Comment: Put New Library at Old Safeway

Our article on reuse of the Portola Middle School site gave rise to several comments this week on relocating the El Cerrito library to the old Safeway site. We've selected two as our Comments of the Week.

We never quite know which direction the reader comments on our articles will take. One unexpected discussion arose this past week in the reader comments on our April 4 article about reuse of the old Portola Middle School site, "" Following a suggestion to rebuild the city's cramped library at the Portola site, Kathy A. suggested putting the library in the abandoned Safeway building on San Pablo Avenue at Moeser Lane, an idea that sparked several comments, including two selected as our Comments of Week. One is a follow-up by Mike and the other is a further follow-up by Kathy A.


Rebuilding the library from the ground up at the old Safeway site is a great idea. The "no grocery" lease restrictions and the rough environment for big-box retailers pretty much relegate the existing big box to being a vacant eyesore for the foreseeable future, and a waste of business and community potential for the immediate area.

A new library could anchor a new small retail / small business hub at the site. The ample parking and transit proximity (including the bike/ped trails on the greenway) make the site widely accessible. The library will provide resources for children, students, families, adults and seniors. Perhaps it could provide free WIFI for the complex. The complex could include a coffee shop to complement other nearby eateries. A new co-working space (for the many telecommuters and freelancers in the area) would work well with the library (as well as co-located H&R Block and the copy shop in the complex across Moeser), and perhaps an adjacent play area would help folks be able to get some work or studying done while still keeping an eye on the kids. Perhaps some sort of youth oriented game room would help keep part of the family occupied or serve as a way to take a break from work or studying. If cvs did move out, someone else to provide business / school supply staples would be compatible with these uses. Roma pizza would probably end up getting a lot more business.

Kathy A.

love these ideas! the safeway location really is ideal for a library/community hub -- very accessible. the current library is very cramped, not up to date, not really on the beaten path for attracting customers and easy access, and parking is iffy.

wonderful ideas about amenities for the library. mike, say more about this "co-working" space you have in mind-- part of the library, or a private venture? is it possible for the library to offer maybe some small private spaces for research, work, meetings at a reasonable fee for those of us who need someplace? it would be great to have something like a small private cube sometimes, and a conference room on call for a fee.

great ideas about compatible businesses that might share the site -- something like fenton's! coffee/bakery/salad bar! business/school supplies, and maybe convenience items!

part of my thought is that it is easier and less expensive to retrofit from an existing building. the interior can be completely redesigned; the exterior can be renovated; there can even be add-ons; but skipping the complete demo and complete rebuild parts of the process are to the good. (remember how long it took to demolish and rebuild ECHS? and how long it will take to get the portola students out of portables?)

