New Broadway Safeway EIR Scoping Session tonight

Tonight, the new new Safeway at 51st and Broadway will have its EIR scoping session at the Oakland Planning Commission. The proposal has generated quite a bit of controversy among community members, and even managed to bring together in opposition the unlikely combination of STAND, ULTRA, and the Rockridge Community Planning Council. So why does everyone hate this project so much?

Well, basically because the 51st and Broadway shopping center, with 15 acres at a major intersection, represents a huge (and rare) opportunity for Oakland, and Safeway wants to use the site to build a strip mall and a ginormous surface parking lot. It’s ugly, it’s suburban, and it’s a waste of really valuable land.

A little bit of background on this site. Currently occupying the land is a 185,000 square foot strip mall and 667 parking spaces. Safeway is proposing to demolish the strip mall and build a new, bigger one – 304,000 square feet and 1,006 parking spaces, some of which would be where the existing parking lot is, and some of which would be on top of the new Safeway. The rest of the shopping center would have second floor office space.

Under the General Plan, the space is designated as Community Commercial (PDF), one of three Corridor Mixed Used Classifications, which is characterized as follows:

Community Commercial areas have historically served Oakland’s major shopping, service, and employment needs, and should continue to do so in the future. Pedestrian-oriented design is encouraged, but these areas may also accommodate larger-scale, auto-oriented developments which require sizable off-streeet parking areas, such as Rockridge Shopping Center, Acorn Shopping Center, and Foothill Square. The higher end of the allowable density/intensity range is most appropriate on arterials.

The maximum FAR allowed under Community Commercial is 5, but of course, there’s nothing saying you have to build something that intense.

Aside from the General Plan, we also have the City’s retail attraction plans to consider, which of course. A report prepared last year by the Conley Consulting Group identified significant potential for quality retail at and around the 51st and Broadway intersection (PDF), and urged the City to be mindful of this potential when considering future development proposals:

The Rockridge Shopping Center is well located to serve affluent neighborhoods in Oakland and Piedmont, and is thus a valuable retail enhancement opportunity for the City. The City should carefully consider future development in this node and how those proposals enhance and protect the City’s overall retail sector.

The report complained about the existing poor use of space:

  • The Rockridge Shopping center underutilizes a rare commodity in Oakland: a retail site over 10 acres in a prime location. Today, the center operates as a suburban retail solution in a key urban location. A proposal to relocate and expand the Safeway store only partially begins to intensify the use of the site by adding parking above the supermarket. More intensive use of this site could provide an expansion opportunity for the supermarket and also meet the City’s strategic goal of expanding its supply of comparison retail stores.
  • Existing development at the intersection of 51st and Broadway is auto-oriented and internally focused, with little encouragement for pedestrians to patronize retail on adjacent sites.

Conley further recommended:

  • Major development changes in these nodes provide an opportunity to redevelop the pattern of land use to one that is less auto-oriented, and supports creation of a pedestrian environment that serves the adjacent neighborhoods.
  • Incorporate a viable comparison goods component into large scale retail development in this node.
  • Modify traffic and circulation patterns to facilitate pedestrian circulation

So, it’s pretty safe to say that the new proposal does not conform to those recommendations. They aren’t law of course, but certainly worth consideration when considering whether the proposal should be approved.

Tonight, however, is not the time to do that. Tonight’s item is an EIR Scoping Session (PDF). Nobody is saying yes or no to the proposal tonight, just saying what should be studied in the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR). If you have thoughts on what project impacts should be studied in the EIR, you should go to the meeting and share them. Do not, however, show up and just say you hate the proposal and don’t want it built ever. That is not the purpose of tonight’s meeting and will just make the Planning Commission annoyed at you.

The meeting begins at 6 PM tonight in City Hall hearing room 1. If you can’t make it, but do have thoughts about what should be studied in the EIR, no worries – you have until July 27th to submit your comments.

99 thoughts on “New Broadway Safeway EIR Scoping Session tonight

  1. Andy K

    Less suburban – more urban would be my vote. Bike parking too. More pedestrian access. Maybe some outdoor plazas to sit in and relax.

  2. Robert

    V, do you have a link to the entire Conley report? The Figure indicates it is option 3, and I was wondering what the other options ere, among other things.

  3. Robert

    How about pulling Safeway forward to accomodate structured parking behind. This would allow removal of most of the parking in front of Safeway and replacing it with more intense retail and office spaces.

    The proposed Safeway plan does conform with the General Plan, and with the current zoning. Of the three priorities listed in the Conley report the Safeway plan makes a step forward on the comparison goods portion with the additional major tenants, and the other two priorities (area wide pedestrian circulation and design standards) are the responsibility of the city.

  4. Kevin Cook

    The pedestrian approaches to this place are rather unfriendly which I think would deter a lot of people from going there on foot even if the development itself is pedestrian friendly. The approaches generally involve walking uphill along busy four lane roads which I doubt that many people will schlep up and down on a regular basis. Moreover, people who shop for their groceries at Safeway tend to buy in quantities that aren’t conducive to carrying one’s goods home by hand. People who go to market frequently generally do so out of a concern for quality and freshness which aren’t exactly the words that come to mind at Safeway.

    I’m no fan of giant parking lots, but I don’t see the folks who live within realistic walking distance of this Safeway–call it a mile–generally heading out on foot to get their coco puffs, 12 packs of skinless chicken breasts and whatever else one gets at Safeway (I’ll confess to canola oil, TP and the occasional bottle of cheap wine). Even If the planner types designed pedestrian access which incorporated all their mind numbing pseudo-conceptual jargon I seriously doubt that anyone is walking to pet express to get their 40 lb bag of dog food. Face it–the development sits in what is essentially a suburban style environment with single family homes on hilly terrain surrounded by four lane roads. It is what it is.

  5. Patrick

    I agree. Trying to push for “pedestrian-friendly” at this intersection is pointless. Without a MAJOR change to the intersection itself (which Oakland cannot afford), who in their right mind would walk to this plaza unless forced by circumstance? People who plan on walking to amenities move to areas where that is possible. People who move to this area have cars and use them without a second thought – and Safeway is not going to make them change their mind.

  6. Karen Smulevitz

    I really think parking should be in the back, and stores pedestrian-welcoming. When was the last time you walked into a shopping area and felt excited, or awed, and eager to look around? Rockridge is special, and Oakland should hold out for Awe.

  7. Karen Smulevitz

    When I had a car, I often shopped at “The Rockridge Payless”, my favorite. Now, I have gone there by bus, but not at all often, sadly.

  8. Becks

    It’s important to keep in mind that EVERYONE is a pedestrian. Whether you’re traveling by car, bus, bike, or foot, eventually, you’re going to have to walk. Of course most people aren’t solely walking to this plaza, but many of us do take the bus there or bike there. And even for those who drive, the plaza is set up now (and in Safeway’s future plans) so that it is not pleasant to walk from store to store, which means many drive from store to store.

    And Patrick, really?

    “People who plan on walking to amenities move to areas where that is possible. People who move to this area have cars and use them without a second thought – and Safeway is not going to make them change their mind.”

    It’s true that people who plan to walk live in at least somewhat walkable neighborhoods, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve improvements! Also, it’s possible to walk to this lot, it’s just not very pleasant, and feels very dangerous at times.

  9. len raphael

    despite the intersection, quite a few mostly older people walk to safeway. recently surprised to see a gen y pulling a wire frame shopping cart like you can still buy in chinatown. considering there are no grocery stores, no produce stores in all of temescal (or north oakland) other than in rockridge, there are many potential pedestrians and bike riders who would shop there if …

    having said that, i’ll walk to pet club or boa, but only drive (one block :) to safeway because i want to minimize the number of visits i make to a store that currently feels harsh, warehouse like, long lines etc. produce is only a notch or two below the local small shops.

