By Wes Sims
Demolition is underway in Aptos for a low-income apartment complex across the street from the Rancho del Mar Shopping Center. It might be a preview of what’s ahead for the shopping center itself in a couple of years if grocery giant, Safeway gets its way.
Rancho delMar was built 50-years ago, covering 2-tenths of a mile along a sloping portion of Soquel Drive. Safeway is at the uppermost, northern end, with retailers lined up to the south. In February, Safeway Inc. purchased the shopping center from the original owner. Now, it wants to demolish everything on the south end, raise the elevation, and re-build there.
Mitigating Construction Effects
Charles Eadie is with Hamilton Swift; a local land-use consulting firm hired by Safeway to mitigate the environmental elements of the project.
“There will be obviously effects in terms of dump trucks and construction vehicles, and that will all have to get analyzed in great detail.” Eadie says. “And what you do once you have an understanding of the scope of it, then you devise ways of managing that traffic and managing the timing of it in order to minimize the disruption.”
That shouldn’t be a problem, according to general engineering contractor, Greg Nohrden, who owns Santa Cruz Underground and Paving … not associated with Safeway.
“Everything is so regulated. You can’t have dust, you can’t bring dirt out onto the road, anything that gets onto the road will be swept up, you can’t impede traffic, you have to get an approved traffic plan,” Nohrden says.
But the mechanics of this project are only half the battle. Land use consultant, Deidre Hamilton, was shouted down at the most recent public meeting put on by Safeway.
“I hope you guys are teaching your kids to be more respectful than you’re being,” one audience member shouted. “The anger here, you need to address that.”
The anger centers on Safeway’s plan to demolish fourteen businesses where its new store would go. Displaced merchants could then rent space in the old Safeway building, as well as new space to the south. Safeway’s Architect was repeatedly interrupted as he tried to show slides of his design proposal.
Terry Foltz has owned Aptos Burger for eleven years. His restaurant is one of the fourteen businesses slated for the wrecking ball. Foltz doesn’t know if he can afford to be displaced for up to 2 years. But he says he’s not just worried about his own future.
“I know all these other businesses. They’re not businesses. They’re people,” Foltz says. “They’re people that actively participate in our community and provide a service that our community uses too. You know, all these businesses are viable. Every one of them. They’re all worth something. And what’s going to happen here with the expansion and me having to close, it leaves my business worth nothing.”
Safeway has made a grant to fund advisors and consultants to help Rancho Del Mar businesses respond to the development. More on that in part two of this series.