Will Gourmet Ghetto's Safeway Get a Bioswale?



The huge Safeway Store in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto might finally get a much-needed makeover, which would include landscape devices designed to filter pollution from surface runoff water.

Erected in the 1960s, the store has looked more and more outdated with every passing decade. A proposal for a massive remodel, which can be viewed here, includes cutting-edge green upgrades along with 15,000 additional square feet.

Elisabeth Jewel, Safeway's community and government affairs consultant on the proposed remodel, sent this bulletin to the store's neighbors today:

"Last December at a community meeting held at the Jewish Community Center, Safeway presented a new approach to improving this aging store. ... In April of this year Safeway began meeting with the city's Design Review Commission. The Commission¹s suggestions, along with those of neighbors and other concerned residents, greatly improved the design. ...

"Great care was taken to bring the store out to Shattuck, enliven the corner with chairs and tables and attractive benches, provide vistas into the store by adding lots of glass, and modernize the exterior using concrete, composite wood, quartzite tile, and glazed aluminum. We responded to many concerns brought to us by neighbors including retaining more trees, increasing bicycle and pedestrian safety ... eliminating outside dumpsters and recycling.

"The new design features a revamped parking lot with designated pedestrian paths shaded by a new canopy of trees. A ramp from the surface lot leads to underground parking which will be light and bright and have easy access to the store. The landscaping plan calls for saving most of the healthy mature trees, while adding thirty new trees, along with drought-tolerant shrubs, bay friendly groundcovers, and climbing vines that cover walls facing Henry Street and deter graffiti. Native grasses and plants on the Henry Street side serve as a bioswale, filtering groundwater runoff before it empties into stormwater drains. The remodeled building will be far more energy-efficient and is expected to be LEED compliant."

The internationally recognized green-building certification system known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designates structures that have attained various levels of sustainability.

The next step for this proposal is an August 12 hearing before Berkeley's Zoning Adjustment Board at which ZAB members "will be trying to assess community support for improving this store," Jewel wrote. "While we are very pleased to have the enthusiastic support of the North Shattuck Merchants Association, it is equally important that we demonstrate that Berkeley residents want Safeway to make this investment in their community to expand and improve the store. Safeway remains the only large grocer in California to employ union workers. The remodeled store will create about 35 new union jobs" — and will continue to sell many products, including its own house brands of organic food and eco-friendly cleaning solutions, at competitive prices.