  10. Aaron Priven

    When I lived on 41st and Howe I frequently walked up Gilbert to this shopping center. When I lived on Terrace between 41st and Ridgeway I even more freuqently walked up Broadway to this shopping center. Yes, the sidewalks etc. could be better, and it’s pretty hilly coming along Pleasant Valley to the west, but the hill just south of the center is pretty minor, and it is certainly walkable.

    If I were dreaming something up, I would put a big garage and several big stores like Safeway and Longs on lower levels, and above that build a residential hill village, which would reach up and connect to the CCA campus.

  11. meg

    I live across the street on Coronado- behind the Wendy’s- and I regularly walk to the Safeway, Super Longs and Wamu (okay, CVC and Chase)- but I hell of jay walk
    (jay run??) across the middle of the block to do so.

  12. Patrick

    And Becks, really?

    “Also, it’s possible to walk to this lot, it’s just not very pleasant, and feels very dangerous at times.” You’ve just restated what I did: the predominant problem is walking TO the current plaza. And Safeway is not going to shell out the money to radically alter an intersection or flatten the hills.

    That being said, I do agree that everything possible should be done to improve the proposal. It is possible to make it more inviting – large windows on the street side as a billboard for what is available on the other side, wide sidewalks, etc. Personally, I would prefer that there be 4 separate parking lots. The long and narrow parking of B’way could be narrowed and made “street-like” by pushing the stores on this parking lot’s north side south. Then, the Safeway could also be moved south, making the parking lot accessible from P. Valley smaller. The second entrance off of B’way would have a narrow strip of parking along it’s length – leading to the third parking lot to the north of the Safeway. In this fashion, it breaks up one huge suburban plaza into 3 distinct shopping zones and 4 more “intimate” parking areas – and I submit it makes the whole seem less overwhelming.

  13. Max Allstadt

    Depending on which direction you walk from, it isn’t that scary or unpleasant to get to this location. It’s either one or two wide streets to cross. Not all that bad. It’s more the isolation that makes it an oddball spot. CCA overlooks the site from atop a cliff to the north. The grade of Broadway is steepish to the south, and Pleasant Valley is steep in both the West and Easterly approaches.

    The key here as far as bike and pedestrian traffic goes is to create inviting pedestrian entrances for those walking over from College and for those walking up from Broadway. On an economic level, this could help make the development more attractive to the kids at Oakland Tech and at CCA. I’m sure there’s plenty of patronage from both, but it could be better. Remember, these are teenagers through 22 year-olds, in the area every day, with disposable income. Sell them crap and slurpees and laugh all the way to the bank!

    Of course destination shoppers are going to be the main target demographic. Make the destination something other than an enormous slab of asphalt, and more people will go there happily… and STAY there for longer.

  14. Mark D

    It seems like many posters don’t seem to get it. Of course most people drive there now. Right now, you have to walk through a coue hundred feet of parking lot to get to the stores. We make our city and our neighborhoods
    more walkable, bikeable, public transportable one decision at a time. Deciding to move the retail onto the street and have plazas for sitting and eating and hanging out with the car parking hidden behind would go a long way toward improving the feel of the adjacent intersection. Less driveways would also make the area more bike and ped friendly. People use their cars because they cannot think of a more pleasant choice. Cars are often the most pleasant choice because that is how we have built or cities for the past few decades. We have to make the alternati es
    more pleasant.

    We are now undoing the mistakes of the past. In the fruitvale, there used to be a cute row of storefronts on both sides of the street at foothill and fruitvale. Safeway built a store I the 50′s and knocked down a row of stores to do it. Now it is a gross
    parking lot infront of a walgreens and kragen. So now
    e day I hope to get rid of that ugly parking lot and get my cute row
    of storefronts back.

  15. Ken Lupoff

    I agree w/ Mark D. I live on Coolidge Av and , the strip mall that Kragen and Walgreen’s occupy is a HUGE blight in the neighborhood. And it’s been a blight on the area for decades now, despite years of promises from Walgreen’s and Kragen’s corporate offices to clean it up to fix it up.

  16. Patrick

    Mark D I don’t think YOU get it. Where are these masses of pedestrians coming from? It’s one of the least densely populated areas of the city! In order to create the customer base they need, they HAVE to rely on the automobile. There aren’t enough people in true “walking” distance to that plaza to support 340,000 sq. ft. of commercial space – let alone what’s there now.

    Stop living in your fairyland. Rockridge IS special – but part of what made it special was the convenience of having that easy to get to, easy to park in plaza nearby. Whether you like it or not. They will drive through the Caldecott bore before they abandon their Land Rovers and walk to CVS for toilet paper.

  17. Becks

    Well Patrick, I’m happy to say that every single speaker at the meeting tonight thought the project should be made more pedestrian friendly. And all the planning commissioners agreed.

    Also, many speakers explained that they DO walk there already. The best line of the night came from Joyce Roy, who lives a couple blocks away and said that the project should be designed so she doesn’t “have to go through a sea of cars for a quart of milk.”

    Patrick, just because your life is auto-centric doesn’t mean everyone else lives like that. And like Mark D said, we need to make walking, bicycling, and public transit more attractive if we’re ever going to change our auto-centric culture.

    If someone doesn’t beat me to it, I’ll have a post up on Friday covering the Planning Commission hearing in detail.

  18. Patrick

    Becks – a question. Do you live within walking distance of this plaza? Or are you simply advocating for all of the latent walkers who are currently wading “through a sea of cars for a quart of milk” ? It’s one thing to be a NIMBY but I hope this is not a case of “Not In YOUR Back Yard”. The last thing Oakland needs is more maternalistic know-it-alls. Isn’t Nancy Nadel enough?

    Unlike poor, downtrodden Joyce Roy, I do not have the luxury of walking to a nearby store. Other than the fact that I don’t live near any stores, my three back surgeries unfortunately render me “auto-centric”. Walking and bicycling are not an option for most and, as for me, a 1 hour 16 minute trip (2 transfers!) to the local Safeway is not particularly appealing, regardless of how awe-inspiring the shopping destination may be. You cannot take an intersection that would feel at home in Los Angeles and turn it into some quaint, lifestyle-transforming catalyst via Safeway.

  19. len

    great to see all the neighborhood groups and all the commissioners present seeming to agree to force a total makeover, with the commissioners only a bit less adamant about mixed use. safeway better hire carlos.

    a land use attorney acquaintance explained to me that the city can indirectly force the parcel’s owner to do say a mixed use without that becoming a “taking”.

    the city only needs some reasonable basis for denying the project eg. the eir and doesn’t order safeway to close down or do something that isn’t economically “viable”, even though mixed use might not be “highest and best use” for the owner.

    would assume that the residential portion would be rental unless the owner of the parcel was tortured into condo’g the entire project., commercial and residential.

    i could see the city pressuring safeway to try to rent spaces to garden supply store, and a hardware store but they might have to do that at below market rents to succeed.

    the speakers were vague on how the design of that parcel could “tie together” rockridge, temescal, and piedmont avenue. temescal neighbors tell me they drive to safeway (a block away) because of the “intimidating” intersection as well the large parking lot. it’s not that the intersection is dangerous to pedestrians, but that the lights are so long and the street so wide that it’s much faster to drive thru the intersection than cross at the lights on foot.

    as others here said, without major expensive mods to the intersection, that isolation can only get a minor tuneup (pardon, the automotive term)

    don’t understand how the reasoning of the speaker who cautioned that a greatly expanded safeway could suck economic life out of surrounding retailers. i just don’t see an expanded safeway threatening piedmont market or the villiage market or trader joes or whole foods. but i do see their point that it would greatly increase vehicle density.

