City Council overrides mayor’s veto of ‘superstore’ ordinance

By City News Service

The San Diego City Council Thursday overrode a mayoral veto of a council-passed ordinance to force developers to conduct economic and community impact studies before so-called “Big Box” superstores can be built.

The override passed on a 5-3 vote, with Carl DeMaio, Kevin Falconer and Sherri Lightner dissenting. They also opposed the new law when it passed a little over two weeks ago.

The vote was held just days before two members of the council who support the ordinance, Donna Frye and Ben Hueso, leave office.

The ordinance, proposed by Councilman Todd Gloria, would require an analysis of the economic impact superstores would have on neighborhoods and communities before they can be built.

It would affect retailers larger than 90,000 square feet that generate more than 10 percent of revenues from groceries.

The new law was designed to protect small business, Gloria said. In a memo to City Council members, Mayor Jerry Sanders wrote that the legislation affects one type of store for regulation in a manner inconsistent with the city’s land development code and general plan.

“I do not believe it is the city’s role to determine where consumers may shop, or to provide a competitive advantage to certain retail businesses,” Sanders wrote.

He also argued that the ordinance sent a message that San Diego was not business-friendly at a time when there is a high unemployment rate and “job creation is critical.” Councilwoman Marti Emerald rejected claims by opponents that the law would be a ban on Walmart. She also objected to an advertising campaign against the law by the company.

“The largest business in the world is trying to bully the city of San Diego,” Emerald said.

An attempt at an outright ban on superstores failed three years ago when the City Council failed to override a mayoral veto.

The strongest opposition to the law at a special council meeting came from mostly unemployed young African-Americans who wanted Walmart to provide them with jobs.

Councilman Tony Young, who was in Denver and participated via telephone and an Internet feed, backed the law but said he would support an appropriately sized Walmart in his southeastern San Diego district, and might even approve of a superstore.