The Oakland Planning Commission approved plans for the expansion of the Safeway on College Avenue last Wednesday, despite opposition from neighbors and the Berkeley City Council.
The renovation has been in the planning stages for a number of years. Although the College Avenue Safeway is in Oakland, its proximity to Berkeley worries residents of surrounding neighborhoods due to the potential for increased traffic and pollution in the area, prompting the City Council vote to send a letter to the city of Oakland listing its concerns for the project.
According to a planning re-submittal released on July 3, the proposed plan includes expanding the 24,258 sq. ft. site to 62,152 sq. ft., or about 120,000 sq. ft. if, as the plan indicates, a two-story building is approved. More than 50,000 sq. ft. will be utilized as floor space for Safeway itself and the rest as restaurant and retail space.
According to Berkeley City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, the new building will cover 90 percent of the 2.1 acre lot instead of the previous 30 percent.
Wozniak added that congested traffic on College Avenue will worsen if the number of customers and store employees increases. He also said the Environmental Impact Report indicates that insufficient parking is being provided, which could lead to spillover parking into surrounding residential neighborhoods.
Berkeley resident Joel Rubenzahl said he is also concerned about traffic, as its implications are directly related to pedestrian safety, bicycle safety and local air quality. Competition affecting local businesses was also a concern expressed by Rubenzahl, who fears that options such as an in-house bakery will negatively impact small businesses.
“Though there is opposition, there is also vast support for the building of this Safeway,” said Elisabeth Jewel, a partner in the consulting firm. She said that the remodeled site will offer an improved shopping experience to the 1964 building which currently houses the store.
“The energy efficiency of the building will also be revised,” Jewel said. “The new building would be a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building meeting the highest qualifications.”
Rubenzahl said it would be great for the city of Berkeley to appeal the planning commission decision and also to be prepared to file suit under the California Environmental Quality Act.