PLEASANT HILL -- When bargain hunters converge on the new Nordstrom Rack store at Sunvalley mall in 11 days, the parking lot may be a zoo.
Nordstrom Rack, purveyor of discount, brand-name clothing, shoes and accessories, opens Sept. 12. It sits directly across the parking lot from the popular Safeway gas station.
In anticipation of the store opening, Safeway in June introduced a plan to eliminate congestion in the parking lot by adding four double-sided gas pumps and revising the traffic flow.
Although construction was supposed to begin before Nordstrom Rack opens, Safeway hasn't applied for the land-use permit it needs to add the gas pumps and modify the underground fuel tanks, according to Jeff Olsen, associate planner for Pleasant Hill.
Furthermore, a study analyzing the amount of traffic the extra pumps will add to nearby intersections and the parking lot is still being reviewed, said Rod Wui, Pleasant Hill senior civil engineer.
On Aug. 22, Safeway submitted a temporary circulation plan that calls for vehicles to enter the gas station from Contra Costa Boulevard instead of the existing entrance north of the station on Golf Club Road. The line for gas will then run parallel to Contra Costa Boulevard and spill over into a parking lane, which could block parking spaces.
"While Safeway continues to work with the city through the approval process, the temporary plan was put in place to help improve the stacking and queuing situation before the opening of Nordstrom Rack," spokeswoman Wendy Gutshall wrote in an email.
Safeway must re-stripe the parking lot by Friday.
"It's a temporary solution that we think addresses our concerns, and we think will address some of their concerns, but it's definitely not the best solution," Wui said. "The city's main concern is that we don't block public roads."
There have been long lines at the gas station since it opened in February 2012. Safeway typically has cheaper gas prices than the national oil companies, and customers who participate in the company's rewards program can save even more.
Currently, the line for gas begins as one lane on Golf Club Road, becomes two informal lines in the parking lot in front of Nordstrom Rack and finally divides into four lanes before cars reach one of six double-sided gas pumps.
Michael Fenley, Sunvalley mall's general manager, believes the changes will relieve congestion in the parking lot.
"What this does do is move cars from out of the drive lanes; it prevents cars from backing up toward Contra Costa Boulevard, so we've solved a number of the issues we've been dealing with," Fenley said.
But he acknowledged that cars lined up in a parking lane may make it difficult for motorists to back out of parking spaces. Safeway staff will direct traffic to the gas pumps and manage the line.
If the lot fills up, mall employees will point shoppers to additional parking north of Nordstrom Rack and south of Safeway, Fenley said.
"We still anticipate that a final resolution to this will be approved in the next few months and installed sometime before the end of the year," Fenley said. "That will eliminate the final issue of cars queuing up where other cars are parked. That will be a better solution."
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.