    -len raphael

  20. Robert

    Becks, I am not sure you are understanding the point. I don’t think that anyone is saying the the center shouldn’t be more pedestrian freindly. But making it more pedestrian freindly is not going to have a meaningful impact on the amount of parking needed. This is my Safeway too, and I live too far away to even consider walking there for groceries. Even if I lived a lot closer, I would still drive most of the time rather than walk home with seven bags of groceries.Look at it this way, if you double the percentage of people who walk I think you would consider that a great success. But that would only take it from 5% of the trips to 10%, which means that driving trips would drop from 95% to 90%. And that drop is going to have no meaningful impact on the amount of parking needed.

    Whle I am all for making the center more walkable once you are there, the biggest problem with getting people to walk to the center is the location, which is too far away and not well connected to the surrounding neighborhoods. And that is outside of Safeway’s ability to fix, and the city has no meaningful plan to fix it.

  21. livegreen

    Ok, so everybody wants it to be pedestrian friendly. Now, just change the design and the pedestrians will come: Abra cadabra, shake magic wand, it’s done!

    Here they come from the Right (the East)! Swimming all the way!

    From the Northeast! Oh, wait there’s a steep drop-off that will kill somebody coming from there (& only CCA above anyway). Let them rappel!

    From the North & Northwest! Oh, wait, the masses from high density lower Rockridge have to cross 5 lanes of traffic which they do all the time right now.

    From the Southwest & Sough! Oh, you mean from auto row? No, the elder care place across the street. No the 20 houses between there and Broadway. No, the future development that will one day be the shopping center of the eastbay extending all the way downtown.

    All I’m asking is to be enlightened: Where are all these pedestrians going to come from NOW?

    Only if housing is built right there will they come. If that’s not possible, put the Target there. Better yet, both.

  22. len

    conflicting goals and constraints: as patrick pointed out, where safeway needs to attract even more vehicles to bring the customers needed for a much larger store(s) because density is low around here compared to much of oakland. to substitute mixed use rental housing for additional cars would mean more of an Uptown scale project that just ain’t happening unless OHA wants to do it :)

    suppose it’s possible to build safeway such that it could have floors added on later, but that’s gotta be hecka inefficient way to build.

    so we’ll probably get something where safeway is allowed to increase total vehicle traffic in a better looking autocentric design but adds a floor or two of rental units.

    -len raphael

  23. Ralph

    If they build a pedestrian friendly structure, they will come. I live within 2 miles of this Safeway. It is definitely at the upper limit of how far I would walk to a grocery store, but if I moved a .5 miles closer I would be all over the walk to the Safeway. Back when I was a kid stuck under 3 ft of snow we would walk to the grocery store uphill both ways. If we could do this in a city that wasn’t touting how green we are, then I am certain the good eco-friendly people of Oakland would be more than willing to walk if you made it ped friendly.

  24. James Robinson

    I have a better idea: build some kind of supermarket, ANY kind of supermarket, in East Oakland near 98th and MacArthur!

  25. len

    if we can’t get it right and viable at this site, how are we going to get auto row viable where there are how many different parcels and owners?

  26. Max Allstadt


    You’re absolutely right. East Oakland and deep West Oakland need access to good food. While this site does cover West Oakland sometimes, I don’t here much of anything at all about goings on in Districts 6 and 7, ever. Not in the features, not in the comments. What gives?

  27. DD

    True, changing the project will not magically help *everyone* choose to walk, but those who DO choose to walk could have a better walking experience with virtually NO inconvenience to the cars. Just MOVE the parking to the back! If you are in a car, what difference is it to you? But if you are on foot (or would like to be), then tiny changes can completely transform the way you interact with that space.

    And it’s about more than walking in from the residential neighborhood. We are also talking about walking from the bus stop. At tonight’s meeting, someone pointed out that the distance from the bus stop to Long’s (future home of Safeway under current plan) is 1/4 mile–ridiculous!

    Safeway is planning to demolish all the buildings anyway, so why oh why would we keep the primary anchor tenant way out in never-never land? We can do more than just rebuild past mistakes.

  28. OaklandSpaceAcademy

    Patrick – I can vouch that Becks lives much closer to this Safeway than you, and so by your reasoning should have a much larger say. I happen to disagree. This is an important intersection for all of Oakland – it is basically the fulcrum between North Oakland, Rockridge, Piedmont Av., and down into Grand Lake – and so all of Oakland deserves the opportunity to weigh in. Yourself aside, most people who walk (or bus) to supermarkets don’t do so out of luxury, but out of necessity. They are either too infirm or poor to drive. In this regard Patrick you are lucky – you can afford and are able to drive.

    And actually, you could take an intersection that, as you rightly point out, “would feel at home in Los Angeles”, and turn it into something much more quaint. But that shouldn’t be the goal. The goal should be to make it “more like Oakland.”

    I’m always amazed at the poverty of thought exhibited by folks when it comes to situations like this. It’s as if the present situation will remain forever everywhere, or that the way that you happen to do things is the way everyone does them. Sure, some people drive to supermarkets and buy seven bags of groceries, but others make trips more often and buy less each time, and so would like a more pleasant experience (doing it more often and all). Or wondering where all the pedestrians will be coming from and stating the existing development “is what it is,” as if our lifestyles and housing patterns will be exactly the same in 25 years. Or complaining that the site “is not well connected to the surrounding neighborhoods”, seemingly not understanding that a better development would go a long way towards addressing that problem.

    Now of course this development will have to accommodate automobiles, nobody (who is serious) is arguing against that. They key is to both not make it the dominant feature it now is and to plan for the possibility that in the future we may be using cars a lot less than we now do. It isn’t that hard, but it will require far better architects than Safeway has presently.

  29. VivekB

    I live a half-mile from this Safeway, (although I still choose the College Safeway as there’s not as many thugs in the parking lot). Two thoughts:

    1) If pedestrian-friendly is the issue, and people like me who buy $150 of groceries at a time will never ever walk there as we can’t physically hold all the bags on the way home, why not just move the buildings to the streetside and put the parking in the back?

    2) Was there any comment on the safety/security of the parking lot? There’s always emails on the Rockridge Watch Network about that, the most recent one was a few weeks ago about how there were two body shop reps trolling the lot, and their buddies were parking next to cars intentionally banging into them to create the dents. (or something like that, i wasn’t paying real close attn since i don’t go there).

  30. Naomi Schiff

    I think structured parking in back, and moving the stores up, makes a lot of sense. Since turning and traffic movements have been fairly weird ever since Wendy’s moved in, necessitating an extra left turn lane, the two intersections on Broadway could use a second look and a reworking, which could be mitigations recommended in an EIR. It is at least a great moment for the bulbout mavens/traffic wonks/pedestrian and bike advocates to weigh in again.

    I will comment on the scoping to this effect, and would remind everyone that good ideas for things to study and review should be sent in immediately, on paper or in emails, as part of the scoping process, so that they will seriously considered other than on this blog.

  31. Mark D

    Additional thoughts:

    this intersection is really not that different than 14th and bdwy
    remove the porkxhop island slip turns and put some more attractive structures o. The corner lots and it will feel less “LA-like”.

    I live in the fruitvale, but sometimes shops at this center by bike. I have a bike I have carried $200 worth of groceries on. We also have a shopping cart we use to walk for shopping. I can also put a weeks worth of groceries in it.
    Not everyone gets around solely my car and some of us are doing it out of consious choice, not necessity.

    I don’t get why some are so fired up over not
    making development bike and ped friendly. It seems like we can put the same amount of car parking in a different part of the development and everyone can be happy. Bike and ped friendly is not always car unfriendly.

    In the case of something like the slip turns at this intersection. Cars loose the convienince of a fast right turn in exchange for peds having a much more
    pleasant crossing and bikes having a safer situation to negotiate. That seems fair to me.

