Safeway wants to tear down the 1950s building and build a new structure that is double the size. The proposed project would be two to three stories high with an underground garage, and would have a set of retail shops facing College Avenue. Rendering: Lowney Architecture

A ten-year-old girl who lives on Lewiston Avenue was among more than 20 people who stood up to voice their opposition to Safeway’s plans to expand its Claremont-College Avenue store at Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting. “It will ruin my neighborhood and community and cause traffic chaos,” she said. “It’s already wiped out cute stores like Chimes Pharmacy.”

She and the other member of the public who object to the scale of the proposed store and its potential impact on local traffic and air pollution needn’t have worried. Berkeley’s leaders are unanimous in their disapproval of the grocery giant’s plans for a store which is sited in Oakland, a hair’s breadth from the Berkeley border. They have little power to stop it, however.

At issue last night was whether the Council would approve accepting funds from Safeway in order to mitigate the project’s impact on traffic in Berkeley. Safeway would pay for the installation of new traffic signals and reconfigure street lanes. Several members of the community felt that agreeing such a contract with Safeway would be tantamount to giving tacit approval to the project which has yet to be approved by Oakland (a planning commission hearing on the subject is slated for July 25).

Michael Barrett, who lives immediately behind the Claremont-College Avenue Safeway (“I’m not a Nimby, Safeway is already in my backyard”) said that by standing firm, Berkeley should be able to substantially influence the course of the project.

Speaking on behalf of Safeway, Matt Francois of Sedgwick Law said the grocery store could go ahead  with its plans with or without the Berkeley mitigation agreement. By approving it, he said, the Council would be ensuring “Berkeley was not left holding the bag.”

After hearing public comment and discussing the issue, the Council decided that it would reiterate its opposition to Safeway’s plans by resending a letter that it delivered to the store last October outlining the reasons it disapproved of the proposal.

For more information, read the city’s documentation on the proposed mitigation agreement with Safeway and Safeway’s College Avenue website.

Other City Council decisions:

Sunday Streets: Council fully supported Sunday Streets Berkeley — see our May 11 article for details — and councilmembers each contributed money to the project from their discretionary funds. Mayor Bates has contributed $4,000 towards Sunday Streets which will take place on October 14, 11-4pm. Many commercial sponsors have signed up, including PG&E and John Gordon Commercial Real Estate Services, said co-organiser Amy Kiser from the Ecology Center Erin Rhoades from Livable Berkeley, so they are now half way towards their fundraising goal.

West Berkeley: Council approved putting West Berkeley Project on the November ballot, with councilmembers Max Anderson, Jesse Arreguín and Kriss Worthington voting against. Read our extensive coverage of the West Berkeley Project.

Procedure on Public Comments: Council voted to amend rules so those yielding time during public comments must stand and be recognized by the Mayor. Related to this, Council also voted to allow priority front row seating for the disabled.

P-Bid districts: Council confirmed annual reports and assessments for the Telegraph, Downtown, Elmwood and North Shattuck business districts.

Sale of backyard produce: Council adopted the first reading of an ordinance that would allow people to sell non-processed edibles grown or raised on residential lots. (See our May 17 story for details.)

Streets and Watershed: Council placed the $30 million streets and related watershed improvements bond on the November ballot. (See our June 27 story for more details.)

Berkeley City Council to hold hearing on Safeway project [09.2011]
Locals protest scale, traffic of proposed Rockridge Safeway [08.01.11]
Safeway buys Berkeley’s Chimes Pharmacy, to consolidate [07.12.11]
North Berkeley Safeway given green light to remodel [0121.11]
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]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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...