HERCULES -- The recent buy-out of grocery store giant Safeway will not impact the new store the company wants to locate here, a store representative told the Hercules City Council.
"We are still committed to this project," Tom Fitzpatrick told the council during a meeting Tuesday. In fact, Fitzpatrick said he is already looking for and working to recruit tenants for the property.
The council unanimously approved a resolution to begin the sales process for the property. After completing all the necessary reviews and documentation, the company hopes to begin construction on the site before the end of the year, Fitzpatrick said.
The company wants to develop a grocery store, gas station, shops and restaurants on the 11.44-acre, bullet-shaped site bounded by Sycamore Avenue, San Pablo Avenue and Tsushima Street. Because of a deed restriction on most of the tract, the grocery store would be restricted to a 3.2-acre portion, necessitating a design with rooftop parking, Safeway has said.
Vice Mayor Sherry McCoy had questioned whether the project would continue in light of last week's news about the Safeway sale but was reassured.
On March 6, Cerberus Capital Management announced that it is purchasing Safeway stores for $9.4 billion and will merge the stores with Albertsons, which still has stores in Southern California and other states, to create a grocery conglomerate of 2,400 stores and 27 distribution facilities. The deal is expected to be finalized in the fourth quarter of this year.
The Hercules Safeway proposal will need to go before the city Planning Commission and would be subject to California Environmental Quality Act review, the city's form-based design code and possible zoning restrictions.
In October, after about seven years of on-again, off-again negotiations, Safeway and the city agreed on a price of $5 million, minus costs, capped at $3 million, to underground utilities and remove more than 100,000 cubic feet of dirt stockpiled on the property.
The sale proceeds, which would be $2 million at minimum, will not go to the city's general fund but instead toward paying off its vast redevelopment debt, which stands at more than $300 million.
Also Tuesday, the City Council postponed a public hearing on whether to ban plastic carryout bags and recyclable paper bags to promote reusable bags within the city similar to several cities within the Bay Area. The council asked city staff to research detailed information regarding enforcement issues surrounding the potential ban and to bring the issue back for the council's next meeting. But, because several residents attended the meeting to speak on the issue, the council held the public portion of the public hearing to allow comments.
Resident Selina Williams urged support of the ban and encouraged the council to go further and consider a ban on all single-use containers. She provided statistics on how plastics and single-use containers can end up in rivers and streams, then are eaten by fish and wildlife.
"It's likely we are ingesting plastic every time we eat fish," she said.
Hercules resident Ernest Wheeler urged caution and agreed that the council should wait for city staff to get detailed inspection and enforcement information. Wheeler said reusable bags sometimes aren't cleaned properly and can lead to grocery store counters contaminated with bacteria.
The council will re-open the public hearing at its next meeting scheduled for March 25.