Safeway Talks Bigger, Piedmont Wonders if it’s Better
on June 30, 2009
By AYAKO MIE
Residents gathered Thursday at the Chapel of the Chimes Mortuary on Piedmont Avenue for a second meeting called by Safeway officials to talk about the store’s plan to redo the shopping center in Pleasant Valley.
“Obviously, it is a corporate sponsored meeting,” said Eric Edwards, a resident of the Rockridge Manor condominium next to the shopping center, referring to the Safeway brand foods and beverages offered those who attended.
Safeway, which also has a development plan underway at its College Avenue store, is planning a significant “make over,” at the shopping center on 51st Street and Broadway. Plans include a new Safeway, a new CVS store, which replaces Longs Drug store, and many “high-end” retail shops.
At the informal open house Thursday, residents were able to ask any questions they have, but there were more concerns than questions.
“The pedestrian area is not improved since the first meeting,” said Matt Burry, a resident on 45th street, referring to the meeting held in September 2007 where Safeway first announced the plan.
The shopping center sits where College Avenue meets Broadway, and where traffic is heavy. The current floor plan shows that Safeway will have parking on its rooftop and in front of the store. But it does not include pedestrian walks to the store.
“I do not know if the Safeway people have been listening to us,” said Burry.
Others worried that the new shopping center might not suit the atmosphere of the neighborhood.
“I am worried that the new shopping center will change the tone of its ‘walkly’ neighborhood,” April Hecther, a resident at Rockridge Manor said. Hechter said Pleasant Valley is a prime location, because the shopping areas on College Avenue are accessible by foot.
“I think the COO sees the parcel only as in square foot not with the context of the neighborhood. We do not even know what kind of retail stores are coming.”
David Zylstra, chief operating officer of Safeway, said that he is trying to bring high-end boutiques which currently are only in Walnut Creek, but he refused to provide specific details.
However, Hechter was relieved when Zylstra, told her that retail stores her condominium faces will present a nice façade
Some residents did not like the idea that the potential CVS store does not plan to carry all the items the existing Longs Drug store has.
“It was a really convenient for me, because I could buy everything in one location,” said Rita Neely, a resident on 42nd street for the past 18 years.
Karen Hester from Urbanist for a Livable Temescal Rockrige Area was canvassing their idea of bringing housing to the plan. However, she clashed with the Safeway’s plans.
“This is the last piece of land that is left in North Oakland to be developed. We need more housing, and the city also know that,” said Hester.
Safeway side said it does not own the land, which makes legally impossible for them to build a housing complex.
Hester and several other people were unhappy about the way the meeting was held. “I was hoping that Safeway would have a formal presentation so that we can understand their plan. We did not get more information than we already had,” said Hester.
Zylstra disagreed. “Some people wanted to have a formal meeting with a microphone. But it is really nice to talk to people in a casual way,” Zylstra said. He also added that the chief purpose of the meeting was to get as much feedback as possible, which is difficult in a town hall style meeting.
“We’ll make some amendments to the plan, and have a public hearing when we have an answer to the all the recommendations the city made.”
Safeway will soon start a traffic study, and the Planning Commission will have a public hearing on the plan in mid-July.
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