Rodney Hoffer says Safeway is more concerned about the look of its proposed megastore than local residents’ concerns. (Chip Scheuer)
If Safeway goes through with plans to nearly double its Aptos store’s size, Rodney Hoffer says the possible megamarket-to-be would look “real nice.”
The most recent sketches show brown wooden timbers and stilts to give the one-stop shopping destination somewhat of a mountain-cabin atmosphere.
“At least it’s it not going to look like a box like the one on 41st Avenue,” says Hoffer, owner of Ace Hardware, currently in the Rancho Del Mar complex, which Safeway bought this year.
But that’s where Hoffer’s support for the supermarket expansion, which would probably displace 14 businesses like his, ends.
“As far as whether or not they’re listening to residents of Aptos about if they would rather have the huge Safeway or the 14 businesses here, they’re not doing that at all,” Hoffer says.
Hoffer says, in public meeting after public meeting, Safeway has listened carefully to concerns about how the store might look. But he believes larger concerns—like whether or not Aptos is even ready for a massive Safeway overhaul in the first place—have fallen on deaf ears.
The current plans, which would expand the store from about 35,000 square feet to 59,000, would force several established businesses to either move or shut down—including Ace, Aptos Theater, an Erik’s Deli Café and eventually the Windjammer, a local dive bar, too.
Hoffer of Ace Hardware and Lindsey Bryant, owner of the Erik’s Deli, have questions about the future. They want to know when they’ll have to move their shops, and to where.
Charlie Eadie, who’s gathering input for the project on behalf of Safeway, has one cautionary message for anyone trying to put the produce cart before the horse—slow down.
“People are saying, ‘We want an answer right now,’” says Eadie, a land-use consultant for Hamilton Swift & Associates. “There isn’t an answer right now, and it isn’t fair to expect one. It’s premature, because there’s work to be done.”
Last month, the county board of supervisors approved a six-month study into the impacts of possible Aptos developments like the mega-Safeway. After the study’s done, Safeway could start a pre-application process and, after that, a permitting process through the planning department. It’s unlikely that ground would be broken in less than 18 months.
County super Ellen Pirie, who’s been vocal in her opposition to the project, says traffic will probably be issue number one in terms of things the county board of supes can control.
“Traffic is on our plate,” says Pirie, whose term wraps up in January. Her successor Zach Friend also has concerns about the project’s scope. “Some of the other things, like the loss of local businesses for instance, are not [areas where] the county can force Safeway to do something in particular.”
Bryant of Erik’s Deli doesn’t know what would happen to her restaurant during the nine-plus months that the retail area would be under construction. It’s possible, for example, the café would be able to move to another spot in the same lot, either temporarily or permanently. Bryant and her husband could also search for a vacancy elsewhere in the county, or just wait for construction at Rancho Del Mar to finish altogether.
To help counsel businesses on such decisions, Safeway has given Cabrillo College a $50,000 grant, perhaps not a huge chunk of change for the nation’s 11th largest retailer.
Still, Safeway representative Eadie says the overall project, if finished, would revitalize the area and make the complex a much better place for small retailers. “This is really about an opportunity for the businesses to come back,” Eadie says. “And that’s what’s being missed right now in the discussion.”
For Bryant, what’s most important is what will happen to her business if and when construction starts.
“We didn’t exactly have a five-year plan,” Bryant says. “We had a 30-year plan. It gets difficult.”
Safeway is currently seeking project feedback at http://ranchodelmarcenter.com.