OAKLAND -- Safeway's proposal to nearly triple the size of the 50-year-old supermarket in Lincoln Square Shopping Center on Redwood Road to 45,222 square feet and create an "urban" store is being met with mixed reactions from nearby residents.

There are also concerns about traffic impacts and the square's dozen established retailers and bank in the two adjacent buildings -- which Safeway recently bought.

In addition to the expansion, Safeway's proposed plan for its Lincoln Square supermarket includes a full-service bakery, pharmacy, expanded-service meat and seafood department and a coffee bar. Since Safeway and Starbucks have partnered on the supermarket chain's recent remodels, it is believed that the coffee bar will be a Starbucks' kiosk.

What Safeway terms an "urban" store will be a destination place for all shoppers' needs, from grocery to deli to floral, according to the company's website. The current Safeway supermarket is 18,505 square feet. Lorraine Heinemann, who has lived in the adjoining Crestmont neighborhood since 1957, thinks it's fine to remodel, but said the proposed size is too big. She's also concerned about the increase in traffic that such a destination store would bring.

"It would be nice to have a bigger, better store, but not to the extent of this big box," said Heinemann, who learned of the expansion when Safeway made a presentation to neighbors in 2011. "It's way too big. It will draw people from all over and cause more problems with robberies and crime."

She said Safeway isn't being transparent about its plans.

"They should be showing neighbors what they intend to do," Heinemann said.

On July 17, Redwood Heights Neighborhood Association held its monthly meeting with the hot topic being the Safeway expansion.

"In general, neighbors are in favor of a renovation to Safeway and a reorganization of the Lincoln Square complex, but not at the expense of the small businesses," said Edward Lai, acting president of RHNA. "Most of those businesses have been there a long time and many are family-owned."

He said the neighbors' greater concern is the projected increase in traffic and its effect on pedestrian safety.

"More neighbors want to walk to Safeway rather than drive," Lai said. "It's difficult to cross Redwood Road in front of Safeway, and a pedestrian was killed just a few years ago on the crosswalk. We'd like to see Safeway put a big emphasis on traffic and pedestrian safety."

Safeway's plan includes a new two-lane driveway from Redwood Road to be shared with First Covenant Church next door, which currently has its own separate entrance. The new store would be built out over the current parking lot in front of the store. Customers would use the driveway to reach a rooftop parking lot, which will also have an outdoor seating area.

Bruce Stoffmacher, community liaison for District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf, who represents the district, met with Safeway planners July 15 to discuss the expansion and traffic concerns.

"Safeway is proposing to put an intersection and traffic light at the entrance on Redwood Road, as well as curbside improvements," Stoffmacher said. "Councilmember Schaaf is advocating for improved sidewalks in the area, as well as improved access to surrounding neighborhoods to make the area more walker-friendly."

Since Safeway now owns the buildings that house the current retailers, merchants face an uncertain future -- including whether competition from an expanded Safeway could put some of them out of business.

"We don't know what the future holds," said Julia Diez, who has owned Potpourri with her husband, Andy, for 43 years. "It may be wonderful, but we just don't know. At the moment, everything is pure speculation and talk. All we know is that we now send our rent checks to Safeway."

Diez doesn't object to the proposed Safeway remodel. However, the scale of the plan came as a surprise to her.

"We've always been in favor of a redo for Safeway," Diez said. "It's very antiquated. However, the building is really big, it's like a small kingdom."

Stoffmacher said they're urging Safeway to be forthcoming with its plans.

"We're telling Safeway that it's best to be transparent so that people know what's going on," Stoffmacher said.

Asked for comment on the expansion and neighbors' and merchants' specific concerns, Safeway spokesperson Wendy Gutshall stated in an email July 18 that the project is still in its early stages and said it would be premature to comment.

"We are analyzing how to proceed," Gutshall wrote. "Once the proposed plan is complete, we will conduct community meetings and seek input from the public."

Wendy Fazio, who has operated Skyline Travel in the square for nearly 35 years, said she grew up in the neighborhood and has shopped at Lincoln Square all her life.

"I know that Safeway is known for keeping anchor stores and it would be wonderful to stay and work alongside them," Fazio said. "In the long run, I think more people will come to shop here, which would improve our businesses."

Local Realtor and resident Katy Anderson is all in favor of Safeway's expansion plans.

"Lincoln Square is more than overdue for a face-lift," Anderson said. "I think it will be great for property values in the area and great for business for the other merchants in the square. Change is hard and the construction period will be inconvenient, but in the long run it will be a wonderful change for the area."

look at the plan

To see preliminary renderings of the proposed Safeway expansion in the Lincoln Square Shopping Center and to take a virtual tour, visit
www.safewayonredwood.com.