The proposed expansion of the Safeway at the intersection of College and Claremont avenues has a passionate base of support and an equally passionate opposition. Though opponents raise valid concerns, the specific details of the expansion show that the benefits outweigh the costs to the neighborhood and city.
One of the chief concerns is the increase in traffic at the already congested intersection where the Safeway is located. However, this alone is not a sufficient concern to prevent any development — much of Berkeley and Oakland is already congested, and thus such an argument could be used virtually anywhere in the city.
The congestion concerns inadequately address the fact that the area is already served by the 51B bus line, providing an efficient and economic means of travel to and from the Safeway. By utilizing public transportation to a greater extent, students and residents can work to minimize congestion.
Furthermore, the expansion will most likely act as an economic stimulant: According to an economic benefits document prepared by Safeway, the remodelled store is expected to bring in $400,000 in annual revenue for the city of Oakland and the opening of 78 new positions.
A larger store will inevitably bring more consumers to the area, not just to Safeway. Opponents argue that the larger grocery store will run surrounding stores out of business, but such a conclusion is not necessarily true. The expansion is not so large as to absorb the surrounding businesses, and this is not a plan to build a new grocery store. It is, however, a plan to improve on an existing one — as such, we doubt the expansion will cause much additional harm to local businesses.
Aside from its economic benefits, the expansion of Safeway means more cheap groceries for cash-strapped students and city residents looking to save on necessary household items. A larger, more consumer-friendly grocery store will appeal to students, lead to more savings and makeaffordable groceries more accessible to the general public.
The expansion will help students and residents alike. While the project ignited a healthy public debate, after both sides have made their case, we feel the project should go forward.