We had a robust little discussion around these parts back in December about the Safeway’s new plans for the Rockridge Shopping Center. It had been scheduled to come before the Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee on December 8th, but the meeting was canceled at the request of Safeway.
Now it’s back. The Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee will be considering the plans (PDF) at their meeting this Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 5 PM at Oakland City Hall Hearing Room 1.
Safeway’s plans have not changed since December, and so for those who missed out last time, you can get caught up by reading the staff report (PDF) for that meeting, or checking out the Cliffs Notes version on the post I wrote about it back then.
Safeway’s plans for this site, which basically entail taking a big suburban style strip mall and building another suburban style strip mall in its place, went over like a lead balloon with local community groups RCPC, STAND, and ULTRA when they were first released back in 2009. The revised plans did not receive a much warmer welcome, and these often-at-odds organizations have united once again, joined by Friends and Neighbors of Safeway (FANS) and the Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League (PANIL), to voice many of the same concerns (PDF) as they did a year and a half ago.
If you’re having trouble reading that, you can enlarge the picture by clicking on the image above, or just download the illustration in PDF form. They don’t mince words when summing up their reaction to the plans:
The fundamental flaw in this proposal is that it is inward facing and does not respond to or integrate itself with the adjacent urban neighborhoods. And in an attempt to disgusise this it is sheathed in a bewildering array of textures, styles and articulations.
They’ve submitted a number of alternative suggestions. One emphasizes residential uses on the site:
If that’s too hard for you to read, here’s the PDF version.
As much as most people seem to agree that the inclusion of residential units is a natural fit for this well-located site, I don’t find discussing it particularly compelling, since Safeway has made it clear that housing simply won’t work for them for a variety of reasons.
I think that a more productive discussion can be had if we focus on how the project could be improved while operating under the same general constraints that Safeway has outlined. Happily, the package submitted by the neighborhood groups also includes alternative concepts that focus on commercial uses:
This file (PDF) contains all the alternative concepts included in the response package.
The agenda package also includes all the letters the City has received about this project (PDF) since July of 2009. A huge number of them are about how they don’t want to lose Big Longs, a matter over which the City of course has no control. Other than that, most of the letter writers are pretty down on the project, except for the Chamber of Commerce (PDF), who seem to think it’s just great.
If you want to weigh in on the plans yourself, you can do so this Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at the Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee meeting at 5 PM in Oakland City Hall Hearing Room 1. Hope to see some of you there!