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Friday, August 27, 2010

Planning Commission OKs Controversial Ikea Expansion

Specter Of Veiled Threat From Ikea

Ignoring residents jammed cheek-by-jowl in opposition, the city's Planning Commission narrowly OK'ed a busy Ikea warehouse on the edge of a residential area near 53rd and Hollis Street. The planned facility would function as a place for Ikea's patrons to pick up the furniture retailer's largest and bulkiest items.
The commission approved the proposal in a 4-3 vote Thursday night (Kuemmerle, Donaldson and Steinberg dissenting), leaving many residents surprised. Residents chief concern was the added din of traffic noise and safety concerns from the project, which could bring hundreds of extra vehicles to Hollis Street and 53rd Street, especially on weekends when customers flock to Ikea.
The proceedings were marred by what appeared to be a veiled threat against the city concerning a public easement for a planned foot bridge over the railroad tracks unless city officials played ball. A pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the tracks connecting Novartis on Horton Street with the Bay Street mall has long been planned.

Commissioners mostly disagreed on the compatibility with the city's new General Plan. The three dissenters presented findings that the project was in fact not compatible. The 22 citizen speakers, mostly Emery Bay Village residents agreed that the proposed warehouse use is not 'office/technology' as the General Plan requires. Only one speaker supported the project.

Ikea Threatens The City
The evenings most noteworthy moment came when Ikea representatives stated that the company was prepared to allow the city full use of its back parking lot as a staging area for construction vehicles should the city ever proceed with its approved but as yet unbuilt bicycle/pedestrian bridge. The implication being that no such permission would be forthcoming in the event of a NO vote by the commission.

After the vote, a high level city official unwilling to state their name told the Tattler that there would be "no way" Ikea would freely allow the city to encroach on their property without a YES vote on the 53rd Street warehouse expansion. The official stated that the commission had saved the city "a lot of lawyer time fighting Ikea with this yes vote".

City Hall was filled to capacity and the council chamber overflow was forced to watch from the basement by closed circuit TV.

Representatives from the ad-hoc '53rd Street Neighborhood Committee' stated they intend on appealing the Planning Commission's decision to the City Council.


  1. As usual, stirring up what is not a story. A week before the council meeting, IKEA met all the demands of the Emery Bay residents. On top of that, unless someone buys something in East Palo Alto and then drives to Emeryville, all these cars are already shopping at Ikea (which is already in Emeryville). So the plan brings no additional cars to Emeryville. And finally, that was not a threat but a negotiation. And the city wants Ikea and so should you. If Emeryville didn't have the businesses it has then imagine how little city tax revenue there would be for schools (or how much you'd be taxed as a resident).

  2. Any time the council chambers fill to more than capacity with angry residents, that's a story.
    Of the 22 people that spoke out passionately against this Ikea plan all that identified their place of residence but two were from Emery Bay Village. What they are concerned about is the loss of their quality of life with this big box retail spill over into their neighborhood.
    I disagree that it's always all or nothing; businesses will always try to frame the debate that way, after all that's in their interest. I think we should always be striving to make Emeryville a better place to live for all the residents.
    And finally, you could call it a negotiation when Ikea makes it known to the staff that only by agreeing to the Ikea 53rd Street plan will Ikea agree to co-operate with the city with the city's plans to build the bike /ped bridge, but I looked it up in Webster's New World Dictionary...that's a threat.

  3. The IKEA is just off of the freeway - the cars that come there now get right into their parking lot, only travelling on Powell and Christie. The proposed warehouse would take dozens of cars a week into a mostly residential area. This is a direct violation of the General Plan, which (supposedly) had citizen input. The concerns of the citizens were summarily denied in this case.

  4. Why bring trucks and traffic into a low traffic zone when there are vacancies in the 40th st., big box zone?