  • Editor's note: We welcome reader comments on our articles. The "Comment of the Week" doesn't necessarily reflect the view of El Cerrito Patch. It's chosen according to what we believe will be of general reader interest. For other examples from our "Comment of the Week" series, please click .
Local Mom April 08, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Loved the discussion and these two comments in particular. People were generating lots of positive ideas for consideration, plus everyone was civil! Great community dialogue and more to come, I hope!
Toni Mayer April 08, 2012 at 07:57 PM
I love this idea! It would be a perfect spot for a new library. Thank you Mike and Kathy!
Kathy A. April 09, 2012 at 03:36 AM
I hope that others chime in with ideas -- both for the library & community resources people of all ages could use, and/or for other uses of the space at the old Safeway site. There are other locations sitting empty, too -- what would you like to fill them with? The old Safeway site at San Pablo and Moeser just seems like an ideal library/community hub location to me, and I'm so excited about other ideas for the library and for complimentary small business opportunities. But the more ideas, the better! I'm really grateful to Patch for giving us a place to toss ideas out and discuss them, pros and cons.
Dorothy Coakley April 09, 2012 at 04:52 AM
And like Toni, I totally agree with the idea. What a wonderfully creative use of the space! I wonder if its possible?
Kathy A. April 09, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Another idea. There have been a number of discussions here on Patch about the recycling center's book exchange, and people donating decent books but aggressive dealers hauling those off in volume to re-sell. I had forgotten that the EC library also accepts donations -- they add volumes to the collection as needed, and the Friends of the Library have sales for the rest. http://friendselcerritolibrary.wordpress.com/ If the library had a bigger, more ideal space in a great location attracting lots more customers, shouldn't there be a way for it to have a library store? This could be a place to sell not only decent new and used books (and perhaps some supplies library patrons could use), but also to display and sell local arts and crafts -- one of the ideas tossed out earlier. Many public spaces and museums (and even the Library of Congress; even SCOTUS) have stores. We aren't D.C. But we do do not have a bookstore in town offering decent used books, sorted so ones we might like can be found; or any alternative to the chain bookstore for new books. And we do not have enough in the way of art and handcrafted gifts, even though there are a lot of local artists; the 4th of July fair is not enough to cover one's yearly needs.
Toni Mayer April 10, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Anent the Safeway site, there are at least two options I can think of, to renovate the existing building or to tear it down and build new. I'm not sure which would be more economical. Each has possibilities.
Corey April 10, 2012 at 08:39 PM
So, who exactly needs to hear these ideas to see if they are really feasible? Is it the City Council? Community Development? Redevelopment? the County Librarian? We can imagine a lot of things but is there some reason that they powers that be haven't chimed in on this discussion?
Toni Mayer April 10, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Good questions, Corey.
Nancy Gordon April 15, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Another possibility for the site is to try to attract a place like The Jungle, but one that caters to both younger kids and teens. There is no indoor venue to serve Oakland-Berkeley-Albany-El Cerrito-Pinole-Hercules kids' need to be physically active and challenged on rainy or cold days once they outgrow the Chuckie Cheese play area (in Pinole). Having a business like The Jungle in the old Safeway would be ideal (it would have been more ideal in the old Target because of proximity to BART, but Safeway won out on that). It would bring in family business and establish EC as a good place for families. If there was a section set up for 11-17 yr olds, it would be a great place for students schooled at home or in small private schools to get weekly physical activity, and a convenient location for after school and summer field trips. While it would be very convenient to have the library closer to the Community Center and the library concept does serve all ages, right now, aside from fields, the kids in the East Bay have limited access to physical recreation. So I hope the Community Development and City Council would consider a recreational venue for kids as an alternative potential use for the old Safeway.
Eileen Andrade April 19, 2012 at 06:07 PM
The idea of moving the Library to the old Safeway site is genius! It would be ideal. Also the thought of this site remaining vacant like that of the old Lucky/Albertson's site at MacDonald and San Pablo (which has been vacant for close to two decades now) is abhorrent. Moving the Library here would solve many problems.
Kathy A. April 19, 2012 at 07:38 PM
The Safeway spot at Moeser/San Pablo is such a great location for a community hub, and then to draw or support smaller businesses nearby. There are a number of empty storefronts. The MacDonald/San Pablo corner is very sad with both the former supermarkets vacant now.
Kyrsten Bean April 27, 2012 at 04:09 AM
It would definitely be something to request with the county librarian and the city council. Some cities, like Walnut Creek and Lafayette, have become very involved with their libraries through financial contribution and have a great amount of say in what happens with the library. But in the case of El Cerrito, it would have to be approved for the entire county, as there are many libraries in the county (26, I believe) and funds allocation is distributed between these libraries, except in cases where the city a library is in also donates to the library. Lafayette has it's own non-profit Foundation bookstore operate, I believe, by the Friends of the Library. All in all, it's all worth investigating something to revitalize that area, but not a simple thing to relocate the library. Lots of red tape.
K Roe April 28, 2012 at 02:09 PM
As others have noted, relocating El Cerrito Library branch into the large space left by the old Safeway should be explored. It's a perfect recycling idea for one of San Pablo's urban warts. Unfortunately, decision makers for this project, like most bureaucrats, will probably get into the classic group-think mode. The result? Typically such projects, being unresponsive to public input, cost more money, serve fewer people, and is woefully UNcreative. Very sad on many levels. I'd like to see the EC library move discussed in a public meeting.


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