New Kohl's store proposed for Richmond



Kohl's wants to build a 98,000-square-foot retail store in south Richmond, but some people worry about what such a storet would do to the area that surrounds it.

Developers are proposing the new store at the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Rydin Road near Costco. The store would employ 138 people, most part time, a Kohl's representative said. It could bring $250,000 to $350,000 in annual sales tax revenue, city officials said.

The proposal has sparked concern among some residents and groups, who worry that increased traffic would further congest the Central Avenue corridor, where cars already back up at freeway on- and off-ramps at peak hours. And they say a retail store isn't compatible with neighboring Hoffman Marsh, a wetland where birds journey and nest, or the Albany Mudflats, an ecological reserve partially located in Richmond.

Sylvia Falcon, a member of the Point Isabel Dog Owners and Friends and of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, points to a 2005-2006 Audubon survey that counted 140 bird species in Eastshore State Park, which stretches 8 1/2 miles from Richmond to Oakland. She worries that nighttime light from a Kohl's parking lot would give hawks and other birds of prey an advantage in hunting birds in the marsh.

"Six of them are declining or are rare," Falcon said. "The California clapper rail is on the state's list of threatened species, and overnights there. It needs to be protected."

Kohl's is a major department store that sells clothing, shoes, kitchenware and home decor products. It has 957 locations nationwide and plans to open 47 more this year, according to a May company financial report. The closest stores to Richmond are in Pleasant Hill and Vallejo.

The company's net income earnings were $153 million last quarter, down from $209 million this time last year, according to its report.

Richmond-based Oliver & Co. has owned the site where Kohl's would be built for about 20 years. Two two-story buildings totaling 168,000 square feet sit there now and supply office and warehouse space for businesses.

Those buildings would be replaced by a two-story Kohl's, which would occupy a rear portion of the site set back from the street. A 4,000- to 5,000-square-foot restaurant or store could be added in a separate building at the corner of Central and Rydin.

Oliver & Co. is seeking a zoning change in the city's general plan from light industrial to regional commercial to allow the Kohl's to be built.

Richmond city planners are preparing a mitigated negative declaration, which finds a project's impacts can be reduced to a less-than-significant level. Some residents, including the Richmond Annex Neighborhood Council, disagree and want a full environmental impact report, which could recognize impacts as significant and study alternatives.

City planners also are working on a traffic study to assess how many cars Kohl's would draw and whether traffic signals or other devices would be needed, Associate Planner Hector Rojas said. A biological study will weigh the impact on Hoffman Marsh.

The proposal could reach the city Design Review Board as soon as August, before moving to the Planning Commission. The City Council has the final say.

At a Richmond Annex neighborhood meeting Thursday night, landowner representative David Popelka and Kohl's representative Ryan Tobiczyka gave an overview of the project. More trees would be added, and a new drainage system would filter storm runoff from the parking lot before it reached San Francisco Bay, they said. The water is unfiltered now.

One resident said she welcomes a Kohl's. Other neighbors described the project as "urban sprawl" that would bring unwanted traffic and noise.

The neighborhood council objects to the proposed zoning change and wants the city to hold off on considering the request until the General Plan Update is complete, after which an EIR would be required for major land-use changes.

"We've been trying to fight for that shoreline, and we were able to get two-thirds of that land reduced from heavy industrial to light industrial after many years," said Mary Selva, neighborhood council president.

In addition to the traffic and environmental issues, some said the typical size of a Kohl's sign is too big. They prefer the smaller retail store be made part of the larger Kohl's building, rather than a stand-alone building. They added that any new trees should be native and not carry nuts or berries that would draw nonnative critters to the coastal area.