A public forum for those concerned about the proposed expansion to the College Avenue Safeway in Oakland, and its irrevocable harm to Rockridge and Elmwood
Monday, January 17, 2011
A coalition of neighborhood groups, consisting of RCPC, Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue (FANS), Urbanists for a Livable Temescal Rockridge Area (ULTRA), Standing Together for Accountable Neighborhood Development (STAND - another Temescal area group) and Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League (PANIL) has put forward four alternative proposals for developing the site. They've also submitted a joint report that critiques Safeway's plans and puts development of the site in a planning context. You can view the full report here. The coalition is presenting their alternatives not so much to say that one of them should be approved instead of Safeway's plans, but to indicate how the site could be developed in a more urban and community-integrated way. Here is a more in-depth description of Safeway's proposal and the four alternative plans..
We encourage Rockridge residents to attend the hearing and voice their support for an urban bike, pedestrian, and transit-oriented plan that would complement our local shopping areas.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Each proposal solves the boundary conditions that surround the site and address things in need of repair including: new landscaping and trees, new signage, and street improvements such as benches, trellises and wider sidewalks.
The proposed buildings on the site differentiate the two drawings. One shows a renovated, or rebuilt, building on the footprint of the existing store, with the possibility of a modest addition. The other proposes; new shops along College to mirror those on the other side that most clearly personify 'Rockridge'; and a new grocery store on Claremont. Proposal 1 Proposal 2
We welcome neighborhood comments.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The following is a very insightful response to the April 29th presentation of Safeway's 62,000sf expansion, by Jerome Buttrick, a local resident and key member of the Local Architects and Planners Guidelines Group. It succinctly describes why this outsized development is so antithetical and detrimental to the Rockridge and Elmwood communities:
Neighborhoods are defined by by architectural paradigms,or what we architects call 'typologies.' The dominant typology of College Avenue is crystal clear: small, ground-floor retail, 1200sf typically—that zoning allows to go to 7500sf—on the ground floor with one or two levels of offices or apartments above, such as Market Hall. At its most basic level this IS the building block of our neighborhood. It defines the neighborhood + the more we stick with it, the more alive the neighborhood becomes, as it puts people at home or at work above shops. By inserting a shopping center, as we saw on April 29, with more trips-oriented parking, 60,000sf of shops, no offices, or housing, glass 'bridges' and two-story undifferentiated walls into this neighborhood, you kill the dominant paradigm and therefore kill the neighborhood--'Walnut Creek Comes To Rockridge'. Accepting this will make IT the paradigm. Then what?
On April 29, Safeway got it exactly backwards. On the zoning side--remember Safeway owns a lot in a OUR neigborhood, not vice versa...
Monday, May 4, 2009
Monday, November 17, 2008
However, that did not come until the end of that meeting. By that point, the group had sat through a presentation of six slides of landscaping and public plaza options that were not connected to any design. No mention was made of either the community’s input or the proposed program (see post Oct. 1) offered from the prior two meetings. It was an insult to the group’s time, efforts, and intelligence, and portrayed the stakeholder process as a manipulative tactic on Safeway’s part. But rather than being honest with those who have given very careful thought and input to this project, and acknowledging the group’s frustrations, Paradis chose to be evasive and rude.
The following are excerpts from an email thread that began on Thursday, Nov. 13, voicing disappointment in the turn the meeting took, and in the realization that this process may have been no more than a sham. As always, Safeway PR continues to claim sensitivity toward the neighbor’s concerns, but as noted below, denigrates such concerns as “complaints” and “attacks” whenever they are raised.
It was very sad and unfortunate that Todd found it necessary to communicate his anger so inappropriately by insulting one of our chosen representatives at last night's meeting. While I understand why tempers are beginning to fray, it also seems obvious to me that much of this could have been prevented and the process accelerated if Todd had been willing to communicate (as he was so frequently asked to) the MINIMUM square footage that Safeway would find acceptable.
… If Todd had been forthcoming, if the process had been more transparent, we could all have started talking - a year and ten meetings ago - about the parameters that a 50,000 square foot store would entail.
We could have been discussing and designing a potential store that met Safeway's needs and could conceivably be made aesthetically and environmentally acceptable to the majority of the neighborhood. Failing at that, we could have arrived at an earlier agreement to suggest to Safeway that they simply repaint and clean up the existing store.
