Neighborhood groups that planned to sue Safeway, Inc. if its plans for expansion of its College Avenue store were approved by the Oakland City Council have reached a tentative agreement with the company for a down-sized project, Councilwoman Jane Brunner and neighborhood representatives announced at Tuesday night's council meeting.
Brunner said details of the new plan were hammered out in a mediation session last week that lasted more than 12 hours. The session was mediated by Brunner and attended by representatives from Safeway, the Rockridge Community Planning Council (RCPC), Berkeleyans for Pedestrian-Oriented Development, and Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue.
The revised proposal places the new supermarket at ground level and shrinks the project to 45,000 sq. ft, down from 51,00 sq. ft., according to Safeway's architects. It also adds screened rooftop parking and places all customer parking on-site. It reduces the space for other retail shops by 2,000 sq. ft. and includes a pedestrian plaza oriented toward 63rd Street.
The development is entered around the ste of the existing Safeway store at 6310 College Ave., Oakland and would occupy most of a triangular area bounded by College, Claremont and Alcatraz avenues. Although it's within the Oakland city limits, it is only steps from the Berkeley city line.
The council will consider the revised plans on Dec. 18.
The agreement was largely kept under wraps until Tuesday, when it was announced by the RCPC.
The council was scheduled to decide Tuesday night whether to hear appeals by the neighborhood groups, which had announced plans to sue Safeway if the city upheld the Oakland Planning Commission's approval of the project and its environmental impact report (EIR).
"I'm pleased with the agreement," said Stuart Flashman, chairman of the RCPC's land use committee. "I came into the mediation with some skepticism, but [mediator Jane Brunner] was stupendous.
"I support continuing the matter to Dec. 18, and if we reach [final] agreement, we will drop our appeal."
RCPC was one of the groups opposing the project over concerns about size and potential parking and traffic problems. It had established a legal defense fund to raise money to pursue legal action against Safeway if the project received final city approval.
Representatives of the two other neighborhood groups involved in the mediation session also spoke in support of the tentative agreement and of delaying action until Dec. 18.
Although project architects presented only rough sketches of the revisions Tuesday night, they expect to have detailed architectural drawings of the revised project available a few days before the Dec. 18 council meeting.
Pete Vollmann, the City of Oakland planner assigned to the project, said that his office might ask for another design review if the revisions include substantial changes in building materials.
Although some 35 people had signed up to speak at Tuesday's public hearing, at least half of those chose not to address the council after the tentative agreement was announced.
Several of those who did speak were local residents whose homes adjoin or are very close to the project site.
Patricia Maloney, whose home abuts the Safeway property, said she was concerned that "contiguous neighbors" were not included in the mediation session. Brunner responded that only appellants were included in the mediation; other speakers noted that the neighborhood groups were limited to two representatives per organization.
Maloney also said that the new plan places a truck loading zone adjacent to homes and that conditions for mitigating construction noise, traffic and air pollution weren't included.
Linda Carroll, who said she lives about a half block from Safeway, said that the plan calls for Safeway employees to move their private vehicles from the parking structure to street parking during peak shoppping hours, 4 to 7 p.m. in order to free up more spaces for shoppers.
"That's right when we are coming home," she said. "I'd rather put up with patrons that wouldn't be parking as long."
Other speakers praised the mediation process.
Susan Shaw of Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue thanked Safeway's vice president of real estate.
"He was never involved before, and his clout made this happen" she said.
A few speakers continued to oppose the project.
"I remain skeptical," said Jan Klingelhofer, who said she's lived in the neighborhood for approximately 50 years. "This is tens of thousands of square feet more than [other neighborhood shops] and we don't want that change."
Council members appeared relieved by the tentative agreement and voted unanimously to continue the hearing to Dec. 18, although there were some minor differences of opinion.
At-large council representative Rebecca Kaplan offered a list of issues she'd still like to see resolved, including the employee parking concern.
Councilwoman Desley Brooks countered, "I hope we don't nitpick. If the city renegotiates, the neighborhood groups won't sign off — and there will be years of litigation."
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