The Berkeley City Council listened to public comments about the proposed expansion of the Safeway at the Berkeley-Oakland border on College Avenue Tuesday night. Council members echoed the concerns raised by members of the public about the impact on residential neighborhoods, as well as traffic and parking in the area.
Follow the meeting play-by-play below.
5:30 p.m. A Berkeley resident expressed her concern about trucks coming off the loading docks at Safeway. Where will the trucks make their turns as they come back? "Since Oakland is going to benefit from this expansion I believe those trucks should be routed back through Oakland" and not allowed down Alcatraz or Claremont, she said.
The president of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Associationsaid that neighbors are concerned about the traffic impacts in the Claremont neighborhood — "an area that is already traffic heck, so to speak," he said.
5:40 p.m. An Oakland resident said that Berkeley has the ability to stop this project. "We want Safeway to remain, we want them to do a modest sized — if any — addition and keep the neighborhood ambiance as it is," she said.
A Berkeley resident said that Safeway has not been a good neighbor to the residents of Berkeley. "Trash has accumulated on the back of their lot," she said, and they have not responded to complaints. She added that despite community support for a smaller project, Safeway went ahead and increased the size of the expansion.
A resident from 63rd Street in Oakland said that the Safeway expansion would make 63rd Street a thoroughfare, which it was never meant to be. "It is totally residential," she said. Safeway does not need to build a store as big as the one on 51st and Broadway, she added.
Another Oakland resident said that previous public hearings took a lot of planning work from those opposed to the Safeway expansion. The DEIR has under-estimated the number of cyclists in the area, he said. "The quality of the work is very below par," he added. "It's an inappropriate proposal for that site."
5:50 p.m. The Safeway expansion architect Ken Lowney said that this part of College Avenue is "a real treasure" with its small storefronts and "fairytale" neighborhoods, and their proposal tries to maintain that atmosphere. "The Safeway is on the second level, and on the ground level we're basically completing the street," said Lowney. There will be nine storefronts that wrap around College Avenue to Claremont. The parking spaces on site will be increased to 171 from around 90.
5:55 p.m. Lowney is showing the council a video tour of the proposed Safeway expansion. View the video on the right side of this page.
6 p.m. Mayor Tom Bates asked: "What about traffic? That's the major concern." All the intersections effected in Berkeley have been determined as being "significantly" impacted by the Safeway expansion.
Councilmember Linda Maio said she was "disappointed" by the lack of information about the impact on traffic in Berkeley.
6:10 p.m. Councilmember Gordon Wozniak wanted to know how Oakland plans to work with Berkeley to lessen the impact on traffic. The response was that Berkeley would not be responsible for paying for any improvements that need to be made to ensure traffic flow and safety in the areas impacted by the Safeway expansion.
Wozniak also wanted to know why the Safeway store is so big and why the architects didn't plan for a "greener" store.
Councilmember Susan Wengraf wanted to know how many parking spaces would be lost on the street. Safeway would add 75 parking spaces, but Berkeley would lose around six parking spaces on the street. Wengraf was also concerned about the pedestrians in the area. "I think it's going to be a disaster, personally," said Wengraf.
6:20 p.m. The council is concerned that there needs to be more information about the impact on traffic and parking in both Oakland and Berkeley.
6:25 p.m. Wozniak asked if a study had been done on the impact to AC Transit route 51. "Would it go from horrendous to incredibly horrendous?" he asked.
A representative from a coalition of six groups of local neighborhood groups spoke to the council about why the Safeway expansion would cause significant detriment to the neighborhood. "The project objectives are Safeway's and not Oakland's," he said. "The store is way too big."
6:30 p.m. The problems with the DEIR were highlighted by the neighborhood group coalition, including the actual square footage of the structure — which is more than double the size of the current store. There has also been no assessment of the impact on local stores. The traffic analysis is incomplete. The majority of nearby residents support only a modest increase in the store's size, according to the coalition who conducted a survey.
6:40 p.m. The concerns raised by the Berkeley City Council will be brought to the attention of the City of Oakland. The council will re-evaluate the matter in the Oct. 11 meeting, once there has been time for their concerns be addressed. It will likely be early 2012 before the final plans go to hearing. The meeting was adjourned.