Safeway silent as some residents criticize building plan
on July 18, 2009
Safeway supermarkets plans to demolish its Pleasant Valley shopping mall — which at 185,000 square feet is about half the area of the Great Pyramid at Giza — and replace it with one almost two-thirds larger.
The new mall would be 304,000 square feet with 1,066 parking spaces, or 50 percent more spaces.
Neighborhood critics say the new mall, which would include Long’s Drug and other retailers, would be too big, attract too much traffic and therefore endanger pedestrians accustomed to a smaller, less busy retail environment.
On Wednesday, the public did not get a chance to support or oppose the Safeway plan, but only to comment on the environmental impact report that would help government planners in their decision on whether to approve the proposal.
Michael Colbruno, chairman of the city planning commission, said public comments should be directed only at the environmental impact report. “We are not making any decision on this plan tonight,” said Colbruno.
The current shopping center is located where College Avenue intersects with Broadway. Safeway faces Pleasant Valley Avenue, making pedestrians walk all the way through the busy street and parking lots to the storefront.
The closest bus stop from the Safeway is a quarter mile away, said Larry Meyers, a Pleasant Valley resident. “It is not really friendly for the seniors who have to take the bus to get to Safeway,” he said.
Stuart Flashman, the chairman of Rockridge Community Planning Council, a neighborhood group, said, “The current plan will increase thousands of cars and risk for accidents.” Flashman suggested that the city and Safeway should make shuttles available from the MacArthur BART station, give an incentive for transit users in the form of free delivery of groceries, and charging for parking.
“The current plan looks like a plan from 20 years ago, a kind of big shopping mall style,” said Colbruno, the commission chairman. He compared the Safeway plan unfavorably with that of Whole Foods on Telegraph, saying that everything Whole Foods did, from parking to pedestrian roads, was in harmony with Berkeley.
This project “should look like Oakland,” Colbruno said.
David Zylstra, Safeway’s chief operating officer, did not comment, except to say that he was there to answer any questions. “I didn’t learn anything new today,” he said.
The public comments period ends on July 27th.
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