Anti-superstore bill headed for governor’s desk

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A bill by Sen. Juan Vargas, D-Chula Vista, to require developers of big box superstores to file economic impact reports before they can build in California cleared the Legislature Thursday and was on the way to the governor's desk.

The vote in the Assembly was 43-28 to pass the Small and Neighborhood Business Protection Act, according to Vargas' office. The Senate vote on May 31 was 21-14.

A similar measure was rescinded by the San Diego City Council earlier this year, after Wal-Mart gathered enough signatures to force the council to take that action or put the issue to a public vote.

The state bill would require developers to file reports on how the stores would affect the local neighborhoods, from traffic to impacts on mom-and- pop businesses. Like the San Diego ordinance, it targets proposed stores 90,000 square feet and larger that dedicate 10 percent of floor space to groceries.

Opponents call it a de-facto ban on Wal-Mart and claim the company is being unfairly targeted because it employs non-union workers.

The legislation, both in San Diego and Sacramento, has been backed by labor interests.

Mayor Jerry Sanders opposed the San Diego bill, saying it limited consumer choice. But supporters, including Councilman Todd Gloria, said the reports merely provide information on how the stores will affect surrounding communities.

Vargas said superstores hurt nearby business districts and cause a net decrease in the number of jobs in the area.

“Good information is the core of good decision-making,” he said. “By sending SB 469 to the governor, the California state Legislature has fought to ensure that local leaders have the facts about the impact of supercenters on their local economies, neighborhoods and communities.”

But Bill Dombrowski, president and chief executive officer of the California Retailers Association, said the measure would ” negatively impact jobs and harm local communities.”

“The legislation will further harm California's economy, hinder job growth, and require unneeded and bureaucratic state mandates onto local communities,” Dombrowski said.

He said the intent of the bill was to limit competition by favoring one type of retailer over another, and urged the governor to veto it.

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