  32. jack b dazzle

    For all of it’s problems and issues, this is one of the busiest shopping centers in CA. It is the third busiest Safeway, one of the busiest Pet Food Express’s, and I believe it is or was one of the busiest starbucks and Long’s. This center generates a lot of retail dollars for Oakland.

    One of the reasons that this center does so well is that a lot of families from Piedmont shop there. They are not walking, they are coming by mini van and SUV with their families and loading up!. If we put the parking in back, or make it less automobile friendly, you are going to kill it.

    I am all for making this center more friendly, but let’s not forget who is really paying the bills. Let’s not send any more business to other cities.

    Maybe we should do a survey of actual shoppers?

  33. James Robinson

    Max, it is simple: blogs are by the affluent, of the affluent, for the affluent. By “affluent,” I’m not talking about just money — I mean education and awareness. This is why it is crucial to gentrify the more traditionally blue-collar parts of Oakland. Gentrifiers, for whatever reason are the ones who get things done. The traditional denizens of West and East Oakland are too busy trying to survive to really be concerned about reading blogs (or the news, for that matter) and doing mail-in votes.

    I tell you what, though, if Safeway or some other chain really wants to make money with a minimum of fuss, let them put something out here in the wilderness.

  34. V Smoothe

    Jack, I think having the EIR study whether moving the parking to a less visually offensive place will have a negative impact on the store’s sales is an excellent idea. You should submit that comment to the City.

  35. Max Allstadt

    b dazzle:

    Bay Street doesn’t have a surface lot, and it thrives. “Automotive friendly” doesn’t have to mean ugly.

    As for loading up the SUV, that may be true. But it doesn’t have to be. A 110 pound white woman and one bag of groceries doesn’t need 450 horsepower to get from point A to point B. That kind of excess is just gross.

    Building better pedestrian infrastructure creates better habits. Every time there is a gas price hike, we have an opportunity to create more pedestrians. The best way to keep people walking when gas goes back down is to make it easy and pleasant.

  36. James Robinson

    Theoretically you shouldn’t NEED anything larger or more powerful than a basic Honda Civic. Want is want. That small woman might want that big SUV to compensate for her small stature. I’ve heard many women say the “feel safer” in a large SUV that’s high off the ground. Who am I to judge? Hell, why does a techie in Silicon Valley need a pickup truck?

  37. James Robinson

    Oh, and Bay Street thrives with the parking it has because it does not have a supermarket. People are generally not buying large items or multiple items from Bay Street as if they were going to the grocery store or Costco. Apples and oranges.

  38. Becks

    I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to write about the meeting – it was just too exciting. You can read my full synopsis of the meeting here.

  39. jack b dazzle

    You are all correct when you say that people shouldn’t need bigger cars, or to even drive for that matter. Unfortunately, the reality is that people do drive SUV’s and large luxury cars that use a lot of fuel. You might not notice them, as we have chased most of them out of Oakland, with their strong school support and retail tax dollars.

    I use my bike all the time, but I would never take it grocery shopping. It is too easy to use

  40. Becks

    Re: Patrick – “Becks – a question. Do you live within walking distance of this plaza? Or are you simply advocating for all of the latent walkers who are currently wading “through a sea of cars for a quart of milk” ? It’s one thing to be a NIMBY but I hope this is not a case of “Not In YOUR Back Yard”. The last thing Oakland needs is more maternalistic know-it-alls. Isn’t Nancy Nadel enough?”

    Patrick, you’re just not listening (or reading). I clearly explained that pedestrians encompass more than people who solely get there by foot. My primary form of transportation is the bus, but once I get off the bus, I walk, and I walk quite a bit. Also, this plaza is within walking distance of me. It’s a long walk, and since I’ve started buying a monthly bus pass, I very rarely walk there (unless I’m walking for the sake of walking with a secondary purpose of buying something). But I do take the bus there, and the bus does not pull up right in front of any of the stores, so I have to walk. I’m not sure how I can explain this anymore clearly.

    Also, I’m not sure how you get from me talking about the need for pedestrian improvements to calling me a “maternalistic know-it-all.”

    And to Robert, “Becks, I am not sure you are understanding the point. I don’t think that anyone is saying the the center shouldn’t be more pedestrian freindly. But making it more pedestrian freindly is not going to have a meaningful impact on the amount of parking needed. This is my Safeway too, and I live too far away to even consider walking there for groceries. Even if I lived a lot closer, I would still drive most of the time rather than walk home with seven bags of groceries.Look at it this way, if you double the percentage of people who walk I think you would consider that a great success. But that would only take it from 5% of the trips to 10%, which means that driving trips would drop from 95% to 90%. And that drop is going to have no meaningful impact on the amount of parking needed.”

    I’m glad you’re not arguing against making the plaza more pedestrian friendly. I’m not arguing against parking, and I don’t think anyone is arguing against parking. Many of us are arguing that structured parking or lots behind the buildings would be much preferable to a sea of parking in front of buildings. I understand that people need to drive. I even drive sometimes, especially when I need to pick up a bunch of heavy stuff. I’m not anti-car, just pro-alternative transit.

  41. Kevin Cook

    OSA: I’m always amazed at the pretension and self-importance exhibited by those with backgrounds in quasi-academic fields like planning, or whatever your degree is in, when it comes to situations like this. If only you could put those ideas from that senior seminar to work here then magically the numbers of people walking and biking to this place will vastly increase. I suppose that not all of us are intellectually equipped to grasp the deeply complex ideas involved in traffic flow studies.

    Twenty years ago the surrounding neighborhoods and the topography looked the same as it does today, and in another 20 years it will continue to look the same regardless of how you design the storefronts.

    I don’t own a car and routinely carry large amounts of groceries around on my bicycle. However, I like to bicycle and walk, and I have no kids or pets to supply with stuff. I’m pretty sure that I am in the minority on this, even in Oakland, and will remain so for a while. Until the majority of the population becomes single people under a certain age with a certain degree of fitness, the majority of people who frequent that Safeway are going to drive regardless of how rich your thinking is on how to design the space.

    The current layout sucks and so does the proposed one. Move the parking to the back and make it more pedestrian friendly–knock yourselves out. In the end, you’ve slightly modified the experience of shopping at a shitty coporate store. How about just not going there at all? The amount of time and energy devoted to shopping by many of the activist types here baffles me. The real poverty of thought is the idea that somehow the city on the hill can be achieved by tweaking the retail experience.

    Max: how much horsepower does a 110 lb asian woman need to get that same bag of groceries?

    Len: This weekend, walk or ride your bicycle to your local farmers market and buy some peaches and tomatoes. Then proceed to the nearest safeway/albertsons and buy the same items. Then tell me why you would ever buy produce at Safeway.

    Vivek: Thugs in that parking lot? For sure? I suggest that you need to go visit Max’s neighborhood in order to put the thug level of the Broadway Safeway into perspective.

    Ralph: You didn’t really write that you walked through 3 feet of snow to get to the store when you were a kid, did you? Please begin posting under the name Grandpa Simpson from now on.

  42. Robert

    Kevin, I can’t speak for Ralph, but I most certainly did walk through 2 feet of snow to the grocery store when I was in my 30′s. Because the city I lived in at the time didn’t think, in their own environmentally enlightened infinite wisdom, it was unnecessary to plow the side streets. Only point is that you shouldn’t make assumptions about what people have or haven’t done, or can or can’t do.

  43. len raphael

    Kevin, In recent couple of years, the watermelons, peaches, apples, and lettuce are usually as good as the average i’ve gotten at farmer’s markets Except that not organic. The competition from produce stores and farmers markets worked to some extent.

    Not to mention that safeway pays its employees much better than the employees at farmers markets or most produce stores. It also employees handicapped people.

