La Playa Safeway neighbors fear noise, neighborhood division
The La Playa Street Safeway has long been the subject of complaints that is is an eyesore, providing a dimly lit parking lot for loitering and an overall dingy element in the otherwise scenic Ocean Beach area. The latest in a series of proposed remodeling plans was shown Thursday night at the San Francisco Zoo Great Hall.
“I want something that’s attractive and that will make you guys happy,” said Natalie Mattei, Safeway’s real estate manager.
Safeway architect Ken Lowney acknowledged that concerns remain regarding the newest plan, suggesting that residents “remain skeptical until [proven] otherwise.”
At La Playa and 48th Avenue, this Safeway branch is a main source of groceries for San Franciscans from the Richmond and Sunset districts as far east as 19th Avenue, and Safeway is planning a remodel that representatives say will be both an aesthetic and social improvement.
Some residents, however, expressed a continuing fear that Safeway may not be letting on to all of the company’s plans.
“My guess is that they’re not going to surprise us,” said Richmond District Supervisor Eric Mar, who introduced the new project plan. “I’ve really learned this process, and Natalie and Ken have been very transparent throughout.”
Safeway has been working closely with locals for the past two years to decide what the best remodel option is, and although support seems to be improving, some are still dissatisfied.
“The noise is horrific for us,” said La Playa resident Dianne Drosness, who is especially worried about the increased din that could accompany an uncovered parking lot. “You don’t know what the sound is going to be like until it’s done, and then it’s too late.”
In response, Mattei explained that Safeway would be bringing on acoustic and traffic specialists to address these specific concerns, and would address them in more depth after they are assessed professionally.
“We’ve been working with you for a long time together and our commitment to you is to work through the parking lot issue,” Mattei said. “Safeway was clearly not aware that there were any of the parking lot experiences that you guys were having.”
The new parking structure will consist of 200 above- and below-ground spaces, and an underground truck loading dock. The plan includes a residential and commercial space at the north end of the parking lot, but Safeway will not be involved in deciding its use.
Some residents wonder if Safeway is being as generous with its finances as it could be, in response to suggestions of enclosed parking.
“They’re creating a false dichotomy between 48th and La Playa residents,” said area local Daniel Horne. Rather than addressing the root problem, Horne believes, Safeway is instead pitting parts of the neighborhood against each other. Instead, he said, Safeway “just [needs] to spend the extra money for a covered parking structure.”
“Some of us are just sick of it,” said Drosness. “Safeway is a profitable corporation, let them put their money where their mouth is.”
Another concern is the decrease of exits, from eight to two. Mark Furman, a 48th Avenue homeowner, moved from Geary Boulevard to escape the noisy traffic sounds and wonders how much it will increase in front of his house when customers can no longer enter from Fulton Street.
Some key considerations regarding the plan’s exterior design are removing obvious places to loiter, increasing safety and improving the overall appearance of the area with native-plant landscaping and a traditional architectural approach.
The plan is still being revised and more community meetings will be scheduled. The final project must go through a planning and environmental review, and Safeway hopes to compile a final application for review soon. The approval process is expected to take approximately two years.
Images: Courtesy Safeway. Video: Lowney Architecture on Youtube.
This story has been modified to correct the name of the street from which drivers can enter the existing Safeway parking lot. It is Fulton Street.