Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Tenleytown and Georgetown Safeways

Take that, Whole Foods. Thursday was a big night for Safeway in northwest DC, with the group announcing that the Georgetown store would seek LEED certification, meanwhile the plan for the Tenleytown location continues its review by the ANC.

The Georgetown "social" Safeway, at 1855 Wisconsin Ave, NW, is expected to complete this May the replacement for the store demolished in April of 2009. Safeway will submit their Torti Gallas-designed building for review by the U.S. Green Building Council, expecting LEED certification for the final product.

Up the hill, the ANC continues to review a similar plan for the Tenleytown Safeway at 4203 Davenport St., but not without much heated debate. The zoning change for the Tenleytown store is set to go before the Zoning Commission on January 14th of the new year. The new design involves a two story building replacing the squat, windowless monolith that now presents its backside to Wisconsin Avenue.

Assuming PUD approval, renovation of the Tenleytown store will not start until the Georgetown Safeway is completed to avoid closing two nearby stores simultaneously.

The two buildings are Safeway's salvo in the supermarket wars; Safeway has been on a binge of renovating and rebuilding its stores to respond to increasing competition among grocers. Whole Foods will answer when it opens its next DC-area store this summer, just five blocks up the street, and Giant will open its flagship on Wisconsin Avenue in 2011, but Harris Teeter seems to have been elbowed out of the Wisconsin Avenue scrum.

Correction: In the original report DCMud indicated the Tenleytown store had received ANC approval. It was brought to our attention by the ANC this was not the case. There was a miscommunication between our staff and the source of the story. We apologize for the mistake.


Jonathan Bender said...

I am the Chair of ANC 3E and the commissioner whose district encompasses the Tenleytown Safeway and its neighbors. I can tell you that we did NOT vote to recommend approval of Safeway's PUD application for the Tenleytown Safeway or, for that matter, vote on any resolution concerning Safeway.

Had we voted on a resolution at our meeting last week, I am confident we would have voted to OPPOSE Safeway's application as it currently stands, perhaps unanimously.

We plan, however, to vote on a resolution concerning Safeway at our January 4 meeting. At last week's meeting, we encouraged Safeway to work with the ANC and Safeway's neighbors to try to reach a proposal that won't necessitate a resolution in opposition to the PUD application.

Could you share with us the source for this article?

-- Jonathan Bender

Anonymous said...

Obviously you are getting this directly from the chair of ANC 3E, but to add, other than the regular cast of "no change" characters who are happy to have a refaced suburban style grocery store, there isn't anyone in the community or downtown who support this proposal.

Perhaps one of the developers reading this might consider reaching out to Safeway to cut a deal for a new store with some housing atop the air-rights?

They do these kinds of deals in other parts of the country. It needs to happen here.

Anonymous said...

This project has no retail that would be independent of the Safeway. All of the proposed new retail is inside the Safeway store, doing little to increase the street-life on 42nd Street or Tenleytown more broadly. Additionally, this parcel is within a five minute walk of the Tenley metro and a ten minute walk of the Friendship Heights metro. The front portion of this Safeway should have new residential units above it, as the Giant further down Wisconsin Ave will hopefully have.

Anonymous said...

I agree, this looks like just another suburban box. Its better than whats there now, but it would be so much better with 3 or 4 floors of housing above.

Anonymous said...

The new facility planned by Safeway will bring a modern store with all of the amenities to the Tenleytown/Friendship Heights area. While there are a minority of city residents who agitate for a high density development on the site, that is not the desire of a majority of neighborhood residents. More importantly, it is not the desire of Safeway, which everyone should concede is within Safeway's rights. Property owners, within the parameters of zoning and other regulations, should have the right to determine the use for their own property.

Anonymous said...

