ALBANY — Planning commissioners indicated June 12 that the proposed mixed use project at University Village is getting closer to approval, but a member of the development team reacted angrily to requests from the commission to further revise the plans, saying that anchor tenant Sprouts Farmer's Market had already compromised enough.
"I never like to use the term 'deal killer,' " said Mike Ayres, one of the officials from Oppidan, the developer retained by the University of California on the project. "I'm a little discouraged tonight. We get our client to compromise. We agreed with a cycle track; I feel like we've given a lot. Some of the things that have been suggested (by the commission) are major changes. I expected much more enthusiasm than we saw."
Commissioners reacted calmly to Ayres, and member Nick Pilch told him he was sorry he felt that way. However, later he said, "Sprouts is bringing a suburban mentality to this. I think it's unfortunate that Sprouts is not realizing this is an urban setting, not a suburban setting."
The exchange came at the end of more than two hours spent on the proposed development. Changes had been made to the plans presented at a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on May 8, including a reorientation of the anchor market onto San Pablo Avenue. Truck access was also changed, which led to much of the comments from the public and the commissioners.
The delivery trucks would enter from San Pablo through a driveway that passes in front of the store entrance and continue around the store to the back, where loading docks would be located. The trucks would then continue straight ahead to another driveway on San Pablo, turning right onto the street.
Concerns were raised about the effects of truck traffic entering a busy street, especially the potential impacts on the cycle track (a dedicated bike lane set off from traffic) being created on San Pablo.
Commissioner Phillip Moss, who said he has worked as a truck driver, suggested that a better approach would be to have the trucks enter on Monroe Street, where a traffic light is located. He also said the market could locate the docks on the western side of the building rather than in the back. That would allow trucks to back into the dock and then exit via Monroe.
"I've got no problem with this project," Moss said. "I'm ready to sign off right now. But I can't believe you're going to cross two lanes of traffic and a bike lane."
He added of Monroe, "It's a stoplight intersection. Take advantage of that."
Another point of contention was the amount of parking. Sprouts, which operates more than 150 stores in eight states, including California, wants a minimum amount of parking, according to developers.
The plans shown at the meeting had 136 spaces around the market and another 23 spaces on Monroe. Commissioner Doug Donaldson said, "Sprouts is asking for more parking than our code allows. I think there's a burden on (the developers) to make your case there."
Added Commissioner Stacy Eisenmann, "I think it's not just parking spots, it's pavement."
Those arguments apparently didn't sway Ayres.
"I don't see Sprouts compromising," Ayres said. "We're at Sprouts minimum parking requirements already."