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Thursday, September 23, 2010

53rd Street Neighborhood Committee Appeals To Council

Press Release
53rd Street Neighborhood Committee Organizes Against Ikea Expansion

The following is an unedited message to Emeryville residents concerning the proposed Ikea warehouse customer pick-up center:

Giant IKEA vs. Emeryville Neighborhood

Despite its reputation as family-friendly, IKEA isn’t being very family friendly to a small community in Emeryville, a little city nestled between Berkeley and Oakland in the Bay Area. IKEA Emeryville wants to move its warehouse and customer pick-up operations for large items from its retail store to a building in area zoned for Office/Technology uses.

The building, at 5000 Hollis on the corner of 53rd and Hollis Streets, is adjacent to a residential community of 142 family homes, 2 preschools, a secondary school, and a children’s gym and across the street from a new pocket park. In addition, Emeryville’s new General Plan, completed in October 2009 at a cost of $1.5m, designates 53rd Street as a greenway and bicycle boulevard; the IKEA customer pick up area would face 53rd Street.

The Plan also restricts regional retail to west of the tracks, and 5000 Hollis is east of the tracks in an area with a mix of compatible uses including residential and parks and the Pixar campus.

In their application for a Conditional Use Permit, IKEA stated that they need additional warehouse space so they can stay fully stocked and their—regional—customers won’t have to make two trips to the store. This may work for IKEA, but the 53rd Street neighbors have made it clear that it won’t work for them.

A small group of residents formed the 53rd Street Neighborhood Committee to fight IKEA. They initiated a letter writing campaign to the Planning Commission and City Council, collected 137 signatures on a petition, filled to overflowing the Planning Commission hearing on August 26, and 20 of 21 speakers spoke passionately against the IKEA proposal. The only speaker in favor of the project was the lawyer for the owner of 5000 Hollis.

At the August meeting, the Planning Commission approved the project by a vote of 4 to 3. Disappointingly, Frank Flores,Planning Commission chair, who had earlier suggested that IKEA’s application would be denied, cast the deciding vote to approve. Commissioners Gail Donaldson, Vanessa Kuemmerle, and Steve Steinberg, responding in part to the concerns expressed by dozens of Emeryville residents, employees, and small business owners who opposed the project, voted to deny the application.

Undaunted, on September 2, 2010, the 53rd Street Neighborhood Committee filed an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision. The Planning Department has scheduled the appeal to be heard by the City Council at their October 19, 2010 meeting.

The appeal cites provisions in the General Plan that permits warehousing and distribution facilities as ancillary uses only, and questions the finding that IKEA would be a “secondary” use, required per Zoning Regulations to grant a Conditional Use Permit in the Office/Technology zone. It cites the effects this facility would have relating to traffic, noise, safety, and air quality, and points out IKEA’s history of poor planning—they grossly miscalculated their predictions for their Emeryville store which required them to build a four story parking garage shortly after opening and have based their calculations for customer volume at the proposed offsite warehouse on a manual count by an IKEA employee of receipts for 14 days in June.

The appeal notes that the Planning Department did not consider the impact on the neighborhood when it prepared its staff report and makes a strong argument about the negative impact this facility would have on the quality of life and property values of the adjacent residential community. It points out the differences between office/technology uses, which are compatible uses (Novartis, Bayer, and Pixar have campuses in the area), and how large scale regional retail with continuous truck and customer activity from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. would be detrimental to the general well being of the surrounding neighborhood. Furthermore, it cautions that allowing IKEA to locate outside the area zoned for “retail uses that serve as a regional draw,” regardless of the General Plan or Zoning Regulations, would put all Emeryville neighborhoods and businesses at risk.

In an urban environment like the Bay Area, residential communities are fragile. Emeryville must decide if it is truly committed to supporting its residents and creating the “livable, walkable, sustainable urban community” envisioned in its General Plan. City Council members are urged to approve the appeal filed by the 53rd Street Neighborhood Committee and send a clear message to Planning Department staff and Planning Commission members that the following required finding in the approval procedure for a Master Use Permits or Conditional Use Permits should be given priority:

(d) That the proposed use or uses at its proposed location will provide a service or facility which will contribute to the general well being of the surrounding neighborhood or community.

What can you do?