The NIMBY crowd in Tenleytown are the only ones who support Safeway's plan to put this big box pig in Tenleytown because they are against any residential development. When developers like Akridge want to put in an 8 story building using a PUD, the NIMBY crowd shouts out about how they, and not the developer, should have the right to determine the use of the developers property. When somebody talks about putting in a one-story building where they could build much more as a matter of right, the NIMBYs suddenly believe that the community has to just defer to the developers desires.

Adam Rubinson said...

I would like to echo the comment made that the ANC did not at all support the current plans for the Safeway. One of the key reasons is that they are asking Safeway to make some specific concessions to the most impacted neighbors. As one of those neighbors, we are asking that Safeway reduce the footprint on the other side of our backyard fence (the residential side of the store, one block from Wisconsin Ave), and close off the indoor parking garage on our side, to eliminate noise and headlight glare. This position is supported by Councilmember Cheh, and has not been opposed by any neighborhood groups of which I am aware. In an ideal world, the parking garage would be underground, but this is not going to happen -- hence the negotiations for a reasonable compromise.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, those unable to discuss development issues in a reasoned and civil manner have nothing better to do than sling the term NIMBY as if that demonstrates their own intelligence and acuteness of thought.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The simple an unassailable difference between the Akridge site and the Safeway site is that Akridge asked for and was granted a significant departure from zoning regulations. Some could argue that such a special grant of permission is written into zoning law and is therefore right and reasonable. Others, might argue that the unbounded grant of such PUDs and “rezoning upon request” by the Zoning czars raises the question of whether zoning has any real meaning. But that’s a reasonable discussion to have .
On the other hand, if development militants would have their way, Safeway would be REQURED to utilize their property in a way not of their choosing. Under what interpretation of law do these folks see it acceptable in our country to require specific and enhanced use of private property—or do they intend to claim by eminent domain any property that isn’t developed to their liking?

Anonymous said...

To the previous poster, the zoning relief sought by Akridge is no different than the zoning relief sought by Safeway. They both pursued PUD's. In the case of Akridge, it was essentially for additional density for a building that is literally atop a Metro station.

For Safeway it is to place their back door and brick wall within an area zoned for residential use, with significant negative impact on their immediate neighbors.

A logical solution would be to pull the building structure away from the neighbors and offset the additional cost with some housing units in the air-space over the store. Such housing units could be affordable units for the teachers and DCFD/MPD employees who work in the neighborhood. Additional revenue could be raised by selling off, or leasing the area zoned for residential use for, residential use, either garden apartments or new townhomes.

Any of these solutions would provide monies necessary for Safeway to achieve its desired program and provide a better solution for the immediate neighbors and for the broader community, where sustainable neighborhoods are concerned.

Of course, the Alliance for Rational Development has already supported the lipstick on the pig, which is what Safeway proposes. Is it rational to put a 1950's style development in an urban setting in the 21st Century? In an era where the President and the Mayor are both calling on communities to explore more sustainable solutions?

How about we as a community come together and arrive at solutions which will provide a smaller environmental footprint than the ones left to us by previous generations?

Alliance for Rational Development on Dec 15, 2009, 1:34:00 PM said...

It would be nice if attempts to assail ARD would be factually based. As it stands, the previous poster has incorrectly ascribed a position to ARD when he writes that ARD "has already supported. . . . what Safeway proposed"

Back when Safeway was first making its rounds of community groups in the fall, ARD wrote that "ARD welcomes Safeway's modernization of its facility in our community, one which promises to provide new and improved services while at the same time respecting the tenets of rational development by respecting and protecting the essential
character of our neighborhood."

That was before the concerns of the immediate neighbors came to light. Since then, we have been working with those neighbors and others to find a compromise that is acceptable to all. At no time has ARD indicated its unqualified support for Safeway's proposals. We continue in our hope that Safeway's final proposal will offer a balanced approach that takes into consideration the interests of the neighbors and the community as a whole.

Anonymous said...

