Safeway shares plans for La Playa store expansion

A rendering of the new Safeway entrance at Fulton and La Playa

At tonight’s Planning Association for the Richmond (PAR) quarterly meeting, a representative from Safeway shared the latest plans for the expansion of their outer Richmond store on Fulton between La Playa and 48th Avenue.

About two years ago, Safeway purchased the entire plot of land on which it currently sits. Since then, they have been working on plans to expand the current store, including a residential component.

Natalie Mattei, a Real Estate Manager for Safeway, handed out copies of the latest drawings of the proposed development and took questions and comments from the audience.

The new Safeway store would be roughly double the square footage of the current one, with walls extending all the way to the sidewalk on all sides. Currently, the store is set back by its ground level parking. The new store will feature a single level of underground parking. View the architectural plan

The back quarter of the lot that borders on Cabrillo would not be developed initially. Once the project is complete and as Mattei put it, “we recover from the recession”, Safeway will sell the land to a residential housing developer.

Mattei says they were challenged to design a Safeway that better blends in with its surroundings like Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park, both of which sit just across from the market. Safeway architects looked to the Cliff House and Beach Chalet restaurants for inspiration, as well as to Sea Ranch in Mendocino for attractive yet durable materials that would better weather its seaside location.

The main focal point of the building is a 66 foot high entrance topped with a half barrel roof that slopes into the building. The front part would be mostly glass with aluminum accents. Above the entrance is a protected, outdoor seating area with umbrella tables that enjoys views of the beach and the GGP windmill.

To offer more commercial options for the outer Richmond, Safeway is also considering alotting some of the Fulton Street storefont to smaller, local retailers. Note “Sunshine” and “Surf Shop” in the drawing below.

View from Fulton Street (click to enlarge)

Several residents that live next to or very near the Safeway attended the meeting, and raised concerns about the project. One neighbor worried that the new, taller structure would block her view of Ocean Beach from her 48th Avenue home. Other neighbors that live on 48th expressed concern over the larger scale of the new building and its potential for blocking light and views along the street.

As was the case with the Safeway renovation on Cabrillo and 7th Avenue, 48th Avenue neighbors raised concerns about the location of the loading dock in the new plans. It currently sits on 48th Avenue, but the large ground level parking lot allows overflow trucks to park rather than idle in the street when the dock bays are full.

In the new design, the loading dock is still on 48th Avenue and neighbors worry that trucks would be backed up on the street, idling, during peak delivery times. Mattei assured neighbors that the amount of traffic would not increase, saying “they’ll just put more pallets on each Safeway truck; there would still only be 4 Safeway trucks per day”.

She further explained that the new loading dock would be enclosed and could also include a retractable screen wall which would close off the dock and its idling inhabitants. There is also additional room inside the loading dock for Safeway.com trucks to park, along with smaller delivery trucks. “Our goal is to not have trucks on 48th Avenue,” Mattei said.

Missing from the plans was a view from the 48th Avenue side of the store, which concerned many of the neighbors. Mattei said it was so early in the process that they had not drawn them yet, and that they were hoping for more input from neighbors on what they’d like to see. It could be designed like the La Playa side in the plans, with break ups in the sight lines and varied architecture (see picture below). Or it could be a simpler design with a large scale mural, perhaps commemorating Playland as one neighbor suggested.

The side view from La Playa Street (click to enlarge)

Mattei said that Safeway will file a pre-applicaton with the Planning Department soon, and they will continue to meet with neighbors to gather feedback on the design.

What do you think? Do you like the design? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Sarah B.


  1. Alright!

    I love that Safeway, I cant tell you how excited I am that it’s going to be expanded. Everyone at the store is super nice and my 2yo. and I love doing our grocery shopping there, even when an Albertsons was just blocks away from our home.

  2. The design is consistent with the scale and quality of the buildings in this hood. The variation across the facade is is arguably more interesting than the current 70’s era low-slung mansard topped box. This particular design feels a tad schizophrenic – like 4 or 5 different buildings where scrunched together. Precisely the designer’s intent but not sure how the jetsons-like hub at the southwest corner can be reconciled against the rather anomalous traditional, heavy-cornice, Memphis-style brick front at the northwest corner.

    The tertiary earth tones are safe and easily digested. The design does a good job of addressing pedestrians at the street level while maintaining an urban feel above. Bringing the building to the sidewalk and addressing the corner is more valid than the current ‘suburban’ footprint. The form has movement along the long facade and the hierarchy of forms derived from the pushing and pulling of the masses and material changes adds interest (or confusion depending on how much Eco you’ve read 😉

    Mixing residential and retail grocery was done successfully on the corner of Fulton & Masonic and is good for both banker and New Urbanist. Not so good for gut or thighs. But hey, park across the street.

