After a long drought with limited food shopping options, Oakland's flatlands are about to see a new grocery chain in town.
Foods Co is ready to move in on one, possibly two locations in East Oakland, with a strong possibility of placing a store in West Oakland down the line.
As part of a major redevelopment of the Foothill Square Shopping Center, Foods Co will soon ask for building permits to construct a 72,000 sq. foot supermarket with a new gas station. The site is bracketed by Foothill Boulevard and MacArthur Boulevard.
The Oakland Planning Commission recently approved a general conditional use permit for the site and construction is expected to start this summer.
Foods Co is a division of Ralphs, which is a subsidiary of grocery chain powerhouse Kroger Co., which is based in the Midwest. Each store is expected to bring in more than 120 jobs, not including construction positions.
The large full service grocery store is part of an overhaul involving the renovation of existing building, the construction of new structures, along with landscaping, signage and paving improvements.
The Foothill Square Shopping Center was originally part of Fageol Motors Co., which was bought by The Peterbilt Company during the Depression. In 1962, the center was converted into a shopping center and has held a variety of businesses including an Albertsons/Lucky grocery store.
Foods Co also has development plans in various stages, at two other locations. One in East Oakland, 66th Avenue and San Leandro Street, and the other on West Grand Avenue.
The West Oakland project has attracted some controversy, including the city's threat to impose eminent domain on properties not willing to sell to Kroger. So far, there's been no official action on that front.
Gregory Hunter, Oakland’s redevelopment director, said Foods Co's full line grocery stores will be a benefit to local residents.
"We've been trying to support Ralph's interest in building in underserved areas," Hunter said. "We believe these new stores will be positive additions to the community."
Hunter said that once built, the Foods Co store will be larger than the average grocery store in Oakland, which is about 40,000 square feet. Lucky's on 18th Street, for example, is about 50,000 square feet.
"First and foremost (a new supermarket) means residents that now have to travel far to purchase their groceries will have a convenient grocery store in their community," he said.
Hunter said although there are a few small grocery stores around - like Mandela Foods - many parts of East and West Oakland are surrounded only by liquor/convenience stores.
"Now East and West Oakland residents will have the option of buying healthier food for their families at a more reasonable cost," he said.
Hunter said Foods Co entry into Oakland is "a huge deal.
"Oakland has been a grocery store desert for a number of years," he said.
Jennifer Lin, a research director with the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, said the city should make sure that when it rolls out the red carpet for retailers with subsidies, loans or other enticements, it also holds those businesses accountable for certain standards.
"There are some basic provisions a city can set down," she said. "They can make sure to say, 'Okay we want you to come into West Oakland and East Oakland because they haven't had a grocery store in a number of years, and now that your coming in, here's what we expect on the front end. We expect to make sure that you provide
quality food that's affordable, we expect you to hire from the neighborhood, we expect you to pay a livable wage and respect the right of workers to organize, if that's what they want.'"
Currently, Foods Co has locations in San Francisco, Richmond and Redwood City.