Alliance for Rational Development-- Please explain to us how a big-box single-use store that is within a ten minute walk of two metro stations can be considered rational development at all. Only through a severe manipulation of language can this be considered rational development.

Second, your group has no interest in taking into consideration the interests of the community as a whole. I would argue that the interests of the community include increasing the supply of housing so teachers, public servants, and others can afford to live in this desirable neighborhood. I would also argue that the interest of the community as a whole is more compact mixed-use development near transit that will both reduce congestion and reduce sprawl elsewhere in our region. I would also suggest that the interest of the community includes not being an obstruction to allowing more residents (who will pay sales and income taxes to support schools, libraries, police & fire protection)to move to the District. Let's be perfectly clear what ARD is-- an exclusionary group that wants to preserve Ashburn-style development on what is a major regional corridor.

I also find it very ironic that Anonymous (10:22 AM) is offended by the NIMBY label and yet scarcely two paragraphs later, you call proponents of what is actually rational development (utilizing our valuable land near metro stations) development militants.

Anonymous said...

I understand ARD's initial position was "c'mon, what is it three neighbors that would be affected?" After the adjacent neighbors -- who live just down the street from most ARD members (you notice how "ARD" posts things, but they are never signed by individuals?) -- sat down with the handful of people who actually make up ARD, they apparently softened their position. So initially, it was OK for somebody else's backyard to go to hell as long as it wasn't the 6 or 7 ARD members. Once the people a (mere) hundred feet away weren't just abstractions, it was harder to be cavalier.

What I want to know is whether the ARD members will actually say that until the adjacent neighbors' concerns are met, they OPPOSE Safeway's PUD application. Anything less, and they are playing both sides.

Anonymous said...

Maybe before posting on neighborhood listserv's anonymously, the ARD would be willing to discuss development proposals in a open environment where all stakeholders in the community are present. Then perhaps the supposed misrepresentation of a position could be avoided.

By the way, here is the post from the Tenleytown Listserver that the previous commenter referred to ( Without any subsequent comment from the ARD, it would be impossible to know they had "softened" their position.

Finally, I hope the ARD can be taken at their word when it suggests "that Safeway's final proposal will offer a balanced approach that takes into consideration the interests of the neighbors and the community as a whole" and that the definition of "interests" isn't limited as it has been in the past. There is a whole wide world out there folks, one that requires more attention than what is being supported by the past actions of the known members of the ARD.

Eric on 45th said...


I am a neighbor of this project, and can swear upon oath that the large majority of neighbors do not mind density near the Metro. This is not enough density, but Safeway should not be required to do something against their wishes. But Safeway surely knows that it would get added money to develop the site, but it would face off against people who live 100 feet from Wisconsin and 3 blocks from Metro, and worry that development infringes on their rights and ruins their home values, and would fight it to the death, as they did with the Akridge project, which they ultimately defeated.

Most in the neighborhood, like me, want retail, residential, and life to come to this stretch of Wisconsin, but know that a vocal few will oppose to the end. Remember that the ARD is formed to oppose any development that is not their making, and has no justifiable right to do so.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Safeway cannot be forced to do something it doesn't want to do, but at the same token, we know that Safeway has created the kind of mixed-use project around the country, including in downtown DC (see the City Vista project).

As a result, one has to ask, why are they not proposing something like this for the site in Tenleytown? The fact that the ARD came out with its support in the early fall (despite their claims to the contrary) is a telling answer.

Perhaps if enough people were willing to stand up to Safeway and let them know that there is strong demand and support for such a project, they might be more willing to consider it?

It is better than the alternative, which is being stuck with a 1950's style development project that leaves a negative impact on the immediate neighbors and creates auto-centricity at a ddestination which should be a flagship for progressive thinking.

Anonymous said...

Safeway also has plans to construct a 14-story residential building above its store in Wheaton (

Anonymous said...

