Business & Real Estate

Controversial Safeway to open, minus this one notable customer service

In an ironic twist, Safeway supermarket chain officials announced this week they plan to open a store in the Crocker Village neighborhood of Sacramento this March – but without the gas station they long insisted they needed to make the store viable.

The store would anchor a retail district at the southern corner of the 72-acre housing and commercial village near Sutterville Road.

“We’re excited to open a new Safeway in Crocker Village,” Brad Street, the company’s Northern California president, said in a press statement. “This is an ideal location being centrally located and close to downtown Sacramento. We look forward to being part of the neighborhood and welcoming residents to our new store.”

Paul Petrovich, the developer of the Crocker Village project, said in a news release the planned Safeway would be one of six anchor tenants at the site. The project ultimately will include 30 retailers, eateries and services, he said, making it the fifth largest shopping center in the city. A Pets Supplies Plus store will open next.

“The new development represents a spectacular next step for Sacramento’s second largest infill project,” Petrovich said.

The Safeway supermarket has been the center of an ongoing legal battle between the Crocker Village builder — Petrovich Development Co. — and the city of Sacramento over the proposed gas station.

Petrovich requested a permit in 2015 to build a 16-pump gas station at the site, telling the city Safeway would only sign a deal to locate there if it were allowed to include the station. The city rejected the request and Petrovich sued.

A Sacramento Superior Court judge last year invalidated the city’s refusal, saying the city council’s 2015 vote was tainted by prejudice against Petrovich, notably from local council representative Jay Schenirer. The judge ordered the city to revisit the Petrovich request, essentially to reconvene the permit hearing and vote again, with Schenirer ordered to abstain from voting.

The city instead appealed that ruling in the California 3rd District appellate court. The case is pending. A second lawsuit by Petrovich against the city for damages is pending in Sacramento Superior Court.

Petrovich, in his news release, said he remains hopeful he will prevail in the court fights, and be able to add the fuel station to the site later.

He said he was required to renegotiate his deal with Safeway to make the supermarket chain comfortable opening a store without the station – which was opposed by many residents in the surrounding area.

“I had to decide whether to walk away and let the activists win or make a significant financial and economic concession totaling millions of dollars to Safeway to get them comfortable with moving forward without the fuel station for now,” Petrovich wrote.

Petrovich said his rewritten lease with Safeway gives the chain “the ability to close their store if the fuel center is ultimately denied. That would be a sad day for the community and me after all this effort and investment when the City has never denied a gas station in its entire history and to do so illegally.”

City Councilman Jay Schenirer said he welcomes Safeway’s arrival.

“I’m happy to see the commercial (section) is moving forward including a Safeway,” he said. “The whole neighborhood has been watching and waiting. It will be good for the neighborhood. I’m happy to sit down with Safeway and talk with them about how they can be a good neighbor.”

Andi Liebenbaum, president of the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association, which fought against the gas station, said she is delighted Safeway is coming in after all. She declined comment on the gas station legal fight.

“We think it’s great to have a supermarket in the neighborhood,” she said. “We’re looking forward to being helpful in Safeway’s success.”

Safeway had planned to hire 200 people from the nearby Oak Park neighborhood, Petrovich said. But, because the gas station is not included, the supermarket now plans to hire about half that amount. Petrovich blamed that on “the economic realities of not being able to sell fuel.”

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