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[whitespace] Andronico's plan draws public criticism

Cupertino--Debate over the proposed move of Andronico's grocery to the Oaks shopping center rekindled on March 27.

Cupertino planning commissioners continued to support the store's move into the Oaks shopping center. But about 10 neighbors showed up at the Monday meeting to protest the move, voicing concerns about traffic circulation and the loss of the Oaks movie theater.

Planners projected Andronico's main entrance for Stevens Creek Boulevard. That idea doesn't sit well with Cupertino resident Sherry Geddes. She said the grocery store's current plan would worsen existing traffic problems on westbound Stevens Creek, in front of the Oaks.

According to Geddes, the plan would cause drivers to move from the far right lane into the middle lane to avoid parked delivery trucks and backup caused by vehicles entering the shopping center. Drivers then must move quickly back to the right lane to enter the freeway.

"To talk about having a major access to a major shopping center be a hundred feet from the freeway and people dodging trucks during the day, I think is absolutely irresponsible," she said. "The only way to have a safe entrance is off Mary Avenue."

Commissioners and public works officials said they were unaware that trucks stopped on Stevens Creek in the bike lanes. They proposed that ticketing drivers in the future might curtail the violations.

Neighbors also voiced concern for the future of the Oaks Theater, calling it a community draw that is ideal for families. "The Oaks supports Cupertino and everything that is around here. Three dollars and fifty cents is an exceptional value," said Tony Valdersteen. "There's no other place like in the valley."

Commissioner Patrick Kwok agreed with the importance of keeping entertainment in Cupertino. He suggested exploring a partnership with the Flint Center or keeping the theater on top of the grocery store. However, he conceded that economics ultimately govern the Oaks issue. "We should not rush through with the approval of this project," he said. "We should look at other options that can benefit us."

Community members also demanded more public information about the Andronico's proposal. Many said they accidentally heard about the plan only after attending movies at the Oaks a few weeks ago.

The arrival of Andronico's at the Oaks would raise the number of grocery stores to seven within a mile and a half radius. This newest store would be located in the northwest corner of the shopping center and house a cooking school. Plans call for the demolition of the current movie theater and increasing the building space to more than twice the current size.

The commission tabled the Andronico's application until its April 10 meeting, at which time the city's traffic department will provide a more accurate and updated traffic evaluation. City workers also will perform traffic counts at existing Andronico's and other grocery stores.

Commissioners said they were not satisfied with traffic calculations provided by the city's public works department. Traffic officials used traffic counts conducted in 1998 and data provided by Andronico's to forecast the impact on traffic. Traffic engineer Ray Chong said during peak evening hours, research showed about 38 vehicles would make a left turn onto Mary Avenue from eastbound Stevens Creek. Members of the public strongly disagreed with the figures, and said the number should be much greater.

The planning commission will again review Andronico's application on April 10.
Michele Leung

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