Convenience Store on Park Get Thumbs Up

The Alameda Planning Board met last night, October 12, and approved the request for a permit to open a convenience store at 1623 Park Street — despite the fact that more than 400 letters and comments had been received opposing it in August and again in September and October .

You can find some of these opposing statements online, including a letter from the Starland Music Center, at 1631 Park.

However, the owners of the building that will house the convenience store explained that the space has been without a tenant for about half of the past 10 years.

The main tipping point, as far as the city is concerned, is that there is no city limit on the number of convenience stores (or nail shops, for instance) that can be located within the city.

Note that the only reason this convenience store had to go before the Planning Board was due to the fact that it is within 300 feet of a residence.

The good news for some community members is that while the store was aiming to focus on tobacco products, these products will now take up only about 10 percent of the retail area — less than planned.

According to the city, the building that will house the convenience store is not historic and has been vacant. And while there are several convenience stores nearby, that is not enough to limit or restrict further convenience stores from opening.

With a minimal expected impact on nearby residents, in its view, the Planning Board approved the use permit for the convenience store four to one.

The business owner, Abdulmalik Harbi, now has to get a business license and certifcate of occupany before he can open the shop, to be called Better Trade Discount.

The lesson for Alamedans who don’t want convenience shops or more salons opening up is that a major change in city policy is needed. There are many East Bay neighborhoods that have a large number of similar businesses crowded into one area, so Alameda isn’t alone in this respect.

But those hoping for more commercial diversity on the Island have to make a broader case — and a big fight — if they want to bring about such change.


Another Convenience Store?

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Tonight, the Alameda Planning Board is set to vote on a permit for a convenience store at 1623 Park Street (at Pacific Avenue, one block east of Lincoln Avenue).

It will be interesting to see how this vote goes.

Flyers asking for residents to request that the permit be denied were found at the 7-Eleven at Lincoln and Oak over the past weekend. The arguments on the flyer were that the area has enough convenience stores and that more crowding on Park Street isn’t desirable.

While we don’t know exactly what the convenience store would look like, it is true that Park Street needs more business. But any business? Maybe not.

Generally speaking, Alamedans wants businesses that they are comfortable frequenting and proud to have in their neighborhood. And as is the case in many areas of town, convenience stores fulfill a very specific need and aren’t the pride or the most desirable aspect of the neighborhood.

Park Street has a great grocery shop and market area nearby — at the Marketplace. So this shop might not be very likely to stock lots of fruits and vegetables, though the market at Park and Lincoln does sell a bit of fresh produce.

More beer, wine and cigarettes? In this economy, such a store might be one of the most likely businesses that can succeed. But long term, it might not represent the grand desires of the Park Street community, which is hoping to make the area near the Park Street Bridge as interesting and inviting as possible.

With the car dealerships gone and a few used-car merchants hanging on, though, these are tough times. And without other merchants clamoring to open their doors at 1623 Park, the entrepreneur behind the proposed convenience store may get his thumbs up from the city.

Stay tuned to see how the planning board votes.