Proposed North Berkeley Walgreens sparks opposition from community members

Agree Realty Corporation /Courtesy

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Walgreens and Agree Realty Corp. have announced plans to build a store on upper Solano Avenue, prompting outcry from community members in North Berkeley.

The proposal is still in its planning phase, and no permit application has been submitted to the city, said Eric Angstadt, planning and development director for the city of Berkeley.

At a neighborhood forum last Thursday, a number of people objected to the idea of Walgreens moving in, rather than the redevelopment of the property itself, said Charles Kahn, the principal of Kahn Design Associates, the firm designing the project.

Walgreens is looking to build the store — which would be located at Solano and Colusa avenues — because demographic and market research has indicated customers are not served by existing nearby stores, said Alan Maximiuk, chief financial officer of Agree Realty.

A petition, which has garnered about 500 signatures since Sunday, however, states that the community already has pharmacies available and calls the proposed Walgreens “unneeded (and) unwanted.”

“Our small North Berkeley community already has FOUR drug stores,” the petition states. “If Walgreens succeeds in opening, existing small businesses, local traffic and surrounding residential housing will suffer major negative impacts.”

Sal’s Pharmacy is across the street from the planned Walgreens, and Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy is two blocks away.

Kahn said he believes the city won’t stop the project, although it might regulate its development, enforcing measures such as keeping down dust levels during construction and providing various public goods.

The proposed Walgreens, which would have 22 underground parking spaces, would replace a 76 gas station.

The project would also feature drought-resistant landscaping, recycled or reused building materials and windows to provide natural light, according to Ann Slobod, Kahn Design Associates business and marketing manager.

“This isn’t the old Walgreens that was sort of a boarded-up box feeling, like a fortress,” Kahn said.

The unusual design was a condition of him accepting the project, Kahn said.

In 2011, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates proposed a law that would have required new or expanded drugstores to be a minimum of 1,000 feet away from existing drugstores. The law did not pass.

“There has also been a trend for competing drugstores to locate in very close proximity to each other offering redundant services and products in small localized areas,” Bates said in a letter to the City Council at the time. “This trend ignores other neighborhoods in the city which could benefit from the services.”

The petition will be delivered to Bates and the city’s Zoning Adjustment Board.

Maximiuk said Agree Realty has not yet decided on the timeline for submitting the project to the city.

Contact Daniel Tutt at [email protected].