As reported in the Pleasanton Weekly last July, Wal-Mart, the country's largest retailer, is seeking a Pleasanton city permit to open one of its new "Neighborhood Market" grocery stores in the vacant 33,000-square-foot supermarket space once occupied by Nob Hill.
But even after submitting detailed plans for moving into the long-empty Nob Hill facilities, it's not clear that the Wal-Mart move can be made as quickly and smoothly as the retailer would like.
Natalie Amos, Pleasanton's associate planner, sent a letter to Wal-Mart last Thursday seeking more detailed information about the retailer's operating plans, specifically if the Neighborhood Market, as the store will be called, will have uses that Nob Hill didn't offer to its customers. These would include a pharmacy, bank, coffee and juice kiosks and other "tenant improvements."
Amos said that although Wal-Mart had scuttled planned changes in the building's color scheme, new entry and exit customer doors in the front and visible roof-top equipment, which could trigger a review by the city Planning Commission and City Council, those changes have yet to be made in plans submitted for an operating permit.
The extent of changes planned by Wal-Mart is important because Wal-Mart intends to reopen the former Nob Hill store with almost no visible changes that could trigger a Design Review by the Planning Commission. If its Neighborhood Market looks essentially like the old Nob Hill, Wal-Mart can receive occupancy permits just as Raley's Corporation could do if it decided to reopen its Nob Hill grocery again.
A Design Review, however, would require a formal review by city planners and possibly public hearings before both the Planning Commission and the City Council. In previous actions involving Wal-Mart, two on the City Council -- Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and Councilman Matt Sullivan -- have been outspoken critics of Wal-Mart's non-union business plan and opposed the Rosewood Drive Wal-Mart's application to enlarge its garden shop and add a storage facility. It's not clear that they would support Wal-Mart's petition to reopen the Nob Hill store under its Neighborhood Market nameplate.
In Wal-Mart's petition for zoning approval, Judy V. Davidoff of the San Francisco law firm of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, said representatives of Wal-Mart, which is headquartered n Bentonville, Ark., asked that "the Zoning Approval be granted and the hold on the building permit be released immediately as the proposed use is fully consistent with PUD 84-4 and any applicable zoning requirements, and design review is not required."
Nob Hill was granted an operating permit as part of a Planned Unit Development (PUD) in 1980. It had no pharmacy and was open 16 hours a day. Davidoff said that the proposed Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market would sell 24,000 different products, including a wide range of grocery, pharmaceuticals, health and wellness items, and frequently purchased general merchandise consumables. It would have approximately 95 employees and would be open from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Brian Dolan, Pleasanton's community development director, said the ball's back in Wal-Mart's court in terms of providing a response to Natalie Amos' letter. He said that even with a determination that no external changes will be made to the Nob Hill building to trigger a Design Review, it could still take several months for Wal-Mart to make the necessary interior renovations before the Neighborhood Market could be opened.
"The inside of the building is pretty well stripped out," Dolan said. "There's a lot of work to do before opening a grocery store can move in again, but it could happen this summer if the permits are given, definitely this year."