OAKLAND -- Opposition is mounting against a proposed BevMo store on Piedmont Avenue as nearby residents and neighborhood associations rally against the project, claiming the retailer will bring a slough of problems to the area.
BevMo filed an application to move into the former Blockbuster storefront at 3868 Piedmont Ave., but the Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League and the Piedmont Avenue Merchants Association claim the store will be a bad fit. Residents and business owners spoke out against the project at three community meetings and a petition gathered several thousand signatures.
"This isn't an auto-oriented shopping district," said PANEL organizer Valerie Winemiller, who is concerned the addition will mar the neighborhood's "quirky and individual" vibe and take business away from nearby retailers, such as CVS, a bar and two wine stores, which are within a 1,000-foot radius of the proposed site.
"Small business has been a lot of Oakland's job growth and a lot of our sales tax and they've been really loyal," said Winemiller, adding that the area is already "oversaturated" with liquor licenses.
Letters of opposition have been submitted by a church, day-care center and two senior citizen facilities also located within 1,000 feet of the proposed location.
But according to Greg Endom, vice president of real estate and construction for BevMo, the company has a "stellar" record of compliance with all alcohol-related
Parking on Piedmont Avenue is another point of contention. According to Endom, three to five BevMo employees would be working at one time to serve approximately 200 customers daily.
"We've looked at our similarly sized stores in similar communities and we see on the low end about 20 customers an hour coming to the store," he said. "That increases at different times during the week and certainly on weekends."
While the parking lot at the proposed location only has 11 slots, Endom does not anticipate any issues, saying that he expects some customers and employees will walk, bike or take public transit, adding that the lots belonging to the nearby Kaiser Permanente can be used by everyone during weekends.
According to Endom, the decision to apply for the Piedmont Avenue lot was solidified by both client need and location. After reviewing data from the retailer's loyalty program, it was discovered that nearby residents drove to other cities such as Orinda to shop at BevMo. The chain currently has only one store in Oakland, located in Jack London Square.
"We want to locate on Piedmont Avenue because there's already an established shopping clientele that is coming to that street," Endom said. "They then park once and shop twice."
But opponents like Ronile Lahti, a lifelong Piedmont Avenue neighborhood resident and member of both PANEL and the Piedmont Avenue Merchants Association, are not convinced by the data.
"I don't think they did a survey, I don't think they have a clue," Lahti said. "They've saturated the stores in the suburbs and strip malls, and now they're looking for places in urban centers."
While concerns have been raised about whether nearby businesses offering similar products can compete, Endom said BevMo's intent is merely to offer a wide selection.
"The customer will decide where they will shop and how often," he said.
The proposal is on the consent calendar of the Oakland Planning Commission's Sept. 19 meeting. Because BevMo would violate several existing codes in the area, the commission has added several Conditional Use Permits, as well three variances to the approval of the project.