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Safeway to City Hall: Let’s Talk

With their 1 Camino Alto property identified as having the capacity for 41 units of housing, Safeway wants to learn more about the city’s General Plan update.

After consultants identified the Safeway-owned 1 Camino Alto property as having the capacity for 41 additional housing units, the grocery store conglomerate is interested in speaking with city officials about the details of the Housing Element portion of the MV2040 General Plan update, city officials revealed this week.

“They currently have no plans to redevelop the site, and want to make sure anything the city is proposing doesn’t necessarily conflict with the success of the site as a Safeway location,” Mike Moore, Mill Valley's director of planning and building, said at a meeting of the General Plan Advisory Committee Wednesday.

A report drafted by the Metropolitan Planning Group identifies the sites that could accommodate enough new housing for the city to achieve its Regional Housing Needs Allocation. That allocation is doled out by the Association of Bay Area Governments, the regional agency charged with allocating state housing mandates to counties, towns and cities andone of the agencies charged with distributing state transportation grant funding.

In a draft report earlier this year, the agency allocated 292 new households to Mill Valley for the period of 2009-2014, and 129 for the period 2014-2022 (report attached at right). The undeveloped sites identified for the first period can carry over to the second period, according to Moore.

Through the state-mandated Sustainable Communities Strategy, which stretches through 2040, an earlier ABAG report allocated 750 new households to Mill Valley, and that was reduced to 450 in July

City officials have continued to lobby ABAG to lower those numbers even more.

The "Residential Capacity Analysis" (attached at right) identified sites where new housing could go, considering both residential parcels where new housing could be built, as well as commercially zoned parcels where residential units are allowed under current zoning. Out of the 393 units identified, the Safeway site is, by far, the largest potential development with 41 possible units.

The majority of the sites identified could accommodate one to four units, and only seven sites could accommodate 10 or more units.

“There aren’t that many sites that have that capacity,” Moore said. 

It does not, however, imply the Safeway project could become a reality.

“It’s a planning document, not a building quota,” Moore said.

Metropolitan Planning Group consultants Geoff Bradley and Karen Hong state numerous times in the report that although parcels are being identified, "no development projects are being proposed” and “all future projects must go through planning and environmental review processes as established by the city and the state."

Which leads to the question of whether or not Safeway is interested in redesigning its 1 Camino Alto store, and whether company officials would consider expanding the building to include a mixed-use project. When contacted late last month, Safeway spokeswoman Wendy Gutshall said while there are no plans for the Mill Valley store, "We are always looking for opportunities to better serve the community."

After the housing sites analysis report was released in October, the city notified all property owners whose parcels were on the list as having a capacity for future housing.

City officials didn't hear back from Safeway, so they reached out again on Wednesday just before a General Plan Advisory Committee Meeting on the Housing Element, and on the heels of a Mill Valley Patch article asking the community if they would support 41 new units at that site.

“We thought we would follow up with Safeway to see if they had a reaction,” Moore said. “And they were in the process of responding.”

He would not divulge the details of the email exchange, but said a discussion is on the horizon. 

“We’re going to arrange a time to get together to talk about what’s in the Housing Element, and whether that’s something they’re particularly interested in,” Moore said.

The current Safeway store is about 37,000 square feet, while the grocery chain typically prefers 55,000-square-feet, he said. The Camino Alto location was also renovated in 2005.

“Basically all they want to do is get together and talk,” Moore said, “and make sure whatever gets adopted in the Housing Element reflects what their interests in the property are.”

Here's what else is happening on Mill Valley Patch

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Bud Wiesser December 07, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Thats a big usually unused parking lot in back there. But if poorly planned could cause parking lot/shopping area gridlock.
Rebecca Chapman December 07, 2012 at 08:44 PM
interesting article as a follow-up to the 'micro' one. sounds like more political fixin' is in the works to me. 2 whole foods : 0 safeway. yeah, there's also 1 safeway in strawberry, but this still feels like a very troubling ratio. what about the tam high, redwoods, pickleweed, etc. segment(s) of the population that are being served at that end of town? i'm scared by what i've seen in novato & elsewhere, but wish for mill valley's continued success with the 'general plan'. please keep pushing for urban renewal that supports a little more economic diversity, folks out there. just because i got zoned out of my own town doesn't mean all poor people have to be!
Citizen December 10, 2012 at 06:34 PM
It's high time you should start supporting Negative Population Growth

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