The Safeway grocery store on the corner of Claremont and College avenues will close Monday to begin a controversial 12-month renovation and expansion project that has been in the works for seven years.
The project has fallen under the city of Oakland’s jurisdiction, but it is located very close to the Berkeley border. Berkeley City Council has discussed the possible repercussions of the development several times, with local residents citing concerns over potential traffic congestion and lack of parking.
Last November, a settlement was reached between Safeway and three local resident groups that appealed the approval of Safeway’s initial renovation plan, expressing concerns over possible increased car traffic due to limited parking and threats to local businesses that rely on pedestrian shopping. The appeal resulted in a redesign that reduced the project’s size by 8,000 square feet, changed the access from College Avenue and brought the store to ground level, including parking on the second floor, among other things.
Current plans are for the 25,000-square-foot store to be expanded to a 45,500-square-foot store with an additional 9,500 square feet of space for retail shops. Demolition and construction equipment is being kept on the former Shell Oil Co. station property that Safeway has leased.
Jacquelyn McCormick, president of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, said that although no group — neighbors or Safeway — got the outcome it wanted, the groups are satisfied with the outcome.
Zabrae Valentine, chair of the board of directors for the Rockridge Community Planning Council, said that “an agreement was reached that was in the interest of both Safeway and the neighborhood … the issue now is compliance with that agreement.” The Rockridge Community Planning Council was a pivotal group in advancing the appeal process that finally resulted in the settlement.
“We need to stay engaged to make sure what actually happens fully complies with the agreement,” Valentine said.
However, Safeway’s willingness to take community interests into account thus far is encouraging, she said.
The renovation follows the remodeling of the Safeway on the corner of Shattuck Place and Rose Street, which was completed last year. Safeway projects a net gain of 108 to 128 new jobs as a result of the store’s expansion.
Updates on demolition and construction will be posted on the store’s website, which also includes an archive of news articles and technical information regarding the project.