    VB, i have shopped at that safeway for 30 years and only once came slightly close to getting mugged (and that was in front of the boa atm).


  44. VivekB

    Kevin re:Thugs & Max’s higher level of thugdom. Thanks, but not thanks. The reason I paid $500/sqft for my place was so that I didn’t have to deal with that. I’m sure there’s people worse off than I am; there’s also people with no legs – that doesn’t mean i’m going to get one leg amputated, as i’m still better than someone.

    It’s amazing how much more I get harassed than people near me, my wife & buddies even abuse me about this as they think its funny. i’m 6’2″, 230lbs, and I put on my NY’er scowl when in public so I don’t have to deal with all the pollsters asking me for a signature/etc. I’d say that half the time I go there, someone inside the store or outside makes threatening gestures or patently steps in front of me. That damn windex guy is the worst, 2-3 times he’s physically gotten in front of me demanding to let him clean my windows for $1. If I try and go by him, he’ll walk alongside me yelling at me. One time my wife kept saying “don’t do anything, don’t do anything, you’ll be the one that goes to jail, and our car will get keyed to boot”.

    Probably for the same reason people joke that on your first day in prison, you should find the biggest meanest guy and kick his ass. If they only knew how much of a wussy wus I really am ;-)

  45. Ralph

    this is what i know – it snowed 36 inches and we walked to the store. as a college student, i walked 1.5 miles in the snow for a haircut. as a young adult, i carted groceries on the bus and hoofed it; now, i let do the heavy lifting while i hit up f/m and make the occasional grocery store visit. and for those times i do visit, i want a safeway that is friendly to devoted walkers, occasional walkers, p.t. riders, and those in cars.

  46. wanderer

    One interesting comparison here is with 51st & Telegraph. The 51st & Telegraph intersection is slightly narrower, but not much, and has a large volume of turning traffic to and from the freeway. Yet the feel of the intersection is completely different. People are jamming the sidewalk at Betty’s. On the northwest corner the pawn shop might not be a great attractor, but it’s not walking through a sea of cars either. Even Walgreen’s comes up to the street, albeit with a partially blank wall. It’s not the world’s greatest corner, but I’d submit it’s very Oakland, and a hell of lot better than Pleasant Valley and Broadway. Environments that are now autocentric can be humanized, and who knows what will happen as the country makes its inevitable, wrenching transition away from an oil based economy.

  47. hi

    Hi Guys, I’ve been reading the posts and there are some very good points. It would be wonderful if everyone can take a deep breath, step back, and realize that we are all neighbors, including windex guy. Let’s focus on what the things we like, and have civil discussion about dislikes. Especially about each other. Some of the jabs in the comments are saddening. There is no need for the “you’re either with us or against us” thinking. Civility and grace is the only salvation for society.

    I really appreciate all of you for your involvement and engagement. Keep up the good work.

  48. len

    was just now standing and watching some freeway magnitude type traffic on bway at rush hour at that intersection. looks to be commuters coming from downtown oakland going to 24. Presumedly Bart doesn’t do it for them, but that river of vehicles isolates Safeway from rest of the area. Pedestrian overpasses? Pedestrian fully controlled lights could result in 5 blocks of idling vehicles for an hour a day.

  49. Eric Fischer

    For all the people who are doubting whether anyone ever actually walks to this Safeway, I do, almost every day. I probably still will no matter what they end up building, but I’d sure rather they build something other than another strip mall.

  50. Max Allstadt


    Clearly the ethnicity of the 110 lbs. woman is irrelevant.

    I was just riffing on a memory I have of Los Angeles. My ex-wife had an apartment in Culver City. The parking lot at the Trader Joes around the corner was a parade of the most wasteful gas guzzling idiocy I’d ever seen. Expeditions and H2s and Yukons, and two out of three of them had a 110 lbs. white woman, with a blonde ponytail and a baseball cap, and nobody else in the vehicle. Non-stop display of wasted affluence.

    But guess what? That Trader Joe’s has an enclosed, two story parking structure, no surface lot. Go Culver City!

  51. David

    Clearly no one commenting that one should walk to the grocery store has kids.

    If you want to walk to the store and pick up a week’s worth of food for my family, diapers etc. and walk it over to my house, or bus it or whatever, go ahead, and then you’ll realize that you’re never going to do it again as long as you live.

    Parking is a necessity. Period. We’re not going to that magical time before cars in our lifetimes, and hopefully never. If you disagree, read accounts of life when horses ruled the roads. Mmmmm. manure. Typhoid from the flies. 25% of US farmland devoted to horse food…etc


  52. Max Allstadt

    No one said anything about eliminating parking. We just said a bunch of stuff about making a large corporation pay a little extra so that the parking won’t be ugly, dangerous and anti-pedestrian.

    Cars aren’t going away, but the needs of someone in a vehicle that goes 80 mph should be subordinate to the needs of someone walking 4 mph.

    We aren’t going back to a time before cars. We’re going forward to a time where we’ve learned not to dehumanize the landscape by putting cars before people.

  53. OaklandSpaceAcademy

    KC – I’m not talking about different designs for the storefronts, or “tweaking the retail experience.” I want a different type of development altogether – less suburban, single-use, and auto-oriented, and more urban, mixed-use, and multi-modal. But it isn’t because I want to “magically” increase the numbers of those walking and biking there. I just would like those who do to have a richer and more pleasant experience. And I happen to think that if you make that happen, then at the margins a few more people might chose to walk, or bike, or take the bus. But the great thing about it is that even if that doesn’t happen, those that drive there accrue the same benefits. As Becks mentioned, we are all pedestrians at some point.

    You have a lot more faith than I do that in the future people who own houses (especially in the inner East Bay) and are interested in sending their kids to college will also be able to afford a couple 2000 lbs. hunks of metal and the gas it takes propel them around 20-30 miles a day. I hope you are right; I fear you are wrong.

    But I agree that we shouldn’t be worrying too much about shitty (or non-shitty!) corporate stores. The important thing is to get the urban form right.

    Wanderer – Great comment, I too had thought that Telegraph and 51st might be an apt comparison. It certainly isn’t great, but it is not bad either. Can you imagine anyone lining up halfway down the block at any of the four corners of Broadway and Pleasant Valley? I’d be interested to find out the difference in traffic counts between the two intersections.

    Len – That river of vehicles does isolate, but it wouldn’t have to, and we certainly don’t need a pedestrian overpass. Mostly we need to create more friction and greater interaction between pedestians, bikes, buses, and cars. We simply need more congestion – the raison d’etre of cities!

  54. Patrick

    Hey, all, thanks for the responses. I encourage you all to attempt to decipher my original post, which suggested moving the stores near the rear of the property forward. This would force all of the stores closer together and also segregates parking into smaller lots. It provides easy ingress for anyone who chooses to access the plaza via foot or public transport by shifting the retail spaces closer to the streets. Also, it makes the plaza seem less “auto-centric” by limiting each parking lot’s scale. I am fully invested in the idea that once a potential shopper is “on the lot”, that they will be more likely to continue shopping if the stores are clustered. However, I am unwilling to worry about the needs of some “local” who thinks that proximity-via-foot alone equals inalienable rights. I am a homeowner and taxpayer of the City of Oakland: everything that occurs in this City, and which involves my tax dollars, is within my jurisdiction.

  55. Patrick

    It should be noted that once the world’s greatest store (Über-Longs) is demolished, I will be much less likely to shop in this plaza. That change, in and of itself, makes this area more “suburban”.

  56. len

    intersections: people don’t line up at bb’s or sit at tables because the intersection is more human scale or some such cf to 51st and bway. they’ll sit in front of bb’s because the food and the company is good enough to make them ignore the disgusting concentration of slow moving (congested?) vehicle fumes and noise.

    put the equivalent of a bb where poppy fabric used to be, and they will come.