While Eric on 45th might swear that a large majority of neighbors don’t mind density near Metro, implying that they support the types of density proposed by Akridge and Ward 3 Vision, the facts paint a very different story:

In fact, 500 signatures, representing 92% of the households within several blocks of the project, were collected on a petition opposing the Akridge PUD and submitted to the Zoning Commission.

Akridge hired The Saint Group to develop a strategy to counteract what they viewed as “widespread opposition in the community” to Akridge PUD. The Saint Group sent employees door-to-door in the neighborhood and door-to-door in distant neighborhoods circulating a petition in support of the PUD. The results must have been dismal--that petition was never submitted into the record.

The Saint Group also made an effort to get neighbors to testify at the hearing and send letters to the Zoning Commission. Yet 84% of the signed correspondence to the Zoning Commission from Friendship Heights opposed the PUD and 75% of the signed correspondence to the Zoning Commission from Friendship Heights, Tenleytown and Chevy Chase, DC opposed the PUD. At the hearing, as a result of the Saint Group’s efforts two residents within a half mile of the site, and a handful more who live about a mile or more from the site, testified in favor of the PUD and left before 9 p.m., while over two dozen residents, stayed 11 p.m. to testify in opposition to the PUD.

While an earlier anonymous post states that the relief sought by Akridge was no different from the relief sought by Safeway because both are requesting PUDs, the Akridge project had a height of 87 feet at the rear, towering over the neighboring two-story residential buildings and covering 100% of the site, where no than the 60% is normally allowed. Akridge requested nearly triple the maximum density allowed at that site.

Anonymous said...

Wow, being one of the people approached to support the so called 500 signatures, I can say unequivocally that the petition I signed had nothing to do with Akridge and no mention of development proposals. That it is still being trotted out as some sort of litmus for no-change is simply astounding.

I would further submit that Mary Cheh, who ran on a platform of Transit Oriented Development and Smart Growth carried all of the precincts in the affected area. I would think that is a more telling metric than an outdated and unscientific petition.

I would also further submit that what opponents are suggesting for Safeway is that they consider building something close to matter-of-right in the area zoned for commercial use; something that the forces of no-change should surely have no problem with, since they constantly argue that matter-of-right is ok in all scenarios, including one-story drive-through banks.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous 8:20 PM- I am certain most tenley residents would support new residential development that could support retail on the section of Wisconsin between this store and 6riendship rather than the multiple vacancies cuurently there. I am also sure most Tenley residents would also support new residentialdevelopment with enough density to support a streetcar to be built up Wisconsin.

Anonymous said...

Ward 3 Vision’s partner, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, sent an alert to their e-mail list prior to the December ANC meeting. The text of the alert is available on-line, The e-mail included a description of their concerns about the project, claiming to agree with the neighbors, but the statement contains no mention of the central concerns about the possible impact of this project on the closest neighbors. This mass e-mail alert along with another solicitation on a smart growth blog asked Ward 3 residents who support mixed use development on this site to attend this ANC meeting. Apparently, these efforts failed to bring more than a few supporters a large mixed-use project to the meeting.

Anonymous said...

I received the alert. It came the day of the meeting. Not a lot of time to clear time, and make arrangements for child care etc.

The fact of the matter, and this was known to the ANC ahead of time, is that Safeway proposed nothing new.

With respect to addressing the needs of the neighbors, doesn't pulling the development away from their houses and going vertical address those concerns?

Is ARD trying to show more sympathy now for the neighbors after already providing Safeway with enough potential cover to sell this project to the Zoning Commission?

Maybe the ARD would be willing to join the neighbors, the ANC and Ward 3 Vision is opposing this project and working towards a better, more sustainable solution?

Anonymous said...

What Safeway proposes is far better than what we have now. Maybe it isn't the most ideal option, but it will be a great improvement, can happen NOW when everything else seems stopped for lack of financing, and clearly better for the overall neighborhood. Why would the ANC oppose this?

- Mike on 35th

Anonymous said...

