Big box ordinance could go to state legislature

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Less than 24 hours after the San Diego City Council rescinded a law requiring costly economic impact reports from developers of big- box superstores, a South Bay lawmaker said Wednesday he will introduce similar legislation at the state level.

Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, said his bill, like the local measure, will target proposed stores 90,000 square feet and larger that dedicate 10 percent of floor space to groceries.

“The public deserves the right to know what will happen to these businesses before a superstore developer comes into a community and potentially puts these businesses and the entire local economy at risk,” Vargas said.

“While not banning superstores outright, this bill will create the transparency that local communities need to make sure corporations that want to build and operate these giant big-box businesses don't harm existing businesses, jobs, public services and neighborhoods.”

Critics of the San Diego ordinance contended it limited consumer choice of where to shop and unfairly targeted Wal-Mart because it employs non-union labor.

When the City Council overrode a veto of the ordinance by Mayor Jerry Sanders, the company gathered far more than the required number of petition signatures to force council members to rescind the law — which they ultimately did — or put the issue to a public vote.

“It is a travesty that an out-of-state, billion-dollar corporation could march into our community, spend a fortune on a misleading campaign that attacked city leaders for standing up for local businesses and repeal a policy that would have brought much-needed transparency to local government,” Vargas said. “If the San Diego City Council won't stand up to Wal-Mart, the state of California should.”

Wal-Mart's corporate affairs director in Sacramento countered that San Diegans spoke loudly for job creation and access to fresh and affordable food.

“At a time when the state is facing a massive fiscal crisis, hard- working families are looking to Sacramento to solve our budget woes and create jobs in California,” Wal-Mart's Tiffany Moffatt said.

She said she hopes the company can work with Vargas in the interests of hard-working families, but would not speculate on whether the company would fund another petition drive if a bill is passed.

Lorena Gonzalez, chief executive officer of the San Diego Labor Council, said the issue has always been the impact of superstores on jobs and neighborhood businesses.

“If a superstore is coming into a community and claiming to create 400 jobs, local government and the public should know if they are losing 600 jobs as a result,” Gonzalez said. “The Labor Council continues to focus our efforts on local employment, and we applaud Senator Vargas for doing the same.”

City Council President Tony Young had no comment on Vargas' plans. Young, an original supporter of the ordinance, said voted for its repeal because a special election would be too costly.

Categories: KUSI