parking with parallel parking. The city would not bear the costs; rather, Safeway would have to put the money into an escrow account.

A Safeway representative told the council the chain did not come to seek its blessing for the project -- only the traffic calming measures, which could still be altered to meet community approval.

"The store, as you know, is in Oakland," said Matt Francois. "Oakland can adopt a statement of overriding considerations and can adopt this project with or without these mitigation agreements."

Several speakers urged the council to clearly reject the traffic calming measures, lest the Oakland Planning Commission, which meets next week, takes its silence for acquiescence. 

In the end, little talking was needed: The council voted unanimously to reject the rejiggered intersections and to oppose the new structure in its entirety.

"I come down on the side of saying, look: This project is too big and should not be built," Mayor Tom Bates said. "I don't want to do anything that will help or aid them in their ability to build this structure."

Not much has changed since 2011, when the Berkeley city manager fired off a letter to his Oakland counterpart detailing the council's objections to the expansion. Councilman Gordon Wozniak asked that the city resend the letter.

The Oakland Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 25 in the Council Chambers, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.


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richard July 19, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Im not so sure we should discourage something that would create jobs. http://jokeofthedayblog.blogspot.com
Mary July 20, 2012 at 12:57 AM
I personally hate Safeway. Several years ago I was falsely accused of shoplifting at the store on College. I was stopped and questioned by a guard. He threatened have the police search me, and I said "Go ahead," and then he let me go. I wrote a letter to the store manager with cc to the head office, expecting to receive an apology, but they didn't bother to answer. I haven't shopped at Safeway since, and I will oppose anything they try to do regardless of its merits.
Deborah A Washington July 20, 2012 at 04:39 AM
Not gonna win this one! College students and fPlks discovering small businesses at this end will thtive! There is no grocery store on that side all the way to shell mound in Emeryville! I think it's great Love Safeway! Not a trader Joes fan so I say back off Berkeley folk and enjoy the benefits on that border side of the city
1776peace July 21, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Upgrade can happen within reason. It is not as if there are no other markets in the area. Berkeley Bowl, Trader Joe's plus Whole Foods are nearby and accessible by public transit - not as if this area is an island. Plus all the small markets. Expansion? What is Safeway expanding too- a superstore that we don't really need? Their prices can already be pricey. And their stocks are dropping. Yes- the traffic is already problematic on College Ave. Can Safeway discourage the impact by coming up with a better plan to discourage more cars? Buses already have a problem getting through. At Least Safeway is starting to offer organics and their employees are unionized and they are pursuing a Green Biz model. So that model needs to include environmental impact such as traffic impact. Turn the Parking lot into a Bike lot and have van shuttles from BART to Safeway. People need to carpool more often!
shirley kirsten July 24, 2012 at 09:59 AM
The one in El Cerrito that went up in a flash, seems to ignore re-stocking essentials in restrooms. I don't know how many times I've had to approach the manager about this. And the food service area line moves very slowly --meaning customer service needs a boost. An employee was standing in front of me bemoaning the interminable wait for her one egg roll.


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