Officials from one of the country's leading grocery retailers brought plans for a new store at Valley and Bernal avenues back before the Planning Commission, saying it will not only serve residents well but will be a show piece for business executives.
Pleasanton-based Safeway, which first presented intentions for a supermarket-anchored shopping center in May 2008, returned Oct. 14 for a work session before they pursue formal design work and approvals.
The new 65,000-square-foot store will be patterned in the grocery chain's "lifestyle" concept and could include such amenities as hot food, a walk-in wine cooler and a gelato counter, said David Zylstra, who is chief operating officer for Property Development Centers, which is owned by Safeway and handles the development of the company's shopping centers. In comparison, the Safeway on Valley Avenue and Santa Rita Road, is 55,000 square feet.
The entire development proposal, called Pleasanton Gateway, is being brought forward by South Bay Development Company, which owns the 39-acre parcel.
The market, which is planned to have an adjoining gas station, would be the anchor tenant on vacant land just east of Interstate 680. Plans have evolved over the years and months preceding last week's meeting. Initially, the development was proposed as having more office buildings. The most recent proposal has scaled back on the office buildings from seven in 2008 to five currently due to the downturn in the economy, and the buildings aren't planned to be built in the near future. Plans also call for a second major tenant (14,000 square feet) which South Bay Development has been courting a pharmacy for, featuring a drive-through.
A self-service gas station adjoining the Safeway has been scaled back from 10 pumps to eight from a previous proposal and will be located in the southwest part of the property, distancing it from the main entrance off of Bernal Avenue. City planners have stated that they don't support the service station and recommended to commissioners that they remove it from the plans because the station is not consistent with the city's General Plan standards for gateways into Pleasanton.
Also included in plan for the South Bay acreage are five retail buildings comprising 36,000 square feet, a restaurant (4,900 square feet), a bank (4,200 square feet) with a drive-through lane for three ATM machines and another building (nearly 7,000 square feet) for either a bank or retail shops.
Other changes from the previous plans: there will be 637 parking spaces for the commercial area, down from 651, and three pedestrian plazas facing Bernal, up from two previously planned.
South Bay Development said it would contribute to the cost for transitioning the development with the surrounding trail system on the south side, which borders the Bernal property.
Overall, planning commissioners expressed their support for the project.
Commissioners Arne Olson and Phil Blank reiterated as they had said in the previous work session that they did not want fast food restaurants to be allowed. A majority of commissioners supported the gas station and its new location further south of Bernal.
"I don't think it's going to be the draw that it would have been in its previous location, Blank said.
Commissioner Jennifer Pearce said she couldn't support the station because it changes the nature of the development being a neighborhood center to that of a freeway attraction.
John Moore, who is president of the Walnut Hills homeowners association, said he believes the shopping center will be a boon to the area, serving residents of the Walnut Hills and Canyon Oaks neighborhoods, as well as visitors to the Bernal sports fields.
But while there was widespread support, an attorney representing the owner of the Bernal Corners center adjacent to the 39-acre parcel, which includes a Shell station, convenience store and Jack in the Box, said the Safeway shopping plaza would undercut his client's business.
San Francisco Attorney Jonathan Bass said his client has invested a lot of money on the service station to make it attractive.
Hinting at possible legal action, Bass said his client feels betrayed by the city because the vacant property was initially planned for only office buildings.
"How can this locally-owned gas station be expected to compete with a Safeway gas station?" Bass said, adding that Safeway would likely charge lower-than-average fuel prices. "We don't want to be driven out of business. We view it fundamentally as a betrayal."
City Planner Marion Pavan said a total of 745,000 square feet of office space was first proposed in 2000 when South Bay Development purchased the land and it's zoned for that designation, but retail uses are allowed. To allow the shopping center, the Planning Commission would need to approve a Planned United Development modification when the project comes forward for approval.
A fiscal analysis of the shopping center's effect on local businesses such as in the downtown area, is currently under way, Pavan said. South Bay Development was scheduled to meet with the Pleasanton Downtown Association to discuss the project Thursday. The proposal will return to the commission next when South Bay Development files a formal development application. At that time, a public hearing would be held, where the public could make comments.