    It’s rare SF planning will request design mods on behalf of those protesting loss of view. Their ‘due-diligence’ refrain being hard to argue against.

    The big pro-forma question is how much additional retail this little edge of the western universe can sustain. There are several vacancies in the BK+Freddies+Europa et. al. strip to the north. The developers are banking on the anchor-tenant-trickle-over effect but surf shop might be a bit optimistic given Wise rules the roost…er…break, on this end. As this site is the fulcrum for 3 major areas of recreation, thinking outdoor-related business is on the right track. But a fitness club, kite shop, karaoke bar or even a Montessori school may also fit.

    It was only matter of time before Safeway realized there are more clams in real estate development than in their seafood case. Overall the plan seems pretty sensible and actually a bit conservative (square feet) for their initial pitch. Bet hedging perhaps but prolly a good strategy.

  3. I think they’ve done a nice job with the design so far. Natalei Mattei seems to want to do this project right and take into account neighborhood concerns. The elevated observation area (including dining/deli/coffee amenities) at the corner of La Playa & Fulton overlooking the park & ocean will be unique. Underground parking is a must. With no street set-back to speak of, the plan for extensive landscaping (trees & planter boxes) along La Playa, Fulton & hopefully 48th are critical.

    With the additional traffic that the larger store will bring in, with convenient underground parking, & with natural beach and park traffic, I think the retail shops on Fulton will do very well and should be a step up in quality compared to the retail stores near Freddi’s deli. I vote for a small mexican food place and/or a recreational/fitness related store. Probably don’t need another surf shop in competition with Wise, however. A small neighborhood bar might be very cool but could be little risky for the neighborhood (evening noise/drunk spillover, etc). Lot’s of options, really.

  4. I am not against development but I am not wild about the project–one of the reasons I like the Way Outer richmond is the lack of development. I’m concerned that it is too tall (66′!) however if it is no taller than the buidings across the street, then I would not be concerned. I doubt the outside seating area will be used much. I can’t imagine that the additional tenant space will be much of a moneymaker in our neighborhood compared to the sales of the supermarket– so why have the extra space? I would be happy if a US Post Office with Parking was a tenant. Our neighborhood needs better access to a PO. So overall, I haven’t seen the numbers but I can’t imagine it being a viable project above and beyond a supermarket– which is already there. Why build it?

  5. More Insight on the height– The height of the building, if it is 66′, will be monstrous compared to the other buildings in the neighborhood. The current parking lot is @ 30′ elevation on Google Earth. The building roof will be 96′ elevation which is the same elevation as 41st Ave at Fulton! The perspective of the building in the picture looks incorrect or maybe misleading on purpose.

  6. As a practicing architect, I applaud Safeway for improving their business, but I think they are a little over zealous in the development plans of the site. The site plan shows almost the entire block covered by the footprint of the new building(s) with little regard for open space, light and outdoor amenities. My experience with developers is that they will almost always propose maximizing the size of their proposed building and will not scale it back unless asked to do so by the neighbors whao may not realize they have a say in what gets built. This is going to be a mega-store, surpassing the size of the current Safeway by at least 200%, more like 300% if you take into consideration the proposed residential planned for Cabrillo St. I have to ask, has the Outer Richmond’s population really grown so much that Safeway can justify the need for such a monstrosity? I’d like to see a much smaller building footprint and less encrochment toward the four streets bordering the site.

    In regard to the design, Safeway has claimed that they sought inspiration from the Cliffhouse and Beach Chalet designs. Other than the oppresive, oversized sweeping atrium proposed at Fulton & La Playa, which also appears in the controversial, poorly delivered Cliffhouse addition, their design does not appear to take any elements from the beautiful WPA era Beach Chalet structure or the older wing of the Cliffhouse at all. The row house vernacular of the Outer Richmond is not really addressed in Safeway’s proposed design which includes out of character angled roofs and a wild variety of design elements and finishes. The Outer Richmond is not the Marina or SOMA. I find the design very busy, with a cacophony of elements that doesn’t seem to fit into the beach culture community of the Outer Ricmond.

    The folks on 48th Ave. will get the brunt of the downside if this proposal is accepted. It’s bad enough that the ocean-blocking condos on La Playa were approved prior to the acceptance of good planning practices, now Safeway wants to build a building that is 31′-11″ tall on the 48th Ave. side and 41′-4″ high at the La Playa St. side, further blocking views and cutting down on available light to residents. The streets in the 40’s climb uphill going easterly, which means that the view corridor down Fulton will be severly impacted by residents living as far away as 40th Ave, maybe further.

