New video of Ocean Beach Safeway remodel; ready for submittal to the City

For the past two years, Safeway has been working on remodeling plans for their Ocean Beach / La Playa location, which would result in a new store, below and above ground parking, as well as new residential units on the northern end of the Safeway lot. The store will remain open during the estimated 10 months that the remodel would take to complete.

All along the way, Safeway has been in communication with the surrounding community that lives near the Safeway. Early on neighbors were concerned about the larger footprint of the remodeled store, and its potential for blocking their light and views on the 48th Avenue side.

Today, Safeway emailed out the latest video rendering of the project developed by Lowney Architecture (view it above).

This latest version includes some key changes including a (sea life?) mural on the corner of the building at 48th and Fulton, the shifting of the driveways on La Playa to better align with the Plaza across the street, and what they’re calling “studio residential” housing on 48th Avenue, which would be located above and behind a small retail storefront on the corner of Cabrillo and La Playa.

Safeway currently owns the entire lot spanning from Fulton to Cabrillo, and 48th Avenue to La Playa, but they plan to sell off the north end of it to a residential developer. Residential units would be located at the northeast and northwest ends of the lot.

The project website also has images of some of the planned architectural detail (though they’re so small it’s hard to make them out). From what we can tell, there will be a lot of new trees planted, some mosaic work, the new mural mentioned above, and a nifty pedestrian bridge that connects the at ground parking to the store (additional parking is below).

In today’s email, Safeway Real Estate Manager Natalie Mattei said, “We expect to submit our City application within the next week,” and that it will be posted on the project website afterwards.

After submittal of the new application, the project will undergo the City’s public review process which will includes numerous opportunities for community review and comment.

To keep up with the latest developments on the Safeway remodel, visit the project website or follow @safewaylaplaya on Twitter.

So what do you think? Are you excited to see this Safeway get a makeover?

Sarah B.


  1. Over. The. Top. I’m all for remodeling the inside of the store, maybe a cosmetic makeover of the outside, but this is crazy. The people who live on 48th totally lose their ocean view. Although the design is very nice and modern, it’s just one big box thrown on a square block. Please. Just remodel the inside. LIke the Safeway on 7th.

  2. As an architect living within a stone throw of this site, some thoughts:

    1. The master plan and design are sensible and consistent with development massings of the existing mixed-use (commercial + residential) buildings to the north, the condos to the northwest and the condos across the street.

    2. The blocked-in ‘future residential’ represents the outside envelop of buildable area. These facades would be articulated with recesses, balconies and variations in color, texture and materials – possibly aka a Mission Bay style. Just about any architectural style would be an improvement over the monolithic and brutal condos to the west.

    3. As far as view blockage, there is no requirement the owner preserve the neighbor’s views. Had neighbors done their due diligence when they purchased their properties they would have learned that the building height restrictions for the Safeway site are 45′. Should neighbors complain, the Planning Department will remind them of this.

    4. The design of the commercial center is smart enough. It’s not going to win any design awards but it does more than clear the low bar.

    It’s got my vote.

    (BTW I do not have a dog in this hunt but can appreciate the owner’s desire to maximize the use of this property and think this is a good proposal.)

  3. Any chance of putting some plastic soccer pitches on top of the car park?

    As long as it doesn’t include a recyclables-fencing operation, I’m in.

  4. Its just ok, not amazing but in the long run it will be way better than whats there now. However I dont know why safeway would want to break up that whole block they own and sell it for residental. To me it just seems like to much is going on and will stick out like a sore thumb in the area.

  5. The current wide-open south parking lot is one of this store’s best features. It’s a breeze to get in and out of, unlike the horrible rat maze at the Lucky on Sloat. Turning this into a one-way-in and one-way-out is a huge downgrade, especially for folks living on La Playa and 48th. The north end of La Playa is always congested because of double-parking in front of the businesses there that have no parking. Combining that with requiring access via La Playa or 48th – not a great idea IMHO.

    I think the open-air parking from 48th Ave would be the more pleasant of the two, except when it’s raining. So I had hoped that the upper level parking would lead directly into the store. But this video makes it look like you have to take elevators or stairs down to the store. Bad elevator design was one thing that crippled the Albertsons at 32nd & Clement. I hope the Safeway elevators will share one call button, and move a lot faster. (At Albertsons you had to press one call button, dash about 30 feet to the call button for the other elevator. Then hope that one of them would work, and that you could race your cart to it before it closed and went back to the top level.) For a busy store like this Safeway, 3 elevators would be better than the 2 shown in the video.

    (There were many things that killed the 32nd Ave Albertsons. Chief among them was having about 90% too few checkers. This is one thing that the La Playa Safeway has always done well – plenty of open check stands, and very fast lines. Keep that up, and I’ll even put up with your new parking lots.)