… The lack of transparency, the apparent lack of honesty on Todd's part, the pretense that our concerns were being weighed and our chosen representatives were being considered as spokespersons for hundreds of other individuals, the failure on Safeway's part to honestly engage in a dialogue with full disclosure of Safeway's imperative and non-negotiable agenda - these factors have engendered distrust and ill will.
Elisabeth Jewel, whose comments often seem to create larger barriers to progress with their tone and obfuscation, replied by saying:
Todd and I share your sadness that last night’s meeting was marred by unacceptable personal attacks and negativity. Last night, after months of listening to those who choose to speak at the meetings, we presented some design concepts hoping to receive helpful feedback about how you felt about the look and feel of these concepts. We realize now that many of you could not react without knowing the size of the store.
…We had hoped that during the meeting we could get helpful comments that reflected what you did and did not like about the drawings. We were frustrated by some in attendance who chose to complain rather than offer useful comments that could help us move forward. We were gratified that some people took the time to share their thoughts in the spirit of working together toward a common goal of improving the current situation at the site.
…We are buoyed today by the numerous emails we received from people who attended the meeting asking us to press on and build a new, larger store. We will continue to move forward to come up with a plan that does the best job of addressing Safeway’s needs, city requirements, immediate neighbor sensitivities, traffic impacts, and neighborhood aesthetics.
Todd Paradis followed up with excerpts from five emails supporting the project (see Nov. 16 post). Joe Pasquariello of Hillegass Ave replied:
I know that you have a job to do and it's convenient for you to believe you're struggling against a vocal minority, but it's just not the case. Your consultant has done an admirable job of designing a process that lets you treat the community as if it consists of 7 or 8 people. I understand the value to Safeway of minimizing the input of the neighborhood residents, but you need to accept that there are hundreds of actual people standing behind these representatives. I'm not surprised there are 5 people with other viewpoints, but don't do yourself the disservice of thinking that these people represent a silent majority who are too busy to attend meetings.
First Elisabeth says: "We are buoyed today by the numerous emails we received from people who attended the meeting asking us to press on and build a new, larger store." Her "numerous" turns out to be a grand total of FIVE, as quoted by Todd, not very impressive when compared to the hundreds of signatures that Concerned Neighbors has gathered and the dozens that have spoken up at meetings.
Cheri Hickman of Alcatraz Ave added the following:
We don't say you don't have any support for a large-scale store. We say that -- as ever -- you seem to actually hear and privilege the few voices in "agreement" with your vague goals and unstated objectives … There is no evidence for wide neighborhood support for your project, most especially because you've yet to come clean with any vision for the store -- its scope, scale, or size. What is it exactly these five people are fully behind in their e-mails?
… You continue to look for some generalized, non-specific expansion agreement, and it has been this way from the beginning. If you find our exasperation, frustration, and suspicion surprising, I can only wonder at your innocence.
That said, I'm sure every neighborhood association and a good many residents who actually live in these neighborhoods will gladly make themselves available to once again express the contents and limits of their support for the transformation of the current site.
…If you wanted meaningful dialogue and actual support around your own goals, it would have been appropriate to state your real goals and work with this community to find ways to make those goals palatable and livable.
…At our last meeting, when you delivered the 50,000 square foot minimum, you also said this would mean rooftop parking, all operations-related functions against the property lines, as well as entrances and exits on Claremont. What room for the community is there in those statements? … Why have you not been developing various visual models for such a store and working with the community, including its architects, to establish viability, common ground, and good will for your goal?
For me, personally, Safeway has yet again demonstrated its inability to be a good neighbor, to understand what that even means to this community, and has hidden its motives and objectives behind a facade of process (& more meetings), undermining -- once again -- our efforts to engage with them toward some mutually beneficial goal. I only hope you have some idea of just how counter-productive and destructive your methods have been.
And finally, Ken Alex followed up by saying:
Cheri's e-mail is nicely stated, and I add my voice to hers. Safeway's proposal violates the zoning for the area, the sense of the community, the flow of the neighborhood, and the needs of the public. The mediation process has been designed by Safeway from the beginning to result in a 50,000 square foot complex, regardless of the input of local architects, merchants, neighbors, and shoppers. The process has been a cynical manipulation. It is unfortunate because Safeway had some amount of goodwill here, with the neighborhood supporting a viable and appropriate remodel on something like the existing footprint. Safeway has squandered that and has signaled that it seeks a fight. That's too bad. I urge Safeway to reconsider.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Overall, the themes that are reiterated again and again include concern that a large-scale store will adversely impact traffic patterns, local businesses, neighborhood atmosphere, and neighboring residents. There is a consistent refrain that Safeway does not understand the neighborhood. In fact, when a comment was made to that effect, Todd Paradis abruptly responded "I'm not hearing anything useful. All I hear is blah, blah, blah."
