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Letters for the Week of September 7

Readers sound off on BART's cellphone shutdown, the Oakland Safeway expansion, and toxic incense.


"Shall We Shop at Safeway or Safeway?," News, 8/24

Do Your Research

Could the reporter determine the population in the primary trade area of each store and try to draw a conclusion as to whether these are feasible projects? Some basic research would show that that each store has more than adequate population support in these completely built-up neighborhoods.

The Food Marketing Institute states the median supermarket in the United States is 46,000 square feet, so these stores are about 10 percent larger than average. The Urban Land Institute identifies a population of 10,000-30,000 to support a grocery store. There are more than 30,000 people in ZIP codes 94705 (Claremont/Elmwood) and 94704 (South Campus) to the north of the store, and 94618 (Rockridge) has 15,000. Safeway also serves a dense population along the Alcatraz corridor all the way down to San Pablo. The primary trade area is a dense, built-out neighborhood. Some argue, incorrectly, that there's retail leakage from the College Safeway because it carries fewer items. Even the casual observer would note that the store is way too crowded. It's difficult to maneuver a cart around, and produce is often out of stock. The demographics demonstrate that there is adequate population to support the proposed store (and other independent food vendors) at this location. The crowded conditions at the existing store confirm the high level of demand.

David Denton, Oakland

Same Crap, New Store

Here in my El Cerrito neighborhood, Safeway opened their latest colossus just last week, next door to the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station. Simultaneously, they closed two (admittedly outdated) smaller stores in Richmond and El Cerrito, consolidating them in the new store.

It's a nice-looking store, indeed. I recognize many of the employees from my former store. There's been a party-like atmosphere and a lot of excitement. However, not much has changed. I still see the same merchandise, only more of it. There are steroid-sized packages of goods — hmmm, could they be trying to compete with Costco? The organic produce looks like the usual dried-out, four-week-old stock, as if it was moved directly from the old stores. In short, my take on the new superstores is: new building outside, same crap inside.

Brian O'Neil, El Cerrito

What's Good for the Neighborhood?

Those complaining that the Rockridge Community Planning Council or Stuart Flashman do not have a better "handle" on Safeway's business than Safeway are missing the point. We do not, and should not, slavishly accept what Safeway says just because they know their own business better than we do. The limited data made available by Safeway raises serious questions. Telling us that we should not worry our little minds about such things is not an answer. What's good for Safeway is not necessarily good for Rockridge (or Oakland).

Likewise, the invisible-hand argument does not apply here, because the effects on the neighborhood are costs that are not borne by Safeway. That's why we have zoning and design review — our elected representatives are supposed to consider the larger dimensions of such changes.

Mitchell Chyette, Oakland

The Sugary Heart of the Matter

Well, politics aside, I would love to see a proper bakery there and a butchery that (hopefully) would offer free-range chicken and eggs at a more affordable price than across the street! I have searched for ages for a certain pastry that seems to be quite common in London, New York, and middle America but very difficult to find here. The two places I finally found them were insanely pricey, but I did find them at —of all places — Emeryville Safeway, and they are of superior quality and much bigger than the ones at the other two places (one being Whole Paycheck, of course).

Marjorie Sutter-Collins, Oakland

0x201CBART Cellphone Shutdown Was a Mistake,0x201D Seven Days, 8/24

Simply Absurd

If I operate a coffee shop and I decide to turn off the wireless service I provide as a free convenience to customers, am I violating free speech or FCC rules? Of course not! BART's decision to turn off its wireless transmitters in its own areas was no more illegal or a breach of free speech than a coffee shop owner turning off its wireless system — and most logical people know it. And to try and conjure up a claim that not turning off the wireless during the last two assaults by criminal thugs posing as protesters was a "confession" by BART of its wrongdoing is simply absurd — as is the headline of this article.

William Thompson, Walnut Creek

A Privilege, Not a Right

"But killing cellular service is another matter. It raises numerous First Amendment issues, not to mention state and federal laws governing phone systems."

Where in the Constitution does it say we have that right? BART provides the cell service as a courtesy, not a right. We all know from 9/11 that you can successfully make cell phone calls on planes, but it is against FAA rules to do so.

What is ridiculous is these protesters, who ruin the lives of the everyday people for whom they are supposedly protesting. I heard a story about a woman who was an hour late picking up her three children from daycare, which cost her $180! Are the protesters going to pick up this tab?

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