Latest updates on La Playa Safeway remodel; targeting completion in 2017

Rendering of the new Safeway entrance at La Playa and Fulton

At Wednesday night’s general meeting of the Planning Association for the Richmond (PAR), Safeway Real Estate Manager Natalie Mattei was in attendance to provide updates on the remodel project for the Safeway store located at Fulton and La Playa near Ocean Beach.

The planned remodel, which will expand the store’s footprint from its current 40,000 square feet to nearly 59,000, has been underway for several years. The project is currently in its environmental review phase, and expects to be in front of the Planning Commission for final approval by the end of 2014.

In addition to a completely new store, the remodel will also include 40-45 residential units on the north end of the property along Cabrillo and La Playa.

Mattei says the original plan was to keep the store open during construction, however the new design may make that more difficult than originally anticipated. The new design includes an underground loading dock, which during construction would require that the store entrance and temporary loading dock be one and the same, posing potential safety issues.

If Safeway closes the store during construction, the store could open sooner than anticipated by speeding up construction by 6-7 months. With a store shutdown, construction would last about 15 months.

If the store were to close, the closest supermarkets for outer Richmond residents would be Fresh & Easy on 32nd and Clement, Grocery Outlet on 28th and Geary, and Safeway at 7th Avenue and Cabrillo. Mattei said they are still debating whether to close the store during the remodel and have not reached a decision.

Part of the environmental phase of the project includes a traffic study. Mattei says cameras were placed around the current parking lots to measure “poaching”, or when non-shoppers take up parking lot spaces. Results showed that on the weekends, 30-40% of the 215 parking spaces were taken by poachers which could be beach-goers, residents, or visitors to nearby homes or Golden Gate Park.

As a result, Mattei says they are considering a gate setup where shoppers would take a parking card on entry which they could validate in store for free exit. Safeway would provide up to 2 hours of free parking to customers. In the new design, there will be a two level parking structure with space for 200 cars.

As has been the plan since the beginning, Safeway will sell off some of the square block that they own for the development of residential units, mainly along the north end on Cabrillo and La Playa.

Right now Mattei estimates that 40 to 45 units will be built and include studios (450 sq. ft), 1 bedrooms (680 sq. ft.) or 2 bedrooms (850 sq. ft.). Some units will have balconies and parking.

Safeway does not develop residential real estate so they will put out the parcels for bid to developers for the project. Mattei estimates that the residential units will begin construction once the new store is re-opened.

Mattei said the current recycling unit will be removed from the new Safeway, due to limitations in the design that will not accommodate the type of truck that is used for pickup. She also said that a coffee and a banking subtenant are likely to be part of the new store.

Currently Safeway partners with Starbucks and US Bank or Wells Fargo, but says partnership deals change periodically. So by the time the store is slated to open in 2017, they may be different companies.

Currently there are two Muni stops on La Playa – one at the corner of Fulton, and another at the corner of La Playa and Cabrillo. The latter stop overlaps with a parking lot entrance to the new residential units, so project planners are likely to ask the SFMTA to reduce the Muni stops to just one on La Playa, in front of the store’s main entrance at Fulton.

Mattei expects the project to be in front of the SF Planning Commission by the end of 2014 for review and hopefully a speedy approval. Assuming that goes well, the project would go out for bid and permit applications would be filed, which would take another 12 months. At the earliest, construction would begin in 2016, slating the re-opening for sometime in 2017.

For more information and the latest updates on the Safeway La Playa remodel, visit the project website at safewayonlaplayasf.com. You can also download the latest drawings here.

Sarah B.

Rendering of the new Safeway from Fulton Street

Plans showing the layout of the new Safeway which includes the store (pink), 200 parking spaces, and residential units (yellow).


  1. The video on the proposed Safeway is very helpful to understand the plans. The residential units will hide the parking structure. The store seems like it will be a short but the whole project still looks kind of monolithic. I like the idea that they’ll be digging down a little to reduce the overall height of the project. Using a variety of fronts on the street-facing store walls is also a good idea. I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about the project but it does seem to be a reasonable approach.

  2. The drawing shows Fulton and Cabrillo streets both labeled as “avenues.”


  3. Very nice. That looks like a really good use of the total area. More retail, a better Safeway and extra residential units makes great use of that area. And glad they are removing the recycling center away.