    Safeway has not gone before SF Planning as of yet. My experience with getting small residential additions, penthouses, roof decks and wind screens approved is difficult in SF. Local design elements should be truly taken into account, traffic patterns and view corridors should be carefully studied. We need to ask, does the building really need to be as tall as planned? I hope the planners and local residents who will be notified by the SF code Sec, 311, requiring neighborhood notification, will see that this building is way oversized, a poor design and that we all have a voice in asking for less. The current store is pretty large already. Doubling the size is not necessarily the correct design solution for our quiet beach community.

  7. The elevations are misleading or incorrect I believe that the TOR’s are heights above sea level and are probably irrelevant:

    The colored Fulton St. rendering elevation shows a 46′-0″ ht. at La Playa, with a 66′ TOR (Top of roof). The 48th Ave side shows 27′-0″ with a 56′-6″ TOR.

    The Section A-A handed out at the meeting, which is cut at a lower mid-point part of the proposed building shows a 41′-4″ ht. at La Playa, with a 61′-4″ TOR (Top of roof). The 48th Ave side shows 31′-11″ with a 61′-4″ TOR.

    Also the Mechanical shown on the section is even taller than the building’s parapet, but not dimensioned.

  8. The copy of the plans that I have indicate that only the (relatively) small section of the crowned roof on the SW corner will be 46′. Maybe this can be reduced,. The rest of the building along La Playa seems max out at 39′. That is high but so are the OB condos for better or worse. Also, it looks like the above street height of the proposed building at Fulton and 48th is ‘only’ 27′ 6″ because of the downhill grade of Fulton.. This is bad news for the 5-10 homes on 48th near Fulton that currently have an angled view of the ocean clear of the current store, but think some loss of view is inevitable unfortunately. A 20-30′ minimum set-back from the sidewalk would be nice along with more open areas if that can be achieved. In any event, a new building should be nicer than the dilapidated version of the store and the sprawling (& often loud) parking lot currently on the site.

    A couple retail stores might not make much money but they should add a little retail spice will be nice in the neighborhood. The shops near Freddie’s deli are not very impressive and they are about all we’ve got.

  9. “Progress” sucks, although inevitable. I’m hoping this is the worst-case scenario and the final building will be scaled down to fit more appropriately into the Outer Richmond/beach town environment. This plan would be appropriate only on Bay to Breakers our Outside Lands concert days, the only time this huge behemoth would be cost-effective.

  10. Seems decent to me. Open space is great, but not when it’s a parking lot. A couple of small shops would be nice.

  11. I think it looks great. The current site is depressing and the parking lot decrepit. This would be a fantastic upgrade, much the way the Fulton/Masonic development was.

  12. The customer service at this Safeway is the worst. The only reason I go there is because you usually park easily. If this gets turned into a monster store with a single entrance to underground parking, it will be a nightmare to try to go there. Jut think about all the drunks and bums you encounter whenever you go to this Safeway, and how you always get stuck in a big line at the cash register. Now imagine trying to get out of an underground parking lot afterwards. That means you’ll be waiting with your groceries at an elevator too, and waiting to drive out while you try not to get your car smashed up. Safeway is completely misjudging what people want from this store.

  13. CF- Not sure why you think there will be one underground parking entrance. I count 4 garage entrances on the plans that I’ve seen (2 on La Playa, one on Fulton and one on 48th). I also see 3 elevators to the garage, one set of stairs and an escalator. No park bums are shown in the plans but I’m sure they’ll show up. Enjoy Fresh & Easy.

  14. I’ll have to take a peek at the plans when I have the time…I do like that Safeway, and I’m actually kind of glad it may be expanded. The current one is great, except that the aisles (as well as the space between the endcaps and the registers) are VERY narrow–even the produce section is a bit crowded. Giving the store a lot more room would definitely be a plus.

    My one concern re: loading docks is similar to that of the docks at the Safeway at Fisherman’s Wharf…the docks are in the rear of the building and on North Point Street, and when the trucks back up into the bays they tend to block a full lane of the street. I’m hoping that the new plans will take that into consideration so they don’t block part of La Playa in the process.

    Which reminds me…my wife and I need to go shopping this weekend. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

  15. Great looking plans. The current store is woefully outdated and tiny (can’t believe that they haven’t had multiple ADA-related lawsuits) and the parking lot is always dirty and depressing.

    The only thing that would make this nicer would be another 20′ of height over the whole block, with residential taking up those two stories.

  16. I am an architect and live a half block north of the Safeway on 48th Avenue.

    We need an improved Safeway. The present site is a mess: too much parking, too little landscaping and too little care provided for it, too many bird spikes, and a building of concrete block and covered windows appropriate to a war zone.