  57. Joe DeCredico

    There are some important points being made here. I would like to add some physical reality to the conversation. The site is about 15 acres, or more than 650,000 square feet. Where else in a California urban City does this amount of land become available for redevelopment? The retail development proposal takes just under 7 acres of this land, and the 1000 planned surface parking spaces take the most of the rest.

    What if the parking was incorporated into a 3 level structure at a conservative 375 square feet per space. This would take up about 3 acres of land. Then if we consider vehicle circulation and sidewalks at 2.5 acres, this leaves about 2.5 acres for open space to be woven into the development. That is an ample amount for urban open space opportunities.

    Sidebar: The Piazza della Signore in Florence is one of my favorite proportioned open spaces. 3 and 4 story buildings plus the 300 foot Palazzo Vecchio tower in a pedestrian only space. I know its romantic, but it is a fantastic space that attracts people, cafes, and retail and it is about 1.25 acres.

    So here is the problem. Structured parking cost between 3 and 5 times the amount of surface parking, so form a strictly retail point of view, it simply doesn’t pencil. And I have not heard anyone say that this is not a valued retail location, including Denise in her report.

    But what if 2 or 3 stories of residences were built over the retail to offset this cost with only 1 parking space per unit and additional visitor and resident spaces shared with the retail. The project becomes an urban center at a major intersection of neighborhoods. CCA has never had enough housing and could use more. The 51 line means an easy commute to downtown Bart stations plus Rockridge Bart. Upper College becomes more vital.

    Safeway has tried this before. They were shot down on Solano because the neighbors said the project was too dense. They received a lot of criticism in Elmwood and abandoned the approach. Why should they propose it here, it is a huge risk. The reason why is because here, it works.

    I would hope that the neighborhoods and the politicos would rally behind Safeway to invest in the community with a 3 and 4 story mixed use scheme. It’s an opportunity for low income housing, student housing, market rate housing, and community retail with a new grocery store as the anchor.

    How long are we going to let parking be the tail that wags the dog?

    If we want Broadway and Pleasant Valley to be more ped and bike friendly, let’s plan it that way.

    We have an amazing art college adjacent to the site that could and should be integrated into the City more. I know, I have taught a lot of classes on that campus and made the trudge to Safeway for a sandwich at lunch. There are galleries, an auditorium and art library within a stair climb from the Safeway site.

    I, for one, will be encouraging Safeway to develop this site with the density that is appropriate for upper Broadway, with connections to the neighborhoods, and with housing that makes it viable.

  58. jack b dazzle

    There are some realities here that I am not sure you are all taking into consideration.

    1) This is Oakland, and shoppers need to feel safe if they are going to spend money in our city. Currently a lot of people don’t feel safe shopping at the safeway center. Garage parking and parking behind makes people feel less safe.

    2) This is one of the most popular shopping centers in Oakland, bringing in a lot of tax dollars. There must be some positives to it.

    3) Grocery shopping is different than other shopping. It must be efficient. When I shop for food, I shop for 1-2 weeks for multiple people and for multiple animals. I need to take a big vehicle. If you make it hard for me, I am going to leave the city to shop. (I have a civic hybrid too). How much my significant other weighs or how many horsepower the vehicle has should not be an issue for what we do at the shopping center.

    4) At the end of the day, this has to make sense for Safeway too. If they won’t get what they want, they may just leave the center the way it is, which I don’t think is acceptable to anyone.

    5) Making the center more pedestrian friendly will help the neighborhood immensely, but will not pay the bills. We have to pay attention to the shoppers that might come from outside Oakland. They don’t vote, but they bring in a lot of tax dollars.

  59. V Smoothe Post author

    There’s a lot about design, parking, circulation, and retail that you don’t seem to understand, Jack, but you’re also missing the main point here – almost everyone would rather Safeway leave the center as is than build what they’re proposing. We may be stuck with a strip mall for the moment, but there is no way in hell that we’re going to let them tear it down and build another one. If Safeway doesn’t want to design something appropriate for the urban location they’re in and consistent with the City’s policy objectives for the lot, then they can leave their store as is, and we’ll wait for someone else to come along who will make appropriate use of this major intersection.

  60. Ralph

    Can someone help me out? Why do people not feel safe at this Safeway? I’ve shopped here at 7am and 12am and have always felt safe and if it were that unsafe why are people so in love with shopping at the Longs at 3am (or is that theoretically shopping). And except for East and West Oakland how many people really drive outside of their neighborhood to shop at an everyday grocery store.

    I don’t think anyone is trying to make it “either less safe or less desirable” for car driving patrons. I think it is possible to improve the experience for all. This may include plazas, moving the structures, adding market rate housing, having well lit (that is just common sense) parking structures in the back, yada, yada, yada.

    What I still don’t get is why do people drive to Safeway. does all the work that you don’t want to.

  61. Patrick

    There are those of us who actually enjoy the process of shopping for groceries. relegates food, one of the great pleasures of life, to a point-and-click commodity.

  62. Robert

    V, you may be right that the people posting here would rather see Safeway do nothing than improve the center in a way that fails to meet your ideal, but I would bet money that that is not true of the vast majority of the current customers of Safeway.

  63. Robert

    Ralph, I don’t know why people feel unsafe there. In the 10 years I have been going I have never even been accostied at that site, let alone feel threatened. That said, one of the concerns that has been raised about the College Ave Safeway has been structured parking, which apparently makes some people feel less safe than an open lot. And from a retailers perspective, the appearance is wha matters more than any reality.

  64. Max Allstadt


    I realize you’re a foodie and have high standards, but there are a lot of people who just want to make dinner for themselves or their families without breaking the bank.

    That safeway does have an organic produce section, and isn’t entirely awful. It’s far better than GroceOut, the closest big store. And even what GroceOut sells is edible. Not everyone is going to put effort, selectiveness and TLC into every home cooked meal. America’s baseline standard for groceries is sad, I’ll grant that. At the same time, the standards created and lived up to by foodies during the economic bubble are unsustainable for everyday people.

  65. jack b dazzle

    Wow, is it true that most of the people on this board think that it is better to leave Safeway as it is? That never occurred to me. Personally, I think it works. Much better than the mini safeway in Montclair. You can’t shop there for a family.

    For those of you who don’t know, the Safeway Center is “unsafe” for store employees. Most stores in the center have been robbed multiple times. I think that the center is fairly safe for general shoppers. I never have had a problem, and I have been shopping there for about 20 years.

    V, I wish I had the time or energy to be a foodie. Right now, I will settle with things not being fried, or have chemicals that I can’t identify.

  66. lorraine - Rockridge HOA

    Max, “That safeway does have an organic produce section.” You’re kidding right? (nuff said) We’re hoping, and as it seems, standing with the city, for something much more expansive in vision than Safeway or Grocery Outlet. Look around at the new style of architecture and urban form shopping centers, and smile!

    Incidental to the big picture and most neighbors, i for one, living opposite the center on pleasant valley, must go through moving out of my condo, with the accompanying additional expenses, as well as renting my unit to someone who might drop something on my travertine tile floor or my beautiful granite counter and gouge it, etc. because i have chemical sensitivities and won’t survive the demo or building process. But hey, i chose to live in this great place that intersects 3 great neighborhoods!

  67. Naomi Schiff

    I agree with Joe DeC on this one. The penultimate iteration of the Whole Foods project at Bay Place/Harrison was intended to include housing; a very last-minute switch when it “didn’t pencil out” gave us parking structure but no housing. But the thought was there, and on a much much smaller site. It might be worth looking at that last version to see what they had planned. Even if the project has to broken into phases for economic reasons, it should be planned in some mixed-use way.