No one is willing to say what the size would be – what will be the range of the size of the Safeway store? It has a lot to do with how many years we’ve spent – that would help us to join with you – what’s the range of size for this idea here?
How can you present something you are not allowed to do? You don’t own the sidewalk or the street.
We need to see the scope of work – we want limited expansion, a satellite store to 51st St.
There is consensus that we do not want other retail stores – give the neighbors a buffer – we are not interested in other retail stores other than the Safeway store.
I’m a big fan of the trees and landscaping, I like a little bit of the look that you brought in, much better than the previous large faux-mediterrean design we saw. However, I’m concerned that the look of this is all predicated on going into public space, getting permission from the city of Oakland – a lot of things we can’t depend on. There might be problems in getting that permitted.
The façade is much nicer than the huge monolithic façade but the basic conception seems to be the same...it looks like there’s a second floor, a lot of the concerns that have been raised previously seem to still be there.
(This is) a great example of how Mr. Paradis and his troops do not understand this neighborhood – you rob us of 10 on street parking spaces for cars ...you are destroying our neighborhood with your beautiful landscaping, that’s nonsense, those bulb-outs. We insist on our small businesses surviving – they are more important to us than what Safeway brings to us . Why can’t you and the architect get together and tell us what size the store will be? If you want to build small stores that serve the community, the only way we’d ever be convinced is on the deed of trust is that there will be no relationship between Safeway and the local store – it would have to be on the deed of trust and stay there forever. My last point, why can’t you commit to size? Mr. Paradis – in that you are from Hayward – you don’t get our neighborhood. Want to have this studied in the EIR – more studies of the economics of the community and we’ll protect it no matter what.
That although on 4th street there are similar plans and bulb-outs, in that location I like them but in this location I don’t. One of the things I like about this corner there’s a certain fluidity from one store to another – people who go to Cole Coffee go across the street to Yasai – they treat the multiple businesses as if they are a whole – symbiotic relationship – don’t involve clear divisions and we all feel like we’re a part of the community. One of the things in this design, you’ve created a wall between the store and the street – my guess is that is the intent, Safeway’s space is for the store and ... it has created a very nice space that ignores there are other stores in the neighborhood.
Clearly this has a lot of water over the dam and a lot of heartache. There’s two approaches, one is to look at it from the overall planning or look at the architecture detail. Strategy here is to try and soften the architecture rather than big box approach ... Fundamentally it’s important for the community to bring a business plan forward – big scale/medium scale/small scale possibilities – representation of their retail – willing to do within the context of this site – what’s viable in terms of size...Fundamentally it goes back to you to present the thresholds for this site, make that case.
I would caution that eliminating any such thing (landscaping), even for architectural detail, would amount the same thing as a blank wall – huge dead space. We need to think of other creative ways to use that space – kiosk types of things, newspaper stores, shallow, institutional community control over the renting and design of those stores – without somehow separating it from Safeway. It may well be there’s some kind of non-profit type of arrangement that could be made with Safeway that could shift control of the usage of the storefronts . If you eliminate the storefronts entirely, it will feel like a big dead zone, would leave more emphasis on Safeway, a Safeway wall.
We have to assume that all the cars will come in off of Claremont – I think we’ll need access to the site from College Avenue. You spend a lot of time showing landscaping and not showing the building – it’s like putting lipstick on a pig. You are coming into city property – set everything back further – go back that amount, we’re not losing any cars – in fact even further back – additional lane of traffic – a bus isn’t being held up. One of our problems with a bigger store is the increase in traffic. All of these should be put on the website so that everyone who isn’t here can see them and be outraged.
How can we discuss certain issues without reference to size or height of building? Who doesn’t believe that size isn’t the major issue, I don’t know what planet they are on. These concerns are secondary issues it’s not important to us – start with scope of the store, otherwise this process end in a very unfortunate way – we’ve moved in that direction tonight unfortunately.