    @Valerie V. – wasn’t the 7th ave between Fulton & Cabrillo a total tear-down and rebuild? And talk about bad parking! _That’s_ the store that needs a parking garage, and it wouldn’t kill anybody’s view.

    In any case, I too would vote for a rebuild of the building as it stands, rather than creating inconvenient parking lots. Or just moving the whole thing to the north end of the lot and having the one giant lot on the south end. But they didn’t ask me…

  6. I live a couple blocks away and just want to say BUILD THIS THING NOW. This Safeway is an outdated, run down embarrassment to the city. As mentioned above, great staff and everything, but I get depressed walking in that place.

    My sympathies to the folks on 48th that have to watch/hear construction, but with all those condos along La Playa, what kind of ocean view do they have? Are we talking about over the Safeway and through the gap? If so, the new one doesn’t look that much taller than the old.

    I walk to this Safeway and as a pedestrian I have to say there is a paradox of choice with that parking lot. Too many entrances and exits, and too many ways to get to them. Walking in the north parking lot you can count on being almost run over by people backing out of spaces or trying to decide whether to exit on 48th or Cabrillo, which is only a 2-way stop. Anything to separate peds from cars would be a vast improvement.

  7. MattyJ, I am with you about “build it already.
    But, I am sure it will take more than a year before the “go-ahead” is issued. In the current store, I usually get cagey and so much is always out of stock. Also NEVER go there until dusk on a warm and sunny day (I learned this in April, as a 2-year, Richmond newbie)–the parking lot is full of beach people and the line for the two toilets stretches almost into the dairy section.

    I went to the Safeway on 7th for the first time last night (the store is closer to my house, but last time I tried the lot was a mass of circling cars). Ahh, but at 8 PM it was great, not to mention it was better stocked than La Playa, even though smaller. I have made a note to go there during non-peak hours until La Playa becomes what it should be.

  8. I think that lot should remain as open as possible and definitely no other BS besides the grocery store, no more condos etc. the only good thing the place has going for it that differentiates from the entire rest of SF is that you can easily drive in and out. cram up the whole lot with condos and junk and you lose the whole point of the store. I have zero desire to have to drive into an underground parking lot to use that place and in fact I will not if that’s how it works out

  9. I will drive across town if it means not having to use a parking garage. Good thing we are walking distance. But Matt, you’re right about the the rebuild. Every time I see the 14 rolls of brown soggy paper towels sandbagging the aisles during the rainy season it breaks my heart just a little.

  10. Let’s get this done. From what I’ve red, the condo/townhouse element (which are not designed in the simulation…and hence look like plain block buildings in the simulation) is REQUIRED by the City as a condition for the remodel. Safeway is not in the housing business so they will sell (or lease) the north section of the land eventually to a developer. Hopefully, no section 8 type housing. We have enough on La Playa St. How about some family friendly 2 and 3 bedroom townhouses?

    The parking lot design is two level: partially enclosed and partially open air. Importantly, the Safeway truck unloading dock is located on the inside of the property which reduces noise for 48th Ave.

    The view restrictions really only affect about 5 homes on the south end and 5 homes on the north end of 48th Ave. It is too bad for them but Safeway actually revised the plans to lower the building height significantly to improve their remaining views.

    Landscaping improvements/planter boxes and view in windows are critical to avoid a too ‘urban’ walled-in feel. Regardless, the current open air view to the park afforded by the open air parking lot will be missed.

    All in all, though, the project definitely has my vote. The existing store is a dilapidated wreck and an embarrassment to Safeway’s brand. The remodeled store should be much better eventually if they do it right.

  11. The reason San Francisco housing is so expensive? People believe that a view for one family is more important than housing for two. Result? Nice views, exclusive, and very expensive. If that’s what you think is desirable…

  12. For those of you that do not remember, 32nd Avenue was a Safeway until Playland at the Beach was demolished, resulting in the Ocean Beach Safeway, condos, retail and Section 8. Seventh Avenue Safeway was originally police stables. If I remember correctly there was a Safeway at Fourth and Fulton before the Seventh Avenue location opened. Grocery stores have significantly expanded their product mix in the past 50 years, eliminating drug, variety and toy stores as well as news stands.

    I seldom enter Safeway any longer as I get most of my produce from a CSA farm and pick up my prepaid box once a week a couple blocks from home, get my meat at Andronico or Costco, my meds and OTC from Kaiser. as I have never driven (result of head injury from being run over while on sidewalk) garage placement is not that important to me. What is important is ease of access to Muni stops from all grocery stores. What the Richmond needs is a regular farmers’ market and an occasional food truck roundup. There is plenty of land on school district property, unused on weekends, that could serve these purposes well (and raise $ for the school).

