RICHMOND -- Richmond and El Cerrito residents who were opposing the possibility of a 24-hour Walmart store moving into a long empty retail building on San Pablo Avenue are expressing relief that the building's owner has revealed plans to open a Grocery Outlet in the space instead.
Grocery Outlet, a discount grocery and liquor chain, would operate from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the former Albertson's store on the border between the two cities, according to Kieron Slaughter, a Richmond associate planner.
Most of the property is in Richmond except for a slice of the parking lot, which is in El Cerrito. The Albertson's store closed about eight years ago.
Richmond has received an application for a beer and wine license for the store that the planning commission will review, most likely at its Dec. 6 meeting, Slaughter said.
The Grocery Outlet will take up 19,999 square feet of the 32,000-square-foot space. The store won't need a permit to sell groceries as it uses less than 20,000 square feet, which would make it an approved use under the city's planning and zoning ordinance, Slaughter said.
About 640 square feet of the space would be used for beer and wine sales, but not hard liquor sales, if the planning commission approves, Slaughter said.
The other 12,000 square feet of the building could be filled by a variety of businesses identified as permitted uses, including an auto-parts store, a furniture store or a pharmacy, he said.
Neighbors rallied against using the space for a Walmart when longtime property owner Antonio Carrico petitioned the planning commission for a conditional use permit for a supermarket last spring.
The planning commission requested more environmental review on the project in June, Slaughter said.
"At that time, the applicant chose not to pursue the application," he said.
Carrico, a longtime El Cerrito resident and owner of the former Hacienda Restaurant in the property, died in June and a trustee is managing his affairs.
Henry Englehardt, the leasing agent for the property, did not return calls seeking comment.
Barbara Bennett, a member of the El Cerrito-based Macdonald Gateway Collaboration Group that opposed a Walmart, said she would be happy with a Grocery Outlet.
The Berkeley-based chain also has stores in Pinole and San Pablo, with about 70 stores statewide with beer and wine sales.
"They're not going to stay open all hours, they'll be no hard liquor, and they're not going to allow pickups of items purchased online at all hours of the day," said Bennett, who lives a couple of blocks away from the property.
Bennett said she's hoping that CVS or another pharmacy operator will lease the rest of the space. Many neighborhood residents don't own cars and would welcome another grocery store option they could walk to, she said.
"CVS might be the other tenant and that would really be terrific because then we would have a grocery store and a pharmacy in the same location," she said.