  4. I’ve noticed that Safeway has not allowed recycling in their parking lots any more after they remodeled their buildings. That is a shame since homeless people as well as other people have no where to bring their recycling. I know the scavengers are a nuisance, but that is their livelihood. For me I have a car, but I have to travel far to bring my recycled bottles.

  5. I’ll sort of miss the classic 1960’s architecture of the existing store with such an abundance of open parking. In over 20 years of going to the store I’ve never had any issue parking there. I think the existing parking arrangement is one of the primary attractions of the present store. It’s the one grocery store I can go to without concern for parking. A double decker parking structure seems like a lot of parking but some will be used by the residential units. With a more attractive store of course more customers will come and parking will get a lot tighter, it might end being a “Costco” type parking experience here in our hood.

  6. I am so excited about this! I have been waiting to hear about the progress for this project and am very happy that it is moving forward. This is a smart redevelopment of a very large and rare open space in the Avenues. It uses the space wisely and contributes to the neighborhood in more housing and retail. The current open parking lot does not use the space optimally and contributes in attracting garbage and loitering. Having the residential buildings hide the parking lot is a smart move that will give a more neighborly feel. Although this might feel like a large project, This squeezes in all the needs of a modern grocery store and amenities (parking, other retail, housing) that is completely lacking in the Avenues and would serve us well. The underground loading dock is a great idea and will hopefully hide the trucks out of sight. I strongly hope that they implement the gate parking idea.

  7. They had a parking gate system initially at the Lucky Store (or whatever it was when it opened) when it opened at Masonic and Fulton. You always had to remember to get your parking ticket validated to exit. Once in awhile the gate didn’t work right and someone from the store had to come out and reset it or manually handle the exit tickets. Of course every once in awhile someone just tore off the exit gate board so that simplified things for a few days till it got replaced. They don’t use the gate system anymore and just have signs to discourage parking over the 2 hour limit. When I go to the Safeway on 7th Avenue early in the morning I’m usually surprised by the number of cars in the lot versus number of people in the store so I’m sure there’s some parking poaching going on there. I’m just saying that all the open space at Safeway Ocean Beach makes for very delightful parking arrangements which I[m sure many will miss.

  8. Local residents need a place to take their recyclables. We all pay a deposit for our bottles and cans – we have a right to get our money back from the places we buy them from. It’s a shame that Safeway is not doing more to help local residents who shop at Safeway.

  9. Eliminating recycling units will not solve the “problem”. The elderly, scavengers, and homeless people will always find value in things WE PAY for – remember, we all pay a deposit on every bottle and can we purchase. Not everyone can afford to have a garbage company take care of redeeming their deposits for them. Reducing the recycling units will only push these people to go to other pockets of the city and move the “problem” elsewhere. The real solution is to add more recycling units across the city so there are more opportunities for everyone to recycle everywhere, instead of huddle around one unit.

  10. 7th Avenue Safeway has had a reverse vending machine to handle recyclables for years now, the same will likely happen with Ocean Beach once it is remodeled. Many renters who are not directly receiving bills from Recology because garbage collection is included in rent appear to be unaware of the laws of San Francisco. The contents of the blue bins are property of Recology and the money they make recycling is applied to rates. Removal from the blue bins is one of many crimes that is not enforced due to policies made by the appointed Police Commission. Due to the proliferation of theft of recyclables, we all pay more now.

    What needs to be changed is the California CRV tax as this has encouraged a huge illicit trade of cans and bottles coming in state from neighboring states for the extra payout. That tax was enacted when recycling was only done by “hippies”. I miss the old days when beverages came only in glass bottles which could be returned to any store for a nickel, but that comes with a huge water cost for cleaning and reusing the bottles as well as a large carbon impact trucking empties around.

    As to paper and glass recycling, Recology is supposed to have an exclusive on that but I have seen many bars and restaurants on Geary doing business with the mosquito fleet of overloaded pickup trucks in the early morning. Again, no enforcement.

    There wasn’t much theft of residential recycling until the closure of many of the garment manufacturing sweatshops in the late 1980s eliminated employment for low skilled immigrants who found themselves competing with other recently arrived low skilled immigrants.

  11. Being a resident of the Outer Richmond , I welcome the larger Safeway though not looking forward to the new parking structure ,

    But if it gets the new Safeway built then its of little issue for me to shop some where else for my card deals during the construction period if needed.

