Safeway plans return to Planning Commission for shopping center at Bernal and Valley

Attorney representing Bernal Corners hints at possible litigation, saying Safeway gas station would undercut client's Shell station profits

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.

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Like this comment
Posted by Becky Dennis
a resident of Foxborough Estates
on Oct 23, 2009 at 8:50 am

Just a brief comment on the gas station. My impression is that the existing Shell station is already a freeway attraction. It's an incredibly busy place all the time, or at least every time I have been there. Understandably the Shell folks don't want to give up ANY of that business. On the other hand, if my own decisions have anything in common with other Pleasanton residents, they are losing business from people who can't or won't wait for a pump. I have driven by for that reason plenty of times.

Safeway offers gas discounts to their customers. Maybe Shell can work with other area groceries to compete for local non-freeway business. Other than that, I think the place with an open pump will get the business.

Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2009 at 9:06 am

Attorney representing Bernal Corners hints at possible litigation, saying Safeway gas station would undercut client's Shell station profits -- Boo Hooo, Wahhh -wahh

Why would Shell be under the impression that they were in a non competitive environment. Oh maybe because we pay more for gas than visitors to Yosemite Valley! Bring on the competition!! Force Shell to competitively price thier gas!

Pleasanton has some of the highest prices in the nation.
Pleasanton Planning commission needs to approve this, means more sales tax dollars so we can pay for Stoneridge drive!!

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Posted by P-town Dad
a resident of Amador Estates
on Oct 23, 2009 at 9:11 am

I'm opposed to another gas station at that corner, Safeway or otherwise. Groceries and pharmacy - great! But for heaven's sake - more gas pumps? I've never had to wait in line at that Shell station so we don't need more pumps at that corner.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Oct 23, 2009 at 12:12 pm

That corner is a prime piece of land and a gateway to the city of Pleasanton. Why do we need another gas station on a corner that already has one! The shell station is attractive, convenient and I've never had to wait more than seconds for a pump. Why do we need more banks in the complex as well. Can't we be creative City Managers. We don't even need another grocery store to be honest but I could live with that. Raley's has just completed a huge renovation. We need something different there. Why not put the ice rink there? How about a movie theater complex - Dublin could use some competition. What about a Whole Foods (not just another huge generic Safeway). What about a greenhouse where people could buy "garden spots" for growing produce or flowers? How about a recreation center for teens that has game rooms, music rooms, study roooms and perhaps a general meeting spot like they utilize Borders and Barnes & Noble for. That might also take some pressure off the public library being used as a social hangout. How about leaving it empty until a well planned idea comes to fruition. By the way, doesn't the city own the land.....why do we need to do anything right now with it. Save it for a rainy day.

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Posted by Earl
a resident of Castlewood
on Oct 23, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Bernal Corners/Shell gas station has been my primary source for fuel since it opened. Come on folks, this place is usually crazy,nuts, compete for a pump! For years my wife and i have said why isnt there a competitive gas station in the area (is there?). Whether its Safeway, or whatever, this part of Pleasanton is grossly underserved in terms of gas stations. Does anyone care to argue this point? We need another competitive (remember what competition is all about?)gas station in the area.

Maybe Raleys would be open to capitalizing on this opportunity. But then they would be competing with Jiffy Lube. Consumers, please speak up. Gas prices...?


Like this comment
Posted by B
a resident of Carlton Oaks
on Oct 24, 2009 at 8:52 am

Since when are they entitled to legal protection from competition?

This part of town needs another gas station. That Shell station's prices are too high relative to stations in other parts of town and other parts of the Bay Area. Having competition would force them to price their gasoline more in line with the market.

Do we *really* need two more banks at that location more than a second competitive gas station? I vote for more gas competition.

Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Oct 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm

I welcome Safeway with it's "life style concept" and it's gas since they are much more competitve than Shell or any of the other major oil companies in the city. Just do it tastefully. I'm sure we can rely on our excellent planning commission to do a great job and give us a project that is athesticly pleasing.

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Posted by Jerry
a resident of Oak Hill
on Oct 24, 2009 at 7:21 pm

We will soon see who makes the largest campaign contributions - Owner of Bernal Corners Center or Property Development Centers/Safeway...

Let the bidding begin...:)

Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Oct 25, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Jerry - what are you talking about?!? You can't make contributions to members of the Planning Commission.

Like this comment
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Oak Hill
on Oct 26, 2009 at 12:39 am

I'm talking about when this proposal comes to the city council on appeal because one of the parties didn't receive the desired results they were seeking(gas station vs no gas station)when the proposal was before the Planning Commission. Isn't that usually the way "squabbles" are settled in this city...

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Posted by Me
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2009 at 9:02 am

Do you all remember Proposition P(?) -- The Shell gas owner (hopyard and Owens) had a referrendum to prevent the (then Exxon) from remodelling and replacing thier pumps (to be EPA compliant). There are so many Shell stations in this valley, due to strong arm competition (or as some would describe monoploistic behaviors).

The Safeway gas stations are well designed to be no intrusive.

Competition is good!

Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2009 at 9:04 am

Also, lets not forget that Safeway has its corporate offices in Pleasanton, providing employment for many.

Like this comment
Posted by June
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Oct 28, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Pleasanton is the corporate headquarters for Safeway. Let's have a flag-ship store therefore along with a gas station at Bernal/Valley. Bernal is a major arterial roadway and provides access to the fairgrounds, downtown, and surrounding residential areas. It makes sense to me. The design and architecture will be important at this gateway

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