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City Council progresses anti-superstore proposal

By JOE BRITTON

City News Service

A proposal to require developers to conduct an economic impact study before a so-called “superstore” could be built in San Diego was forwarded by a City Council committee Wednesday to the City Attorney’s Office for further vetting.

If it’s ultimately approved, the ordinance proposed by Councilman Todd Gloria would make it more difficult for certain large retail outlets, like Walmart superstores, to be built in San Diego.

“This is neither a ban, nor is it targeted toward one retailer,” Gloria said. “What we are talking about is providing additional information. We as decision-makers owe it to ourselves and to the public to have enough information to make an informed decision.”

The proposed ordinance would require an analysis of the economic impact that superstores would have on neighborhoods and communities before they can be built.

Affected retailers would be larger than 90,000 square feet and generate more than 10 percent of revenues from groceries.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer said the proposal would “impede” business opportunities.

“I do believe we should encourage as many choices for consumers as possible,” he said. “I think this makes it more difficult to do that here in the city of San Diego.”

The Land Use and Housing Committee voted 4-1 to forward the proposed ordinance to the City Attorney’s Office and Independent Budget Analyst’s Office for further review and analysis.

Faulconer cast the dissenting vote.

A similar attempt to thwart superstores in San Diego failed three years ago.

In 2007, the City Council voted to approve an ordinance banning superstores, but the decision was later vetoed by Mayor Jerry Sanders. The veto was upheld when Councilwoman Donna Frye, who originally supported the ban, reversed her position.

Walmart spokesman Aaron Rios told the committee today that the new effort against superstores was a “thinly veiled effort to take a second bite at the apple.”

“The residents of San Diego spoke loud and clear in 2007,” Rios testified. “They are opposed to efforts by government officials to dictate how and where they shop.”

Lorena Gonzalez, with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, said retailers like Walmart are harmful for communities.

“Let’s protect small businesses and give them a voice in this process,” she said.