Council approves Safeway ceiling revision: Final plan boasts open-truss design with skylights

Photo By: courtesy of City of Los Altos
Photo Courtesy Of City Of Los Altos

The Los Altos City Council unanimously approved Safeway’s request to remove a drop ceiling in favor of an interior truss roof design, above, in construction plans for its new downtown store.

Safeway officials are hoping the latest revision to a planned 53,000-square-foot grocery store on First Street will allow shoppers to see the light – literally.

The Los Altos City Council Jan. 22 unanimously approved the removal of an interior drop ceiling as part of Safeway’s planned construction in favor of an exposed interior truss roof with 27 skylights. The Los Altos Planning and Transportation Commission originally recommended council approval for the change in December.

Safeway officials sought and received a public benefit exception for the change because removal of the drop ceiling will alter the grocery store’s height to 38 feet – beyond the city’s 30-foot height limit.

Bill Carrozzella, Safeway’s Northern California real estate manager, told the council that the company hopes to emulate the environment of an open-air market with the ceiling’s removal and the addition of skylights. Representatives pointed to examples such as San Francisco’s Ferry Building as the type of environment they seek to create in the new store.

Carrozzella called the alteration “a simple change,” adding that the exposed roof and skylights should increase the vitality of the store’s environment.

“For us, we want to create a marketplace feeling,” said Carrozzella, who estimated that approximately one-fifth of the store’s roof would consist of skylights with the approved change. “That’s really what a supermarket is intended to be. … It does add a green feature in that it creates more natural lighting and less need for having lights on all day long.”

Carrozzella attributed the need to seek a public benefit exception to a misinterpretation of city code, at a time when the company’s architects were already in the advanced stages of construction drawings.

“We were already a little down the road some, so we were a little hat-in-hand at that point,” he noted.

Carrozzella also revealed details about the company’s construction timeline for the podium-style store. He said the company plans to close the current downtown Safeway store after the anticipated March 15 opening of its newly constructed market at The Village at San Antonio Center in Mountain View. According to Assistant City Manager James Walgren, the company is required to meet a May deadline to pull permits and begin construction on the First Street market.

“Right now we’re looking at sometime in late March or April, maybe May, depending on timing,” Carrozzella said. “But we’re full speed ahead. … We’re on a go-fast track.”

Safeway officials previously told the Town Crier that decommissioning and demolishing the current site would take two months, followed by a 10-month construction period for the new store.

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