Attend the City Council meeting on October 19, 2010 approximately 7:30 p.m. The number of people at the meeting will impact the outcome.

The agenda will be set on October 5 and can be found on the City of Emeryville’s Web site. Go to Departments®Planning & Building®Planning Division®Planning Commission,

Write to City Council Members:

Mayor Ruth Atkin -

Kurt Brinkman -

Ken Bukowski -

Nora Davis -

Jennifer West -

Help Get the Word Out

You can talk to your neighbors, friends, and colleagues and help collect more signatures on petitions and distribute flyers. To contact us, post a comment on our Facebook page or email the 53rd Street Neighborhood Committee at


  1. I have no opinion on the outcome of this project. It may or may not be compatible with the site. However, it is not a retail use. It is a warehouse. My understanding is that no retail sales will occur onsite, only pick-up. The impacts might be the same, I'm not diputing that, just the terminology.

  2. I agree, this "secondary use" thing is a scam. It's obvious the primary use for this building will be Ikea operations. This is a subversion of our brand new General Plan.

  3. Whether a cash transaction happens at the proposed site seems immaterial to me... but how many inbound and outbound trips by trucks and large vehicles does matter to me - which is the real impact of a site's use. So saying it's a warehouse and not retail space looks to me like Ikea is hoping to capitalize on a loop hole. Generally speaking, if the Ikea warehouse were functioning like a typical warehouse, the projected 5 in bound and 5 out bound trucks would seem reasonable, but adding 190 customers coming in and out per day (which adds the equivelant of 380+ vehicles passing through the area per day, 7 days a week) is completely out of sync with the general plan, the neighborhood's current use, and the needs of the people who live and work in this area. Keep in mind that Ikea's estimates in terms of customers to this proposed site is very conservative - based on current volume and does not account for the fact that this volume may be low compared to better economic times and does not account for future growth, which is the the whole reason they need to move the large item pick-up off site, so they can grow and sell even more merchandise...which translates into more Ikea traffic everyday of the week.

  4. the five years of study, meetings and time spent (over 25 residents volunteered) on the general plan is a complete waste. it rides on the whim of whoever wants to expand, build up or move their operations. another fine example of "community input," "community involvement," and "residents' concerns." the proposed development at the far north end of town adjacent to berkeley's aquatic park is a good example as is the rezoning of hollis/62nd/64th/doyle. it's all lip service.

    as for the comment above: whether the intended use is for retail or pick up only, the added traffic of vehicles and trucks will impact the residents of emery bay village in a very negative and detrimental way. readers: what if this was literally in your back yard?

    maybe the resident volunteers should be paid for their time and energy on the next general plan study. perhaps the city would value their input more.

  5. I'd have more sympathy if these concerned Emery Bay Village types hadn't wielded their considerable influence to block the walking path between Spur Alley south of 53rd and Doyle Street at 47th.
    I can't decide if this is a legitimate complaint or a NIMBY whinefest? The private streets inside their subdivision don't connect to public streets except on 53rd anyway. Other than a few hundred customer pick up runs per week, mainly on the weekend (when traffic volume on Hollis is very low anyway), I don't see this as much of a tragedy.
    On the other hand, why Ikea wants to have this facility in a place that will be difficult and frustrating for their customers to find is also confounding.

  6. IKEA would fit nicely into the land that has sat empty for over five years waiting for Madison Marquette to come up with a plan. Nearly six years without any income from the proposed Bay St B site and still no plan in site. The only information we have is that MM wants large subsidies from the redevelopment agency. Give, sorry that should read sell, but this is Emeryville, the land to IKEA and let's increase residential homes over near 53rd. Remember, there are schools, a children's center, the new center for community life is slated for that area, and people, plenty of people. Time to give up the MM fiasco and move on. Sell the land, next to the mall, to IKEA and let them bring in their goods. It will only be a minute's drive from their store. Sensible?

  7. The real meat of this story is that the residents objected, and the city council ignored them.

    Not surprising, you elect council members who are in the back pockets of big business, this is what you get...shafted.
    And now you've joined Kurt Brinkman to their ranks. Guess what, Brinkman doesn't care about the residents of Emeryville, not one bit, just you watch, he will be on the side of business every time, and he will screw the residents at every turn.