I can think of no place worse in town to create a car-centric retail center than the intersection of . But this seems to be the driving force behind some of our city officials development plans. They seem to be pushing for retail at this intersection and want a Safeway at Sycamore Crossings and other retail at Market Hall. There are better choices.
The sad fact about Sycamore Crossings is that while we wait on Safeway and the deed restriction to go away, there may be a potential buyer waiting in the wings. A developer has stated publicly that they are interested in the front two acres on Sycamore. In a conversation with this developer they have also expressed an interest in the entire parcel. The city manager knows this, but apparently the council does not. Or, at least our city manager keeps claiming "there are no other offers".
It appears to me that the desire by some of our city officials to have a Safeway in town outweighs their concerns of paying off the debt. If they really have concerns over the debt they could quickly approach this developer for a deal that would in all likelihood not conflict with the Central Plan or run afoul of the deed restriction that prevents a grocery store from being built there in the first place. The proceeds from this would also buy the city time to investigate better offers for . During this timeframe the ITC may well begin construction which could create the momentum that would encourage other developers to step up. The ITC will be the catalyst that brings interest in mixed use or retail on Parcel C, again not conflicting with the General Plan and the current zoning.
Some on the council have stated that not only do they want a Safeway, but they want Safeway so we can get a gas station. A gas station could easily be built on the front corner of Sycamore Crossings at San Pablo. It would have less impact on an EIR than the gas station location being considered by Safeway, which is most probably at the corner of San Pablo and Tsushima, a residential street. Having a gas station at either location has not yet been studied.
The main issue though is that the city manager seems to have the idea that the center of commercial and retail needs to be the crossroads of San Pablo and Sycamore. That area could be used for mixed-use and possible office space. But to make it the epicenter of retail would create traffic nightmares at that intersection. The people that really should be fighting this idea are the people that live up in the hills, as well as the fire department, and the police. They all must use that intersection to access the highway, the waterfront (someday), and the rest of town.
The already terrible traffic at this location will become far worse. This would also serve the waterfront poorly because Sycamore is a two lane residential road from San Pablo all the way to Railroad. To put the center of commerce at the head of this road and then complete Bayfront would create more traffic flow along Sycamore, which is primarily a residential road. It would become the main corridor to Bayfront and the ITC. Clearly this was never the plan. The road is not built for this. There are parks and homes along the way. In fact the city will be building a bus loop road over Refugio Creek at Bayfront to connect to John Muir Extension to avoid this very problem.
John Muir extension is a four lane road that is ready to handle the traffic. It accesses Highway 4 and I-80 in the shortest possible manner. It is the corridor to the future Bayfront Historic Waterfront Downtown. It is also the closest access to the eventual ITC and bus loop. That is the location that traffic created by retail and commercial should be guided towards, not Sycamore and San Pablo.