  12. Does anyone know if the richmond will get any higher end grocery shopping g like whole foods or mollie stone? Fresh and easy is very generic and some of the small markets I’ve been to in central richmond is not so fresh

  13. 2017!?!?!? This is so much BS just to build a decent grocery store.

  14. Looking forward to the new store and I don’t mind if it’s closed during the duration.

  15. Hey, M, have you tried Andronico’s? Sure, it’s in the Sunset but it’s easy to get to. I wouldn’t say it’s as high end as Whole Foods. It’s kinda like a regular grocery store but with better stuff.

    My only reservation with the new store design is that I walk to this Safeway from the East and this will likely cause me to have to walk about 30 extra feet to get to the front door. NOOOOOOO!

  16. 1. I tried to use the 7th Ave. Safeway reverse vending machine. Apparently, it turns itself off at, like, 5pm every day. So forget about it if you have a job, or anything like that.

    2. If anyone complains about high housing costs in the city, just point out this project, where the citizens clearly decided that having a structure half as tall as the one across the street was a more important goal than having any additional housing.

  17. Shut the store down temporarily if it gets the project done quicker. Glad they are getting rid of, or reconfiguring, the parking lot recycling center. There are enough sketchy folks hanging out in western GG Park. No need for another magnet on the west side.Especially now that the Haight area of the park is closing down their recycling centers.

    Good design overall. I hope there is lots of landscaping on La Playa St. With two tall sets of buildings on each side of the street, and very small setbacks from the curb, we could have a concrete/urban canyon effect if they don’t.

    I would have like to see a restaurant/bar space in the package, rather than just a single retail store.

  18. Has anybody at PAR discussed road safety, given the potentially higher traffic volume? There is already a need for a stop sign or yield for pedestrians sign at the junction of La Playa and Cabrillo. There is high foot traffic crossing La Playa from the Safeway to the beach or inbound bus stop. With Safeway parking traffic and buses heading to the end of the line, it’s already dangerous. It seems that, depending on the placement of parking entrance/exit, this redesign may exacerbate the issue. Anybody know how to lobby for a stop sign?

  19. I have lived in San Francisco all my life, travelled overseas, visited other states, but I am always happy to return to SF. I know change is inevitable but is it always a good thing? Especially with such a massive project? Once Safeway/Nor Albertsons? completes their half of the project, what guarantee do the San Franciscans have that the developer buying the other half of the lot won’t have ideas of a NYC type of apartment complex and who would care not for the people living in the neighborhood and San Franciscans in general. Next thing you know our beloved Balboa theater with it’s old time charm, will be torn down to make way for a Metreon type theater.

    With a new apartment complex plans for a future developer, this will also dramatically affect parking availability, less parking for residents now who may not have a garage, and the safety issue that was brought also by Jon, a previous comment. As a neighborhood resident I really do not look forward to all the months of noise during reconstruction and the fear of loss to mom and pop grocery stores and small restaurants. My kids grew up in this quiet, safe, neighborhood. I think it’s sad that according to Mattei, Safeway representative claims SF Supervisors forced Safeway to agree to sell half of the lot to a housing developer in order for Safeway to even own the whole block.

    More people equals more cars equals congestion plus more chance of accidents and even road rage. Just saying…

  20. @Regina It’s already a grocery store, so I don’t think it’ll be attracting more traffic. There isn’t much traffic on the north side of the store, anyway, it’s already mostly relegated to Fulton. I think the new design has the parking structure entrance on La Playa, but tons of people turn and go in that way, anyway.

    The Balboa Theater is not up for sale. It’s owned by the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, so there is little to know risk of them selling out. If they did, it wouldn’t be to AMC or any other big chain. They have no interest in movie houses in the avenues. I’d be more concerned about condo developers.

    I have a car I park in the street within a few blocks of this store, and it’s rarely a problem to find street parking within a block or two of my house. If you wait for Hakka to close in the evening there’s plenty of parking. Plus, I shouldn’t really be driving a car in SF and I gladly take on the occasional frustration of finding parking in exchange for the privilege of owning a car. I try not to be entitled about it.

    Do anyway, that Safeway is a dump and most people that shop there agree that change is good in this case. People are clamoring to live in San Francisco and the city should do all it can to accommodate within reason. We should welcome people that want to live in our world class city.

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