Safeway is gearing up to build a new store on El Camino Real, and hopes that efforts to co-design the project with neighbors will help avoid conflict this time around.
Menlo Park planners should receive Safeway’s permit applications June 1, according to Steven Burndt, the chain’s Northern California real estate director. Those permits will let them demolish Safeway’s behemoth and an attached building with a drugstore to build a 65,748-square-foot Safeway with an 11,500-square-foot retail wing. When Safeway invited neighbors to have a look at initial plans in 2000, locals were “horrified,” according to neighbor David Alfano. “We went to the City Council like an angry horde and said, ‘We can’t stand for this.’”
Those designs did away with the natural sound barrier created by the original building, built as a department store in the 1960s. It also meant deliveries would be made next to residents’ backyards.
Adopting a design one neighbor suggested, the new store will be a triangular shape that allows for ample parking and protects neighbors from the hustle and bustle of deliveries and traffic on El Camino. Now, that design is being used in Safeway stores in Honolulu and Napa, according to Candace Hathaway, who mediated talks between store officials and residents.
Despite neighbors’ initial resistance, the negotiating process was smoother in Menlo Park than in Burlingame, according to Burndt. In that city, a proposal for a larger version of the existing store on El Camino Real became the subject of a contentious political battle and was ultimately voted down by the City Council in February 2004.
“We learned lessons from Burlingame,” he said. “The first step being: reach out to neighbors and build support from the ground up.”
If the permit process goes smoothly, crews will build a new parking lot and demolish the former drugstore before Christmas. After that, the new Safeway will be built and the old one will be torn down and replaced with a strip for retail, city planner Thomas Rogers said.