Construction halted at Safeway on College and Claremont

A shot taken Dec. 5 by video cam of the Safeway lot on College and Claremont.

A shot taken Dec. 5 by video cam of the Safeway lot on College and Claremont avenues.

Update 1/24/14: After three months of no activity, Safeway is reporting that construction resumed on the new Safeway store on Jan. 21. The company finally received a building permit from the city of Oakland after it consulted with the Rockridge Community Planning Council and other community groups, according to the Safeway website.

“As you may remember, Safeway signed a settlement agreement over a year ago with several Rockridge community groups that required Safeway to confer with them about major design refinements after the City of Oakland approved the project for construction.  Over the past five months, we have had very productive meetings with these community groups regarding design changes that were needed in order to accommodate the store’s structural and operational systems.  We have now reached a point in those discussions where we can resume activity at the site, while continuing to communicate with the community groups as construction progresses.”

Original story: For the past two months, there has been no construction at the site of the new Safeway store at College and Claremont avenues on the Oakland-Berkeley border.

The Pleasanton-based company halted work on the project after Oakland stopped processing its building permit. Oakland took that step because Safeway had violated its 2012 agreement with neighborhood groups to discuss major design changes before submitting a permit application to the city.

Once the permit was delayed, Safeway did start meeting with three neighborhood groups, which include the Rockridge Community Planning Council, Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue, and Berkeleyans for Pedestrian Oriented Development.

The groups found that Safeway’s building plans differed from the conceptual design approved by Oakland in 2012. For structural reasons, Safeway had decided to make the grocery complex five feet higher, according to Stuart Flashman, an Oakland attorney involved with the Rockridge Community Planning Council. After a number of meetings, Safeway agreed to lower the building height by two and a half feet and remove the large “Rockridge” sign it had planned for the roof as a mitigation measure for the extra height, among other agreements, said Flashman.

The two sides reached a verbal agreement in early November, but no progress has been made since then, said Flashman. Safeway brought in its attorneys to review the settlement and they have been adding clauses and provisions ever since, he said.

“We thought we had an agreement on how to resolve this,” said Flashman. “Then Safeway handed it over to its attorneys and it’s been a problem since then.”

Safeway declined to talk to Berkeleyside, but Keith Turner, Safeway’s director of public and government affairs, sent an email: “Thanks for keeping an eye on the project. We expect to resume construction after the holidays. We have been working with RCPC and other community groups to negotiate the final points of the mandated settlement agreement.”

A bird's-eye view of plans for a new Safeway on College Avenue. Source: Lowney Architecture

A bird’s-eye view of plans for the new Safeway at the intersection of College and Claremont avenues. Source: Lowney Architecture

The new Safeway store will be a “lifestyle store” with pharmacy, bakery, butcher and in-store Starbucks. It will replace the one built in 1964, which was small and had a large surface parking lot.

After Safeway’s initial design drew strong protests from the neighborhood, Safeway agreed to reduce the size of the store to 45,000 square feet, to bring it down to street level rather than position it on the second floor, to limit the type of retail at the site, and to pay for residential parking permits for neighbors in perpetuity.

The agreement between Safeway and the neighborhood was eight years in the making and in its final hours was brokered by former Oakland City Councilwoman Jane Brunner during a 12-hour mediation session in November 2012. It required Safeway to almost start the design work from scratch.

The old store closed on July 8 this year. On Aug. 6, Safeway kicked off its rebuilding project with a groundbreaking ceremony that drew Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and other notables. It took about a month to tear down the old store and grade the lot. Trucks have carted out 11,000 cubic yards of dirt to be used at another location, according to the project’s website.

Safeway had hoped to open the new store in July 2014.

