Planning Board okays design for gateway In-N-Out

Planning Board okays design for gateway In-N-Out

Michele Ellson

A Safeway gas station to be built near the Posey Tube will mimic its Art Deco design. Rendering courtesy of Catellus.

Monday’s Planning Board hearing on the design of new buildings that will house an In-N-Out Burger, Chase bank branch and Safeway gas station near the foot of the Webster Tube didn’t pack City Hall with residents who lined up to air concerns about crime and traffic the way an earlier discussion about drive-through lanes for the restaurant and bank branch did.

But while the cast of characters who participated in Monday’s discussion may have been smaller, the nearly two-hour conversation about the buildings’ design and other issues was wide-ranging.

The board signed off on a proposal that would see construction of a Safeway gas station designed in an Art Deco style that mimics the entrance to the Posey Tube, a classical brick building to house the bank branch and an In-N-Out designed in the style of old Spanish missions, with proposed tweaks to be worked out with planning staff. Board members said they thought the new plans featuring designs that are similar to some of the Island's historic structures offered a big improvement over the more standard designs they originally saw.

“I think it’s a giant step in the right direction, and a tribute to Alameda’s heritage,” the Planning Board’s vice president, Mike Henneberry, said of the design of the Chase branch.

The board has already signed off on late hours for In-N-Out and drive-through lanes for the restaurant and the Chase bank branch - decisions which weren't appealed despite controversy over the restaurant's location.

A pair of signs welcoming visitors to Alameda and to the Alameda Landing development the project discussed Monday is a part of garnered nods of approval from board members, some of whom had earlier expressed concerns that the Landing sign was too big.

The gas station also garnered good reviews from the board, though one speaker – an architect who chairs the West Alameda Business Association’s design committee – said he favored an earlier Streamline Moderne design that would be more reminiscent of the Alameda Naval Air Station.

The design of the Chase building prompted more suggestions from board members, particularly president David Burton and member Kristoffer Köster, both of whom are architects. But the biggest discussion centered around the In-N-Out – a discussion that extended well beyond the hamburger restaurant’s design, though Burton did offer a sketch detailing changes he might like to see made.

Burton passed along questions from members of Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda, another group he heads, about whether In-N-Out will compost food scraps and also, if they would consider installing air scrubbers that would pull any noxious odors the restaurant might generate from the air. (A staffer said composting will be mandatory by July of next year.) Board member Dania Alvarez Morroni passed along a concern from a resident who wondered whether a 42-foot tower topped with an In-N-Out weather vane might infringe on airplanes’ flight path.

While most of the architects assembled to answer questions about their plans for the site took the questions and suggestions in stride, one architect who worked on the Chase building expressed frustration about a host of changes board members and one resident who is himself a former city planner suggested Monday.

“I think it’s good where it’s at. And we tried really hard,” the architect said. “Chase paid us a lot of money to redesign this thing. And I hate to see it go in the opposite direction.”

Separately, the board denied Safeway’s request for permission to sell beer and wine at their future gas station, saying alcohol sales aren’t a good fit for the site and that an approval would be inconsistent with the board’s prior denial of a request to sell alcohol from another Webster Street gas station.

An attorney working for Safeway said the grocery chain would be willing to halt alcohol sales at 10 p.m., forego sales of single-serve containers and accept a condition allowing the Planning Board to review their permit to sell alcohol at the gas station at any time.

But board members – who denied a similar request to allow alcohol sales at another gas station on Webster Street last year due to what they see as an overabundance of outlets there – said they needed to be consistent in their decision making.

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, Aug 27, 2013

If planes are flying at 42' elevation over Webster, several miles from OAK, we have much bigger problems than that tower.

I like the art deco Safeway station. Good job.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, Aug 27, 2013

The bulky proportions of that gas station roof make it look like it's collapse is imminent.

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