WALNUT CREEK -- After hours of public comment on a controversial proposed Safeway retail project at Oak Grove and Ygnacio Valley roads, the City Council decided to approve the environmental report, but didn't give full approval.

Instead, the City Council will make a final decision on the general plan amendment and zoning change for The Orchards -- and the accompanying removal of 200 trees -- at its next meeting, at 7 p.m. June 17.

This is all part of a three-year effort by grocery giant Safeway, which has proposed a 195,000-square-foot mixed-use center, including 200 units of senior housing, open space and amphitheater on 25 acres in the Shadelands Business Park.

This highly controversial project was picked apart by both supporters and opponents Tuesday night, when around 50 people spoke on everything from trees to traffic.

The City Council didn't address neighbors' concerns, or give their own opinions on the project. Instead, council members dwelled on relatively small issues with the plan, such as including legal language that requires vehicle charging stations and allowing an urban winery on the property. No such wine facility has been proposed for The Orchards, however.

Mayor Kristina Lawson said that because of the new additions to the plan, the council shouldn't make a decision until all documents are in place. Because the public hearing was closed Tuesday, only council comments and a decision will be made June 17.


Advertisement

The council did approve the environmental impact report, which deals with some of the project's most controversial issues, without discussing why, or whether they in fact support the project. Councilwoman Cindy Silva pointed out that making revisions to the plan shows support.

"I have a little concern that we are kicking this to the next meeting, but we actually haven't said if the majority of us are willing to approve this," Silva said. "It feels like there is an assumption that we are moving forward ... that's what it feels like to me."

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.