Demolition starts on Safeway on College Avenue (08.06.13)
Safeway on College to close July 8 for major rebuild (07.02.13)
Residents air concerns about College Ave. Safeway plans (12.17.12)
Safeway on College needs all-new design after mediation (11.15.12)
Breaking: Neighbors, Safeway agree on College Ave. store (11.13.12)
Op-Ed: Why I support plans for the Safeway on College (11.12.12)
Revamped Safeway opens in heart of Gourmet Ghetto (10.05.12)
Oakland Planning Commission approves Safeway plans (07.27.12)
Berkeley Council unites in opposing Safeway project (07.18.12)
Berkeley City Council to hold hearing on Safeway project (09.20.11)
Locals protest scale, traffic of proposed Rockridge Safeway (08.01.11)
Safeway buys Berkeley’s Chimes Pharmacy, to consolidate (07.12.11)

Do you like staying informed about Berkeley news? Then please consider becoming a Berkeleyside Member and supporting us. Members get invited to special parties, get first dibs and discounts on tickets to events, a behind-the-scenes newsletter, and the knowledge that a contribution will keep the news reporting flowing.

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , , , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • NB

    Oakland used to have a computer small business incubator downtown, not sure it’s still there. It helped small startup businesses, part-of Brown’s efforts to create more jobs in Oakland. Maybe they funded it through the city? And yes, I think “lifestyle” store sounds silly. (Can I buy a new Lifestyle there? )

  • Lyram

    With more delays like this, Safeway may want to reconsider the hold it placed on development of it’s property on Pleasant Valley and Broadway. It may make more sense to build a new store there first. I’m concerned for those who cannot afford to buy their groceries at boutiques, who need a walkable, affordable supermarket.

  • PRE

    I hope that the Rockridge Community Planning Council, Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue, and Berkeleyans(!!!) for Pedestrian Oriented Development are happy with an open hole in the ground for months and months and months. Maybe they’ll never finish rebuilding the Safeway ever – over a five foot discrepancy. I hate Safeway, but can’t stand the Nimby types even more.

  • guest

    Hmm, seems it’s a border bound location, having Rockridge posted there feels like a mis-lableing…Claremont? it is only feet from the Berkeley border, probably even part of the lot is in Berkeley, yes?

  • Jd

    I think the “neighborhood” groups also demanded more parking and no residential component. Article seems to forget that.

  • guest

    A lot of people like mass produced crap and junk food. That is why it is mass produced.

    That is also why the United States leads the world in obesity and in spending on medical care. Keep liking the same old crap, and keep taking your statins.

  • hilbert_space_heater

    Safeway made its building a bit larger for structural reasons – not uncommon in development. But once one of these ‘community’ groups gets it in its head that something should be a certain way, even the laws of physics be damned.

    What’s screwed up here is a property owner having to beg three separate community groups, who by the way likely only represent a narrow but vocal agenda within the community, to build a project that the site is entitled for to begin with. No wonder Berkeley is full of dilapidated old buildings and empty fenced off sites.

  • Bruce_Mc

    Yeah, yeah, rats are real, and they are in Berkeley. I have not had the Telegraph Avenue rat experience, but know of one place on the North Side…

    I stand by what I said, envisioning the site of the College Avenue Safeway as rat filled rubble is a twisted dream. Do you disagree with that, Visit Telegraph?

  • EBGuy

    So…. uhhh…. doe this mean they won’t be paying for the Residential Parking Permits?

  • usnian

    By subsidising farmers who grow crap for Safeway directly in taxes and indirectly by purchasing Safeway goods, what the hell is going to change in this sickening food, land, enviorment poisoning world? Nothing!! How cheap can you afford your doctor visits and medicine? A lot of ailments are due to diet. Medicine is expensive. Pay for a little more for quality foods and learn to mix in cheaper healthier foods to stretch your budget ( vegi and fruits are not that expensive) like all of us dirt poor fixed income neighbors. Safeway is not the answer! Starbucks is expensive!!

  • usnian

    Good idea! I’ll vote for that!

  • usnian

    Don’t worry! Most people who can’t afford it doesn’t live anywhere near Rockridge! Food has gone up everywhere including Safeway.

  • Douglysf

    City of Oakland should stop any further progress on the 51st/Broadway Safeway approval process until Safeway meets its obligations on the College Avenue store.