  13. It’s an improvement over what’s there, but it is still a Safeway. Meh.

  14. This looks ok. It is fairly consistent with the other Safeway remodels they’ve been doing, and it’s not just about making the place “look nice inside.” They are trying to maximize their use of the space but do so without being jerks.

    The remodel in Burlingame was a tremendous success. Turned a broke-ass looking Safeway and some crappy old buildings out and replaced them with a better store, better use of space, and they even got a 5 Guys burger place!

    Also, the 7th avenue remodel was a virtual tear down, and a complete change in how the space is used. I’m sure people bitched about that too, but in the end it’s a LOT better (and the one I use most often).

  15. 4th Generation Richmond Districter, I agree that a farmer’s market and food truck roundup would be great, but did you go to Sunday Streets? One food truck. Tons of political action groups begging for signatures and getting in the way. It was a disaster. This section of the city just isn’t hip. That’s partially why I live here but I fear that any attempt at a farmer’s market would fail for lack of support/attendance. Food trucks would spend more on gas than they’d make selling food to us schlubs. Ha ha.

  16. In general, food trucks on school district property are frowned upon by the powers that be. On special event days, Lowell has to be extra stealthy about letting them on the parking lots.

  17. @4th Generation Richmond Districter – as of a couple months ago, there is a farmer’s market in the Outer Richmond every Wednesday 10am-2pm at the VA Medical Center (entrance at Clement and 42nd). I was thinking of starting one myself if this didn’t open. It’s a great little market and it’s so exciting to have it – please spread the word!

  18. Kind of a waste of a decently large lot, but ok I guess. Would be much better to see 8-10 stories of housing above a new store.

    Too much parking as well – we need more people in the neighborhood, not more car traffic.

  19. Ocean views from 48th Avenue? What views? Weren’t those views already cut off by the 4 story buildings between La Playa and Great Highway – built in the early 80’s?

  20. And before that, Playland at the Beach. Of course, we now live in a more enlightened age when such follies would not be tolerated (imagine trying to get a permit for a rollercoaster!).

  21. Rollercoasters are considered by most to be fun, therefore it would never fly in the city.

    I think the diving bell is under the current store. Maybe they could mark it with circle of paint in the new parking lot.

  22. They should bring some sort of carnival or fair out to ocean beach, it would give that whole depressing area some excitment.

  23. Can’t imagine anything worse. Is this a prison or a neighborhood supermarket?

  24. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put the entrance at the corner of La Playa and Fulton has never been to the corner of La Playa and Fulton when the gale force winds are blowing sand drifts up Fulton.

    On most days, Fulton is a natural wind tunnel. Just imagine the wind blowing through the store every time the door opens.

    Or imagine walking out of the doo,r groceries in hand, as the pressure suddenly changes from zero to blistering wind in your face…. and those two re-usable eco-conscious bags you are carrying in either hand, just turned into parachutes.

    This inattention to such a important detail makes me question what else was overlooked in favor of a snazzy video. Where are the solar panels?

  25. College Ave in Oakland is a major business corridor. Building something like that out in OB, what with the extra retail, would not work out. They’d have a lot of empty shops there. Just look at the row of businesses by the Burger King.

  26. The very early plans for the Ocean Beach Safeway redesign did have retail stores on the Fulton Street side but they didn’t remain in the plan. As it is currently, there is retail space (for 1 store) below the condos which will be on the north end.

    Sarah B.

  27. I live a few blocks away. As it is currently I feel like I’m stepping into the Eastern Bloc every time I walk onto that property. So I’m for a new Safeway that would add some vitalization to the area. I’m also for more pedestrian traffic around here.

    Nonetheless the new Safeway building design is quite dated. It’s design reminds me of stores that were being remodeled in the late 90’s. It looks like it has been copied and pasted from a strip mall in Southern California.

    This massive property is across the street from the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Park, two or our most highly valued spaces within Public Trust of the city, county and state. Any redevelopment of this space, both architecturally and plan-wise, should be respectful and sensitive to the history, environment, and vernacular of the nearby spaces. I would suggest allowing this project to come under the California Coastal Commission planning jurisdiction if San Francisco allows it to move forward.

    The Parks visitor center up above the Cliff House did a great job of tying their building into the existing landscape and treading lightly. With the right authority and supervision in place, the new Safeway has a great opportunity to make this a fabulous model project. Such a project could redeem their brand and perhaps recover the exodus of folks who now patronize Whole foods, Adronicos, Trader Joes, etc.) and to boot, help out the Richmond district.

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