Neighbors to fight gas pumps at Costco 

Neighbors who live near a Costco store slated for expansion are gearing up once more to protest a proposed 16-pump fuel station they say will bring unwanted traffic, long lines and air pollution to the neighborhood.

City planners are putting the finishing touches on a final environmental review of the expansion, which would replace the existing 121,400-square-foot Costco warehouse at 2400 Middlefield Road with a larger 160,000-square-foot building.

Those plans also call for the addition of 16 gas pumps, a sticking point with neighbors and nearby gas station owners who worry the competition for low-cost gas could drive them out of business.

The store currently does not sell gasoline. However, as gas prices keep rising, Costco’s low-cost option could draw plenty of business if it adds pumps in Redwood City. A gallon of regular unleaded gas was selling for $3.39, less than the statewide average of $3.47, this week at its South San Francisco outlet.

"I’m sure they would use [cheaper gas] as a selling feature," said Redwood Village resident Kathy Soulard, who has opposed the gas-pump plan for years. "Meanwhile, Costco’s going to get richer and devastate our neighborhood."

Redwood Village residents circulated a petition two years ago and gathered 600 to 700 signatures opposing the pumps; Costco created its own petition this year to drum up support, Soulard said. Local and corporate Costco repre sentatives did not return calls for comment.

The final environmental review could head to the Planning Commission for a public hearing in June — and possibly a vote. In that report, Costco is required to respond to issues raised by residents during hearings in December, including those regarding the fuel station, city Planning Manager Jill Ekas said.

An earlier environmental review by EIP Associates found that the fuel station would be able to accommodate as many as 44 cars, including 16 at the pumps and 28 in line — and that no more than 18 cars would be waiting in line at any given time. However, traffic counts at other Costco fuel outlets showed many more cars waiting, Soulard said.

"From the consumer’s perspective, discount retailers can offer a very good value compared to the competition," said Sean Comey, spokesman for the American Automobile Association. "The nature of gas prices is that they hit disproportionately hard on people who can least afford it."

While bigger retailers, such as Costco, can take a loss on gasoline sales because it drives shoppers to other merchandise, gas-station owners don’t have many other ways to make money, Comey said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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