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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Panera Bakery: More Suburban Style Development For Emeryville

New Panera Development Emblematic Of How Emeryville Subverts Its Own Goals

If you listen to City Hall and the politicians ensconced therein you might think the ubiquitous suburban style strip mall development they've approved for the past two and a half decades is a thing of the past...they've gone to great pains recently to tell us that anyway.  But who are you going to believe; the politicians or your own lying eyes?

This 'fact file' from the company is two
years old.  Now there are 1562 stores.
The Emeryville Planning Commission and the City Council welcome their newest creation for our town: the Panera Bakery building on 40th and Horton Street.  And it runs roughshod over our new $2 million General Plan and its promise to make Emeryville a "memorable place".

NASDAQ traded, St Louis based Panera is a fast food national chain with stores across the US and Canada.  There are 1562 company-owned and franchise-operated stores total.
The corporate headquarters says they prefer to locate their stores in suburban strip malls and their business model is auto-centric vs pedestrian oriented.  With its warren of suburban malls, they see Emeryville as a perfect fit.  Our Planning Commission and City Council agree.

Here's the real deal: Does it
look like 40th Street?  Is that a
Panera Bakery in that building?
The new bakery turns its back to the street, opening up instead onto the massive surface parking lot, encouraging drivers, not pedestrian residents.  It is yet another nail in the coffin of 40th Street as a memorable place.  We remember in the early 1990's as East Bay Bridge Mall builder Catellus Development, told Emeryville residents that the incipient 40th Street would be a grand boulevard in the manner of Paris' Champs d'Elysees.  Some Champs d'Elysees it's turned out to be.

Panera will directly compete with San Pablo Avenue's Arizmendi Bakery, a locally serving worker owned collective that pays a living wage to its associates unlike Panera's $8.06 per hour wage.  Since Emeryville lacks affordable housing for its legion of low wage service workers, Panera employees will commute to Emeryville from all over the region.
Arizmendi's opened several years ago with support from former councilman John Fricke and as such might be considered the Fricke model of development for Emeryville, it could also be called the General Plan model of development since it dovetails so nicely with that document.  Conversely, Panera might be called the Nora Davis/Kurt Brinkman model of development or the anti-General Plan model.

We challenge the Planning Commission and City Council majority that approved Panera; how, precisely is this creating a memorable place?  We think this was just another in a long string of development approvals where the city employs its 'hands off developers' ethos.  It's pretty obvious they've forgotten memorability.
Let's see...Is this Emeryville or Concord or
Daytona Beach or Rancho Cucamonga or Peoria
or Kankakee or Sheboygan or Springfield?  I don't remember.


  1. yay! dough conditioners and five gallon buckets of "fruit" filling.

  2. Bread at Arizmendi's tastes so much better 'cos it has the flavor of social conscience.

  3. E'ville has fallen so far below its much more refined neighbor, Oakland

  4. I am out of town but if I was there I would show up for the next budget meeting on June 5 and give these people my opinion. I completely agree with you. And this lack of creativity in economic development comes at a very steep price to taxpayers. The former Economic Development Director, I understand, is the current City Manager who is paid over $340,000 a year. The current Director, who looked like a surburban matron at the budget hearings when she presented her flat vision for Economic Development makes over $220,000. That is a lot of bread to process to bring in the processed bread. Every other city in the Bay Area is finding young hip new food companies. It never occurred to Emeryville economic development people to do anything but troll the suburbs for their next great idea. Someone wrote this place is looking more and more like Concord. I couldn't agree more. I hope they make some cuts on the top levels, keep those creative people that that director wants to cut in the arts and services like graffiti abatement, and get some citizens involved in building a city that fits in with the bay area. The city those two have planned seems to have been uprooted from Orange County.


  5. If Emeryville's leaders truly wanted a "memorable" destination, they would have brought in a chain like White Castle, to have the West's only outlet.

    1. Or how about not even a fast food restaurant at all?

  6. Panera? Ho hum. But I don't see them competing for the same clientele as Arizmendi. Arizmendi is the local bakery and is situated in a spot that's easy to walk to from a lot of Emeryville residences. Panera is going into an already pedestrian unfriendly location. It's going to appeal to the folks driving to the other chain stores that are already located in East Bay Bridge center. It fits right in where its going.

    1. "Fits right in"? Perhaps. That's appealing to some pretty low expectations for our town. But even if you don't care about improving the town, there's the little problem of the General Plan being ignored. Remember, the law can't be subverted because of the whims of the decision makers...they've got to amend the General Plan if they want to approve this kind of development.

  7. You can't get good pizza or super fresh baked yumminess at Panera... From what I understand Panera sells soup and sandwiches and a bunch of coffee.. I see them as offering different things and since we walk everywhere (we don't own a car) I may forget it's even there until I need to hit up the grocery store for some soda (which I can't get at Trader Joe's).

    It would be nice if there were more independently owned businesses but I can see where a big chain like Panera is hard for them to resist (not saying it's right).

  8. Here's information from a health site on fast food chains. You better walk a little further to Oakland or Berkeley, Pamela. It will better for your health!

    Panera Bread gained famed for its “freshness” and to many considered to be a healthy eatery. Walk into a Panera and you can see the mass amount of bread and pastries. Panera’s new commercials show the company wanting to connect with ordinary people, stating that everything is hand made and fresh. However, a Panera employee revealed that menu items are far from fresh. All soups and breads are frozen before the day starts and heated before people start heading into the restaurant. The chain has a reputation for being healthy, in-store menus state how many calories are in a sandwich or bowl of soup, yet a misconception still exists. Calories maybe a small amount, but the sodium, fat, and the sugar packs a big punch. For example, a Mediterranean Veggie on Tomato Basil sandwich has 590 calories and 1400 mg of sodium, which is more than half of the recommended amount in a normal diet.

    -- Joe

  9. I think the Panera is a good thing for that shopping center. It is already pedestrian and driver unfriendly as pretty much the worst strip mall in the Bay Area. It is a toss up is Union Landing is better or worse (they have traffic lights).

    No one can walk to that shopping center anyway. The food is OK. (They do bake in house daily, Arizmendi wins on all pastries/baked items except Panera has bagels. Anyone who doesn't want to go into sugar shock after eating a pastry should avoid Panera sweets.)

    The good thing is, now the workers in that strip mall don't need to drive all over town to find lunch. And that will cut down on traffic. That is of course if you don't get run over trying to cross the parking lot on your way there.