Neighbors Try to Stop Chevron Mini-Mart

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 25, 2008

Some LeConte neighborhood residents trying to stop plans for a 24-hour mini mart at the Chevron franchise at 2996 Shattuck Ave. are scheduled to appear before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) Thursday as it takes up the question of changing the use permit for the business. 

Property owner Keith Simas—who owns the franchise Xtra Oil Company—will ask the zoning board to approve two more fueling pumps to an existing 24-hour four-pump gas station. He will also request a demolition permit to raze the existing 24-hour kiosk on the property and build a larger convenience store. 

Although some residents in the neighborhood are against the overall expansion, the LeConte Neighborhood Association voted specifically against the 24-hour convenience store aspect of the plan Thursday. 

“We don’t think it’s necessary to expand the store at this point,” said Karl Reeve, the association’s president. “We are not necessarily against the two new fuel pumps, but having a 24-hour convenience store would increase traffic problems and attract the wrong kind of people at night. It would also mean competition for the Roxie Deli that’s right across the street.” 

The city’s zoning ordinance does not regulate retail markets or impose limitations on the number of retail stores in the commercial south area district, under which the project falls. 

Calls to Councilmember Max Anderson —under whose constituency the proposed development falls—for comment were not returned by press time Monday. 

In a letter to the zoning adjustments board, Stuart Rembaum, who lives close to the proposed project, objected to the overall expansion. 

“From my own experience it is extremely difficult to even enter the service station during peak hours, when most people fill up, due to the backed-up traffic on Shattuck Avenue,” he said. “Additional fuel bays hardly make sense given the time and difficulty in accessing the entrance to the service station ... There is already a large Chevron facility at the corner of Telegraph and Ashby. Why should residents have to put up with increased 24-hour noise and traffic, the possibility of increased crime, and unsightly development in a largely residential neighborhood?” 

Project applicant and architect Muthana Ibrahim of Walnut Creek-based MI Architects told the Planet that the additional fuel pumps would reduce on-site traffic. 

“When you have six pumps, it means a lot less congestion,” said Ibrahim, who described himself as a specialist in gas station construction. “It will help to serve the neighborhood. We want to move the kiosk to the back of the square lot and increase its size to 873 square feet. It will organize the pumps, and people will have more opportunity to line up.” 

Ibrahim told the Planet that he couldn’t comment on the concerns raised about the 24-hour-food mart. 

“All I can say is that there will be no major change in operations for the store, ” he said. “The door will be locked at night. It’s important to remember that this is not a corporate site, it is owned by an individual and not Chevron Corporation.” 

Calls to Simas at his Xtra Oil Company office for comment were not returned. 

In the meantime neighbors are gearing up to protest the proposed development at Thursday’s meeting. 

Bill, who has owned Roxie Deli on Shattuck and Ashby since 1985, told the Planet that a neighborhood group had submitted a petition with nearly 200 signatures opposing the 24-hour convenience store to the zoning board. 

“It will lead to more traffic, more noise, more trash,” he told the Planet Friday. “There will be panhandling and drug dealing going on at all sorts of odd hours. My store used to be open until 11 p.m. before but now I close it at 4 p.m. It’s not safe. Why do they need a supermarket in the neighborhood for 24 hours? Unless it’s an emergency, people don’t go out to buy anything in the middle of the night.” 

Although some neighbors had initially believed that the new store would sell alcohol, the staff report states that the zoning staff had cleared up this misconception in August. Calls to project planner Fatema Crane were not returned. 

Mark Tarses, who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, said that Ashby and Shattuck was the sixth most dangerous intersection in the city. 

“None of us needs more traffic there,” he said. “A 24-hour fueling station and convenience store would be more appropriate on a freeway. I can imagine some people like college students might want a cup of coffee at 2 a.m., but what kind of people go shopping at 2 a.m.? If all they had wanted was a bigger gas station, then it would have been OK, but he wants too many things at the same time.” 

Bikash Adhikari, a cashier at the US Smog & Gas station—which is at the same intersection, on the other side of Ashby from the Chevron station—said that two new fuel pumps would create more traffic problems. 

“The junction will choke,” he said. “I have seen quite a few accidents happen here. Just the other day two cars hit each other in the middle of the day.”