Rendering of the Lowney Architecture design for the proposed Rockridge Safeway

Plans to rebuild the Safeway store on College and Claremont on the Oakland-Berkeley border have been on the drawing board for more than two years. In fact, the store has put a number of different proposals in front of the city of Oakland and local residents. And, while the latest design, by Lowney Architecture, has met with broad approval, the scale of the project and its impact on local traffic are still stumbling blocks to development.

Local residents and small business owners, from both sides of the border, came out in force to a July 20 hearing of the Oakland Planning Commission’s Draft Environmental Impact Report on the redevelopment of the store, which is at 6310 College Avenue. The turn-out was so large, the crowd had to move from the Planning Commission chambers to those of the City Council. The meeting was continued until August 3rd.

Current plans call for the Rockridge store to more than double its square footage, and they show eight new retail shops, a restaurant and an elevated walkway, among other amenities.

It’s not the first time locally that residents have opposed the Pleasanton-based supermarket chain. Residents in north Berkeley put the kibosh on a full-scale renovation to the Gourmet Ghetto Safeway last year. And plans for a revamp in Albany also met resistance.

As the Chronicle reports today, Safeway’s mission to reshape neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area with new “lifestyle” stores — which might include smoothie kiosks, outdoor seating, natural light, new floors, rooftop gardens and wider aisles — has not gone as smoothly as they no doubt hoped.

People who live near the Rockridge store — such as Fourth Street developer Denny Abrams whose home is on 63rd Street, and who spoke at the EIR hearing — are concerned that the small businesses on College, opposite the store, may suffer. One of them, Berkeley’s Chimes Pharmacy, opted for a buy-out last month.

And the sheer scale of the potential new store alarms some residents, both in terms of the competition it represents and the amount of extra cars and delivery trucks it may engender. Berkeley councilmember Laurie Capitelli told the Chronicle that size doesn’t always mean greater variety. “It could mean we get 60-foot aisles of soda pop, stacked four shelves high,” he said.

Meanwhile, Safeway spokeswoman Susan Houghton pointed out that more than 600 people have signed a petition in support of the new store. And she said: “There’s a lot of new competition out there, but we’ve been here a long time, and we look forward to being here a long time in the future.”

The Safeway on College website has details on the proposed new store.

Safeway buys Berkeley’s Chimes Pharmacy, to consolidate [07.12.11]
North Berkeley Safeway given green light to remodel [01.21.11]
New plans unveiled for Safeway store on Shattuck [07.27.10]
Safeway plans for Albany store meet resistance [05.28.10]
Adieu revolving pumpkin: Demise of Rockridge 76 [11.05.09]

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...