Fight over "big box" superstores may not be over - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Fight over "big box" superstores may not be over

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Less than 24 hours after the San Diego City Council rescinded a law requiring costly economic impact reports from developers of big-box superstores, a South Bay lawmaker said Wednesday he will introduce similar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

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.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. Read CBS 8's earlier story below.

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) -  It's Superstores Versus Mom and Pops. The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to repeal an ordinance requiring costly studies before big box stores can be built. News 8 has learned The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council is looking to take action on the issue, possibly as soon as Wednesday.

"There are other ways to achieve this goal and I think that you'll see us pursue those," Lorena Gonzalez, Secretary-Treasurer and CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, told CBS8.

The union won't say specifically what it plans to do, but says it has a duty to look out for small businesses that will suffer from the repeal.

"I think its disheartening. It really shows that in San Diego, if you have enough money, if you're a mega-corporation or a developer that you can really create public policy for the city.

"You had an ordinance where a group of neighborhood businesses, environmentalists, community activists and workers came together to pass really common sense zoning regulations to say if you're going to put a supercenter in a neighborhood that you have to really evaluate the economic impacts of that. It was common sense legislation and it was repealed by America's largest corporation," Gonzalez said.

Tuesday's vote by the City Council came after Walmart led a petition drive and collected enough signatures, which required councilmembers to either repeal the ordinance, or allow the public to vote on issue.

In the end, the Council voted to repeal the ordinance that required any potential supercenters, selling merchandise and fresh produce, to conduct economic impact studies before building a new store. The only no vote came from Councilmember Marti Emerald.

"As I have said before, and I will say again, my vote is not for sale," Emerald said.

Her statement was applauded by supporters of the ordinance.

Councilmember Tony Young, who originally voted for the ordinance, said a special election to put the vote before the people would be too costly, potentially $3 million.

"We don't even know how to pay for services we've already promised the public. We're $53 million in the hole," Young said.

Walmart shopper Lauren Mitchell told CBS8, while she feels for small businesses and "Mom and Pop" stores, it's her own bottom line she has to protect.

"Definitely the recession. Money is really tight nowadays, so Walmart's just the place to go," Mitchell said.

Walmart's issued this response to the repeal: "Walmart applauds the Council for voting to end the de-facto big-box ban and for promoting consumer choice." 

Walmart says it plans to open 12 new stores in San Diego, generating about 1,400 new jobs.

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