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Planning Commission reviews Safeway study


Photo By: Courtesy of Safeway
Photo Courtesy Of Safeway The Los Altos Planning Commission is scheduled to review Safeway’s proposal, above in a digital rendering, to nearly double the size of its First Street grocery store and significantly revamp its architecture.

Another critical step in Safeway’s proposed plan for a new 45,265-square-foot store at 160 First St. could take place this week.

The Los Altos Planning Commission intends to review an initial study and the city’s intent to adopt a mitigated negative declaration for the project at its regularly scheduled meeting 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Planning Commission approval would place the initial study’s findings and the mitigated negative declaration before the city council for a final endorsement.

As required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), projects such as Safeway’s proposed plan require an initial study to determine the impact it may have on the environment – including traffic, air quality, noise pollution and local wildlife.

In Safeway’s case, according to Los Altos Senior Planner Zach Dahl, city officials chose to move forward with the adoption of a mitigated negative declaration after the initial study revealed impacts to be “less than significant.”

In areas where the study showed the potential for increased environmental impacts, mitigating circumstances were outlined – or as Dahl termed it, “a set of rules” – to follow during project development to minimize those impacts.

For Councilman Ron Packard, who with City Manager Doug Schmitz negotiated Safeway’s shared downtown parking agreement in an effort to move the project along, the Planning Commission’s review is a crucial step in providing downtown with an anchor tenant.

“The Safeway project is very important for both the community and the downtown area,” said Packard, whose negotiations with Safeway led to an agreement calling for 129 of the store’s 154 proposed parking spaces to be designated as 90-minute public parking. “This is the next step.”

In cases where significant impacts may occur, Dahl added, a more extensive and costly environmental impact report (EIR) would be required.

To that end, Safeway representative Susan Houghton said the grocery-store giant believes an EIR would delay the project nine to 12 months and add $250,000 at minimum to the project’s costs.

“We’ve worked through a number of design ideas to get to this stage with the community, and we’d like to move forward with our plan now,” Houghton told the Town Crier via email. “We believe this will be a great new Safeway for Los Altos.”

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