    That said, I have several comments regarding the proposed replacement. First, it is misleading to describe the parking as underground. Saying the parking is underground implies that the store is at grade. But, in fact, no part of the proposed store is at grade. At the store entrance the parking is at grade, the store is, at that point, an entire story above grade. A grocery store not at grade in a residential neighborhood is not a positive thing. It doesn’t add to the life of the street. It is inconvenient for many people, especially the elderly and disabled. And, for the rest of us, it lacks the immediate accessibility typical of neighborhood stores.

    Parking below the store will make it difficult to get back and forth to the store, especially with groceries. Parking isolated on a separate level from the store will seem to be and will be more dangerous than parking in front of the store. Isolated parking is especially undesirable because this Safeway is open 24 hours. I believe that there is not a single supermarket in San Francisco that is both 1) not at grade, and 2) not on the same level as at least some of its parking.

    We need an improved Safeway, not a bigger Safeway. In my opinion, the bigger the supermarket, the less friendly the environment and the less convenient the shopping. There is no problem with the size of the current store. Often there are not enough checkers, not because there are too few registers but because there are too many unattended registers.

    I agree with Paul that the proposed elevations are a post-modern mishmash (not his words). I hope the architects will take a good look at the beach chalet, which is one of the few buildings in the outer Richmond with a kind of design integrity and dignity, the result of the clear and classical articulation of its parts and a simple balance of the vertical and horizontal elements. I’ve visited the architect’s web site and have seen that they are responsible for the design of a number of projects that are unified and eloquent. That’s what we need.

    Finally, one of the problems with the present store is the lack of landscape and the pitiful care given to the little vegetation on the site. It is not evident in the plans and perspective that this will be substantially improved in the new proposal. It needs to be much better than what is there now.

    This is not Walnut Creek. I don’t believe my neighbors need or want a mega-store on the beach. And this is not downtown San Francisco. I don’t think we want a supermarket experiment with the store on the second level and the parking in the dark underneath.

    I hope Safeway will consider a store of about the same size as the present store, with both the store and the parking on grade like most other neighborhood Safeways (e.g. the Safeway at 7th and Cabrillo). I think it should face Fulton or La Playa or both with parking in front of it. Loading should perhaps be to the north of the store in the middle of the block, with a strip of housing (or landscaping) on Cabrillo.

    Good luck with this. I look forward to future public meetings.

  17. Wow, everybody SEEMS so smart. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody wants to get into the act. I think it would be advantageous if opinions were kept simple and to the point. Quit focusing on what you don’t want and angle in on a solution. There should be a concise list of pro’s and cons. I’m sure if there is a benevolent architect out there or if the right person at Safeway is into pleasing it’s neighbors, there is a perfect solution for all. That excludes the few that will find fault with anything that is done. It’s not hard to find out what is currently existing, in terms of structure, already, so I’m sure someone could draft the “perfect” solution to the upgrade and that would be a great starting point. It may not be cost effective, at first for Safeway, but it will be a great starting point to “sculpt” the best resolution for this project. Example: THIS projection will make the neighbors happy. It may cost a little more in terms of year end investments for Safeway yet in the long run if you have happy people it creates good will. You won’t have neighbors saying that there irked and they’d rather drive somewhere else and shop because they’re not going to support a store that doesn’t care that they are intentionally obstructing their view. I may be naive but I’m convinced a good architect could come up with winning plan that would appease 98% concerned. I don’t live near the Safeway so I wouldn’t be affected. With that in mind, if what’s proposed really doesn’t affect the residents view, I think it’s a great idea. I’d love to see a Java Beach Cafe there.

  18. I think the plans look fantastic. If anything I’d like to see more shops. There are scant few choices in the outer richmond. The shops up the street on la playa I believe don’t do well because of the large retirement center. There are constantly large buses obstructing the front of the shops and dozens of retired people clogging the sidewalks. Not that that’s bad but it isn’t inviting for general retail. The overall impression is one of a hospital or retirement complex.

    I also don’t understand the issues with views and scale. The current store and lot are ugly. Sure you can see a sliver of the ocean across the dirty parking lot just past the recycling center. It doesn’t make the view nice. Also, anyone who actually shops at that Safeway knows that it is usually way too crowded. There is plenty of traffic to support a larger store. And, frankly I think the greater choice of options and improved prepared food sections that are sure to come will be great additions.

  19. Further, I can understand some of the reservations on having underground parking and the entrance not at grade but my opinion is that will reduce the homeless problem at the store. Much easier to keep them off of a raised podium then a lot at street level. Also, taking an elevator down to your car will make it harder for them to harass you as you leave.


  21. Well, I guess that means there goes the view of the ocean from my apartment on the corner of 48th/Cabrillo.

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