Zoning Board OKs 24-Hour Chevron Mini Mart on Shattuck

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday April 01, 2008

The Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) on Thursday approved the expansion of the Chevron gas station at the intersection of Shattuck and Ashby avenues, which includes turning the 24-hour retail kiosk into a 24-hour mini-mart. 

Some LeConte neighbors had complained that enlarging the gas station would increase traffic snarls at the intersection and increase panhandling in the area. 

Although the zoning board received several e-mails and a petition from a local neighborhood group against the proposed project, no one turned up to oppose it during the public hearing Thursday. 

ZAB Chair Rick Judd said there had been several misconceptions about the proposed project. 

“Some people thought that the business was owned by Chevron Corporation,” he said. “Others had the misconception that the store would sell liquor. When they found out that was not the case, I guess they lost interest.” 

“We are not corporate Chevron at all,” Keith Simas, a third generation-owner of the Chevron franchise Xtra Oil Company, told the board. “We want to create a safer environment for everybody, including ourselves. The police will be able to monitor the station better if we get rid of the kiosk from the middle of the site ... The 24-hour thing is really for baby-sitting the property throughout the night.” 

The proposed project calls for moving the existing kiosk to the northwest corner of the site and adding 600 square feet to it. 

“This will improve onsite circulation, organize the fueling pumps and provide disabled people with a safe access to the store,” said Muthana Ibrahim, the project architect. 

He added that the store would be locked at night and that the cashier would conduct business with customers through a dispensing drawer. 

“We want to modernize the station .... It’s got a very 1970s look to it now,” Simas told the board. 

The Leconte Neighborhood Association had voted against the proposed project, citing traffic and safety issues as well as competition with the Roxie Deli 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 where the project is located.  

“I am not sure if I would be enthusiastic about supporting a new 24-hour service but it seems to me we are not increasing the nuisance,” said board member Sara Shumer. “In fact I am surprised that the city’s traffic engineer has said that the new use would not even require a traffic study.” 

Judd told the Planet that the proposed expansion did not meet the criteria for a traffic study. 

“It’s a very modest expansion,” said ZAB Secretary Steve Ross. “We don’t think there will be any significant increase in traffic.” 

Linda Olivenbaum, who was replacing commissioner Jesse Anthony on the board and is married to Councimember Max Anderson, in whose district the station is, voted against the project. 

“The project will entice traffic,” she said. “I live in the neighborhood and I think it will lessen the safety at that intersection. The store will not be an asset, it will attract unsavory activity at night.”