  68. V Smoothe Post author

    Max –

    There are many legitimate reasons people might choose to shop at Safeway over a Farmer’s Market – the convenience of buying all your groceries at once, the convenience of being able to go whenever you want, the convenience of parking facilities, etc. But cost is not among them.

    I don’t care whether anyone else is a food snob like me, but it very much bothers me when people act like the higher quality produce available at local farmer’s markets is the realm of the wealthy and something your average person can’t afford. The fact is that Safeway produce prices are higher than those found at most vendors even at the area’s most expensive farmer’s markets. Every time I end up in a Safeway I am stunned to see what they’re charging for fruit and vegetables. Please check out this blog post comparing the cost of the same items at Safeway versus the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market to see how dramatic the cost difference is.

  69. Eric Fischer

    One thing we should probably be aware of is that Safeway may not actually *want* to provide all that parking — they may be doing just what they are obligated to under the Oakland planning code. Specifically they are providing almost exactly one parking space per 300 square feet of floor area, which is the ratio that Oakland requires for “General Food Sales” stores in the C-31 zone, which part of the site appears to fall under. (The rest is C-30, which apparently requires, even worse, a space for every 200 square feet., so I don’t know how they are getting away with one per 300.)

    So if we *really* want to fix the sea-of-parking problem, it’s the planning code we need to fix, because developers have no choice but to do what it requires.

    By the way, my take on this whole thing is the important thing is not whether or not there is a strip mall on this corner, or how much parking it has. As I said, I’m going to keep walking there (by choice, because I think that each person who is out on foot is making my neighborhood a little better than it would otherwise be) probably no matter what they build. What *is* important is that there is no halfway pleasant way to walk between North Oakland’s two best shopping streets, College and Piedmont, even though they are physically close together, because the street system is so poorly laid out, and this is a problem that needs to be fixed. This site (via Gilbert and, perhaps, Coronado) is the only plausible way to connect the two neighborhoods without major realignments of streets. I know it’s the city’s responsibility to provide connections between places, not Safeway’s, but if the site is being redeveloped, this is the time that it has to happen if it is ever going to.

  70. V Smoothe Post author

    I can’t speak for anyone else (although I think most people would agree), but my problem is not with the number of parking spaces. I think it is appropriate to provide lots of parking at the grocery store. My issue is with the way the current proposal locates them.

  71. SA

    Ralph and Robert, I don’t know why people complain about “feeling safe” unless looking at black people is inherently scary to them. That is “my Safeway” and I shop there all the time – in fact, I shopped there just last night from 930-10pm on my way home from work. I don’t get the dudes cruising the parking lot offering to fix my car’s many scrapes and dents but I just wave them off.

    V, your comment about “why would anyone who likes food shop at Safeway” just made me lose a lot of respect for you. That’s one freaking classist comment right there. Safeway has organic options, it has fresh local produce that is the envy of anything available in West Oakland for sure, it has more produce selection and less wasteful packaging than TJ’s (my food shopping is split about 10% farmer’s market, 50% Safeway, 40% TJ’s due to a variety of factors), it has a wide variety of ethnic food options (though the Asian section at that Safeway kind of sucks – you can get more at Long’s next door), it has fresh bread not only made in-house but delivered from artisan bakeries all over the EB. Not everybody can shop at Whole Foods all the time. Using my Safeway card and shopping sales, I routinely save 30-40% off my grocery bill. I’d like to buy all my produce at the farmer’s market but the timing doesn’t always work out for that – I get there 1-2 times a month and fill in when I run out or when I need things that weren’t available at the market with TJ’s or Safeway.

    Seriously, that kind of snooty attitude makes me feel like you should step away from the Safeway commentary, if you basically disdain the whole place.

  72. Robert

    Eric, I think you are right that this site will be important in connecting those two commercial areas. But the city needs to come up with a plan on how they are going to be connected so that Safeway can work towards it. It’s insane to ask Safeway to build something in the hopes that the city’s plan will someday match up. Typically connections between commercial areas would not be planned to be through narrow residential streets, but that is exactly why we need a plan.

  73. OaklandSpaceAcademy

    Joe D – Those are great comments overall, but I would caution against this development incorporating anywhere near 2.5 acres of open space. A small plaza or two I could see, but adjacent are a golf course, a cemetery, and a reservoir. This area has plenty of open space, what it needs is more closed space – buildings with enough height to frame streets and focus views.

    Jack – You assume that everyone behaves exactly as you, they don’t. Your reality is not everyone’s. For instance, my grocery shopping is not “efficient.” I shop at Safeway about once a week for milk, juice, and some staples, and once or twice a week elsewhere (farmers’ markets, green grocers) for produce, bread, and specialty items. I like shopping this way, and I actually would prefer to shop 4 or 5 times a week, picking up just what I need on the way home from work for the next day or two.

    But unfortunately I no longer live around the corner (as I did in Grand Lake) from a little green grocer that allowed me to, coupled with a weekly farmers’ market, take care of nearly all my grocery needs. Now I realize this isn’t for everyone, but neither is your approach. Diversity and tolerance of other lifestyles is a key feature of urban living generally, and of living in Oakland in particular.

    V is right, most of us interested in an appropriately urban development would much rather have Safeway stay as is than build what they propose, as doing so would lock in suburban habits on this and surrounding sites for probably 30 or more years. Whereas if nothing is built, it is easy to see in 5 or 10 years a better, more urban development being proposed by someone who people who get it.

  74. VivekB

    SA, Ralph, & Robert. You question and mock people feel unsafe? Have you even read either of my posts? Or are you so consumed with your own perspective that you cannot even conceive of someone elses?

  75. Robert

    VivekB, I did not mock anyone, and I resent your attempt to characterize me as insensitive to others. Try reading my comment. ALL I said was that I don’t know why others feel unsafe because it has not happened to me. I said nothing that would imply that I felt they shouldn’t feel the way they do.

  76. Ralph

    VivekB, I mock no one. People are entitled to their feelings. I will not discount them. I for one had reservations about certain neighborhoods in DC, and I am not particularly fond of the street where my grandmother lives. Except for the gunshot on the otherside of the hill, I simply was not that aware that there was a crime problem at this Safeway. The location looked like a low crime neighborhood so I wanted the “many robberies” that another poster wrote put into context. One is too many but not enough that I am going to get hung up about it. So yes, I will discount anyone who writes “many robberies.”

    And Patrick, I suggest you and others utilize if for no other reason than to decrease your trips to the grocery and thereby potentially reduce the number of people in the store and in line during those off-occasions when I do need to pick up chocolate chips, or flour, or baking sugar.

    See VivekB, I am not just concerned about my own perspective. I care greatly about Patrick. :)

  77. Jack

    1. Safe is an issue. I live across the street in the Piedmont ave neighbor hood. I walked to Safeway for milk last week at 8am and there was a woman talking to police who had been robbed in the parking lot.

    2. V & OSA would you guys really want to wait 10 years for maybe just some wider sidewalks!! That is ridiculous i dont think you understand that Safeway redoing this center is a gift and if they take in some of our opinions and make it even better that is icing on the cake.

    Who knows what the general economic climate will be inthe future or how safeway’s business will be. dont look a gift horse in the mouth. Look at the other side, what if safeway went out of business and left a huge empty blight there like the Emile Villa’s.

    I hope they can get it done so i can walk and sit by the reservoir.

  78. len

    what’s the apn for this parcel(s)? curious what the property taxes are. if low enough, owners might just leave long’s vacant and safeway to stay as is for several years until financing or rents for residential make it worth doing multi use.

    ospa, don’t see how you count the very exclusive claremont club as open space when it’s not accessible to the public and only visible if traveling between lower and upper rockridge. fair to count the cemetery, but its much more accessible to piedmont residents than to north oakland people unless they drive there.