Because it cannot happen now without approval from the Zoning Commission for permission to construct commercial buildings on land zoned for residential use.

Safeway could rebuild within the area zoned for commercial use now, but that isn't what they are proposing.

Given the need for community support, rather than build something out of the "Leave it to Beaver" era of auto-centric mobility, why not consider something that is more lasting in terms of amenity to the community, that is more environmentally sustainable, that can serve and a true neighborhood anchor that doesn't have as much negative impact on the immediate neighbors?

Anonymous said...

I'm new to this string of posts but I'll choose to remain anonymous because some posts border on rude.

I live about two blocks from the Safeway (on the west side of Wisconsin Avenue). I walk there frequently to purchase groceries.

I have attended ANC meetings where this project was discussed and I've listened carefully to the concerns of the adjoining neighbors. Even though my house does not adjoin the Safeway property, I am very sympathetic to the concerns raised by the nearest neighbors. I know how concerned I would be if plans were made to construct a parking garage just a few feet from my back yard. Their concerns about noise from cars, radios, shoppers, carts, trucks, etc., and lights, are just the sorts of concerns I would have. I do not think those neighbors should have to live with that diminished quality of life.

At the same time, I actually like what Safeway is offering in terms of the quality of its new store. The larger size and selection and higher-quality offerings will be a real benefit to our community. I even find the store and landscaping designs attractive as they relates to 42nd Street and Ellicott Street.

Frankly, I don't give a wit about whether there are residences placed on top of Safeway. Safeway does not want to go in that direction and I'm satisfied with their choice in that regards. Not putting residences there should speed up the time needed to approve and build this project so we will be without our Safeway for as short a time as possible.

As I understand it, Safeway is self-financing this project. If residences were added, perhaps that would result in Safeway having to work outside of its own development team resulting in delays.

So, let's work to satisfy the legitimate concerns of those who live closest to Safeway and get this project built.

Anonymous said...

"As I understand it, Safeway is self-financing this project. If residences were added, perhaps that would result in Safeway having to work outside of its own development team resulting in delays."

I attended the ANC meetings and don't remember Safeway ever saying anything about self-financing. Sounds like you an insider.

Why do we have to take whatever Safeway wants to offer? They want an exception from the zoning laws, and they have to give something back in return.

I also want to know why a bigger store will solve the problems in the Tenleytown Safeway today, like surly staff and rotting produce.

Anonymous said...

I am not certain why Mr. Quinn wants to rehash the Akridge PUD here, but Mr. Quinn’s “actual facts” must be corrected.

Mr. Quinn wrote: “The Akridge proposal at its highest point was 79 feet tall.” Mr. Quinn neglected to take into account the change in grade on the site. The Akridge application, Exhibit A-11, shows the height at the rear of the building to be 79’-0” plus 8’-6”, giving a height at the rear of 87’-6,” with an additional 12’-0” penthouse on the northern side of the building.

Mr. Quinn wrote: “its frontage on Wisconsin Avenue was only 50 feet tall.” Yet the floor plans submitted with the Akridge Application show a 79 foot height for 25 feet of its frontage on Wisconsin Avenue at the northern end of the building. See, for example, Exhibits A-9, A-10 and A-11.

Exhibit A-1 clearly shows that the alley is 20 feet wide.

Mr. Quinn wrote the following about the hearing: “almost none of the opposition was to the height of the project or its FAR or any other zoning related matter.” A review of the transcript and the record clearly paints a different story. While some testimony related to the impact of the requested increase in height and density, a review of the transcripts and the PowerPoint slides shows that a substantial amount of testimony relates to the height and density, the impact on the neighborhood and how the Akridge request for excessive height and density is inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

Mr. Quinn presented Ward 3 Vision’s case in support of the Akridge PUD. If Mr. Quinn did in fact post the earlier message, it is a bit disconcerting that he is not better informed about the parameters of the project.

Not David Frankel

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