So, I don’t think I’ve even mentioned the debate over the new Safeway on College. One of the things that delights me most as a blogger is when other people write about important issues so I don’t have to, and happily, the Safeway expansion has been extensively covered in the blogosphere even without any contribution on my part (see the list at the end of the post).
So, in case you live in like, a cave or the other side of the Lake or something, Safeway wants to tear down their Rockridge store on College and Claremont and build a new, bigger, fancier one in its place. You know the one. It’s the unfriendly windowless building surrounded by a huge surface parking lot and a gas station towards the end of the Rockridge shopping district.
Safeway unveiled designs for the replacement store back in June. The 25,000 square foot existing store, parking lot, and gas station would all be replaced with a 59,000 square foot 2-story building extending all the way to the property line. College Avenue and a little bit of Claremont Avenue would be fronted with small retail spaces totaling 16,000 square feet that would hide the 212 parking spaces inside them, then the second level would hold the grocery store itself.
I don’t think the design above is perfect, but it’s definitely a good start, and certainly a huge improvement over the existing mess on that lot. In spite of the row of cute shops and restaurants across College Avenue from the building, I always kind of feel like Rockridge ends at the Claremont and College intersection – that intersection is weird and a pain to cross, and the giant parking lot and concrete wall is just so unpleasant to walk past, I usually just stop and turn around at that point. So I’d love to see it replaced with retail that would not only improve the pedestrian experience, but also add more shopping and possibly dining options to what is already a quite charming neighborhood.
Regular readers know I tend not to be particularly sympathetic to NIMBYs, so it should come as no surprise that I find the protests over the new store silly. But this time the NIMBYism is even more absurd than usual, to the point where I seriously can’t even deal with it. Like, I just don’t understand at all. When people talk about a 5 story building being too tall, I think that’s silly. But when people complain, as they do here, that a 2-story building is too tall – well, I don’t even know how to respond to that. Blocking out the sky and the sun? WTF? It’s two stories. Two stories! Get a grip, people.
The other thing I don’t get, and that I hear over and over and over again, is that the design proposal was “suburban.” Again, WTF? I can’t help but wonder if these people have ever been to the suburbs. Having grown up in a suburb of Houston, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject. So please, let me educate you city-folk about how it is. In the suburbs, people tend to drive everywhere they go. Development is planned to accommodate this transportation habit, and the result is that most grocery stores and shopping centers are placed far off the street and surrounded by ginormous surface parking lots. Usually, there’s a gas station near the parking lot entrance, because people who drive around constantly need to fill up a lot. For the most part it looks a lot like – well, a lot like the existing College Avenue Safeway.
Now, I never particularly enjoyed living in the suburbs, which is why I moved to a city. Things I like about living in a city include pedestrian-friendly streets with retail frontage all along the sidewalk. You know, like most of Rockridge. And like the building above. So calling this design “suburban,” well, it doesn’t make a lick of sense to me.
Anyway, after early summer community meetings revealed significant community opposition to this, um, allegedly too tall, suburban style building, Safeway decided to scrap the plans, temporarily at least, and convene a working group where community stakeholders air their concerns in a structured environment, which will then be used to inform a new design.
The working group will meet for the fifth time tonight from 7 to 9 at the Claremont Middle School gym, 5750 College Avenue. My understanding is that members of the public are welcome to attend the meetings and watch, but are not permitted to participate in the discussion. But if you’re interested in the current status of the project, it might be worth popping by. here’s the agenda (PDF). If you can’t make it, but want to learn more, I recommend checking out the Safeway on College website, where you can view the minutes of previous meetings and get more information about the project.
Safeway on College Coverage:
- 05.26.08 Oakland News: Revised plans for controversial new Rockridge Safeway due in two weeks
- 06.13.08 Oakland News: New College Ave. Safeway plans released
- 06.14.08 Transbay Blog: A Facelift for the College Avenue Safeway
- 06.14.08 San Francisco Chronicle: Fight simmers over plan for huge Safeway store
- 06.14.08 Oakland Focus: Safeway Design for Rockridge is Terrible; Out of Scale with Surroundings
- 06.18.08 Living in the O: Safeway gets an earful over Rockridge expansion plans
- 06.22.08 Living in the O: Safeway Community Meeting Turns into Public Venting Session
- 07.14.08 Oakland News: RCPC opposes Rockridge Safeway plans
- 09.23.08 Oakland North: Rockridge residents still unhappy with Safeway expansion