Safeway’s plan for Albany store meets resistance

Safeway wants its customers to have a peak experience while shopping at its stores.

Trouble is, many neighborhood residents seem to be skeptical of the impacts those “enhanced” experiences will offer.

In recent years, Safeway has met tough resistance to its plans to transform its 1,710 stores into “lifestyle stores,” complete with in-hour bakeries, floral shops, pharmacies, delis,  and separate sections for meat and fish.

When Safeway announced plans to tear down its 1950s era store on Claremont and College Avenue along the Berkeley/Oakland border, neighbors expressed concern that the new building would dominate the neighborhood. Safeway wanted to replace its circa-25,000 square foot, one-story store with two-story 61,972 square foot store.  Parking would be moved underground.


In north Berkeley, residents have complained that Safeway’s plans for a remodeled and expanded 46,147 square foot store would detract from the pedestrian-friendly feel of Shattuck Avenue. They have asked the grocery chain to make some substantial changes to the proposed design, which the company is considering.

Oakland residents also cried “stop” at the plans to drastically increase the size of the store on Pleasant Valley.

Now it’s Albany’s turn.

Safeway has announced plans to transform its store on Solano Avenue between Curtis and Neilson into a 55,000 square foot store with all the latest amenities (see video). The new building would cover the existing parking lot, go from one to two stories, and limit vehicle access to two residential streets, Curtis and Neilson streets. That means cars would have to take a left hand turn on busy Solano to shop at Safeway.

A group calling itself Stop Safeway on Solano is trying to convince Safeway to scale back its plans. The group says it is not opposed to upgrading the existing store, but is concerned that the proposed building is out of scale for the neighborhood. The group would like Safeway to fix up the existing store, which would be a great “reduce-reuse-recycle” project.

“It’s been very much a David and Goliath experience for the neighbors who have been actively giving input,” said Sarah Baughn, the block captain of the 800 block of Neilson in Berkeley.

Complicating matters is the fact that the store sits right on the Berkeley/Albany border. The city of Albany will determine whether Safeway can remodel, so those Berkeley residents living next door to the store will not have a say in the plans.

The Albany Planning and Zoning Commission will meet to talk about the Safeway expansion on Thursday June 3 at Albany City Hall.

Frances Dinkelspiel is co-founder and executive editor of Berkeleyside. Email: frances@berkeleyside.com.