    -len raphael

  79. Patrick

    Ralph – if there is one package of chocolate chips that has one extra chip in it, I will find it. And does not offer that service.

    As someone who has worked in food/beverage wholesale & logistics since my career change in the 90s, it’s kind of funny to me how people hold up the products at one store over the products of another. Unless you’re buying imported French caramels hand-crafted by blind nuns in Normandie, it’s all pretty much the product of the same type of industrialized system. Remember the peanut recalls earlier this year due to contamination of a single factory? That recall affected everyone from Wal-Mart (branded products) to Harry and David’s (high-end mail order firm) to Nature’s Path organics – because the peanuts all came from the same place. The only thing that separates most prepared products is marketing, price and people’s gullibility. Meat, dairy and produce are a different matter – but that all comes down to good sense, access and affordability.

  80. lorraine - Rockridge HOA

    eric and robert’s comments about connecting the two shopping areas, reminded me that someone at the wed mtg – was it my friend next to me or a spkr? – said that bus line 12 – Macarthur BART, MKL, 51st/PV, Piedmont, Linda, Grand to Broadway will be dumped. Another connection going.

  81. Max Allstadt

    Count me among those who’d wait 10 years rather than build the archaic plan that was proposed.

  82. Andrew

    I visit this shopping area every day. As a pedestrian, I feel that the site is already as pedestrian-friendly as it can be. As I see it, Safeway could move to the Longs space and the parking that’s there would work beautifully, no elevated structure necessary. That side of the complex has always been underutilized. The current Safeway’s section would work better as a group of specialty shops. The whole site has excellent access for cars from every direction, which is not to be sneezed at.

    They should fill in the old quarry pit, is what they should do. I would not put anything along the back side, where the walls of the former quarry will inevitably be crumbling as the years go by and where the next big earthquake will cause rockslides.

    The real problem is not the Safeway complex, but the wretched eyesore corner opposite it at 51st and Broadway.

  83. len

    Eric, thank you for the apn. where do the dashes go so i can plug it in the county assessor site? so that assessed value would mean only 10k/month in property taxes. and unless the owner refi’d (does that show on another part of the county website?) under no pressure to develop right away.

    sounds like if they had to choose between doing a risky residential mixed use plus affordable housing project vs leave as is and leave longs empty, they might choose the latter for a few years.

    Andrew: case in point: the eyesore you’re referring borders on my backyard. the owner hold all the whole block on bway which wraps around 49th and 51st and into part of desmond st on the north. owner’s property taxes are much lower than mine and he collects guessing 25 to 35k/month from the billboards. no economic reason for him to develop until the next boom comes around. city could force you to demolish but can’t force you to develop.

    my neighbors who were children when the quarry was still operating chuckle when they hear people say how they enjoy looking at it. (

    btw, are you the same blogger who does oakland geology site? ( how close are the quarry walls close to crumbling down?

    -len raphael

  84. len

    Eric, that apn worked. owner’s monthly taxes are 13k. i don’t know local retail rents, but i’m guessing the rent from starbucks plus the health food store would cover the property taxes. any idea where to find debt info easily?

  85. Becks

    Lorraine – One of the speakers on Wednesday did say that the 12 would be cut, but that person was incorrect. The 59 line is being cut, but not the 12. Whenever AC Transit makes the line cut and re-alignment maps public, I’ll do an extensive post about it, but all in all, I think the decisions they made about service cuts were as best as could be made in their economic situation.

  86. Andrew

    Yes, Len, that’s me. Thanks for that link to the list of Alameda County quarries!

    I can’t say the quarry walls are dangerous today, but parts are crumbling already and a big quake will loosen all of it. I expect rockfalls but little outright collapse. Rolling boulders will puncture the buildings there and render the corridor useless until it can be cleared out. Maybe there will be enough rubble to fill the pond then.

  87. len

    i always assumed Broadway was built wide to accommodate auto traffic. But according to Jeff Norman in his Temescal Legacies book, Broadway was laid out to allow room for electric rail car systems. 51st street was widened specifically to handle car traffic to the grove shafter freeway.

  88. Eric Fischer

    The 51st Street story is even worse than that, if Oakland Tribune articles of the time can be believed. It was intended as a connection between the Grove-Shafter Freeway and the never-built Richmond Boulevard Freeway, which would have run along Valdez Street, Glen Echo Creek, and Moraga Avenue to Montclair. The freeway wasn’t built, but we still have the connector street.

    I don’t know the story behind the width of Broadway, but it looks like it’s been pretty wide for a long time. Pictures from the 1920s show it wide enough to have two lanes of cars on each side alongside a streetcar lane.

  89. David Vartanoff

    Yeah, the Grove Shafter was a disastrous example of urban renewal used to wreck a ‘hood. In the bargain BART was mislocated (should have been subway under B’way splitting north of 51 St with the Berkeley segment under College. Imagine how a BART Station w/ limited parking would have changed the feel of this shopping area.

    As to the width of Broadway, yes streetcar tracks. The late Vernon Sappers masterful account of Key System Streetcars tells the complete history of the network.

  90. Naomi Schiff

    Some of you history fans might enjoy the Oakland Heritage Alliance walking tours, weekends: schedule at
    A new one is being led by Daniel Levy, who researches historic train lines, the Key System, and related Oaklandabilia. Here’s the blurb for his upcoming walk:

    Saturday, August 15, 10 am–12:00 noon*

    Walking The Key System’s C Line

    Meeting point: • MacArthur BART Station underpass on 40th Street. Tour does not loop.

    Follow early day Key System commuters on their way to the Key ferries. Walk past the train yard, through the Key System 40th Street Cut, and over to the old Key System station and mural at Piedmont Avenue. Learn about the Key System’s plan to build a line though Piedmont and Oakland to San Jose. Tour ends on Piedmont Avenue, walk or bus back to BART. *Optional extension after lunch. A level walk. —Daniel Levy

  91. lorraine - Rockridge HOA

    Thanks Naomi, will do. Speaking of tours, i’ve been enjoying these thoroughly! Even took a few more than once, as it’s completely different with different guides. Oakland’s history is so rich! I’m so proud to live here… finally.

    Enjoy 90-minute [often longer, if desired] walking tours through Oakland’s downtown districts.

    Choose from one of eight different tour itineraries offered from May to October. In Celebration of Black History Month in February, Tour 8 “New Era/New Politics” will be offered, click on Tour 8 for dates. Tours are offered Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. Reservations are recommended but not required.

    To learn more about a particular tour, click on the itinerary link. Following each itinerary description is the dates that tour will be offered.

    Special group tours ideal for seniors, history buffs and those interested in downtown Oakland’s transformation are available for a nominal fee. The Oakland Tours Program can customize a tour combining elements from different itineraries on a day and time that is convenient for your group.

    To make a reservation or to request a custom tour, please call (510) 238-3234 or e-mail
    Preservation Park
    Churches and Temples
    NewEra-New Politics

    BTW, has anyone gone on the Mountain View Cemetery tours? What did you think? (I haven’t yet)

    Any others for newbies? Are there any local (51st & Bdwy) walking tours? Maybe unguided, mapped out, or….

  92. Tod

    Look, you can fight this all you want but the reality is the site is ugly but used greatly by the community. We can go about trying to make this a “City Center” type structure, but as we continue to pay high taxes with less services, this City needs tax revenue. I know Emeryville “soldout” but those are all stores that could have been placed somewhere in ugly parts of Oakland that would be creating tax revenue for the City. I love shopping Rockridge like everyone else, but there are going to be stripmalls and chains stores no matter where you go. Anything that is done would be better then what is there today. If Oakland continues to make it difficult for businesses to do business in Oakland, they will leave and that is Tax Revenue we need.

    I think there are bigger battles to fight in Oakland.