City opposes 'Anti-Wal-Mart' bill

DOWNEY - The City Council voted 3-0 on Tuesday to formally oppose pending legislation that would require certain big-box retailers to file an economic impact report prior to opening a new store.Dubbed the "Anti-Wal-Mart Bill" by the Sacramento Bee, the legislation was introduced by Sen. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and targets new developments of at least 90,000 square feet that sell consumer goods and dedicate at least 10% of floor space to groceries. Similar-sized developments - such as Home Depot or Lowe's - and discount warehouses requiring a membership fee are exempted. The bill requires the developer to pay for an economic impact analysis before it could be approved by local government. The analysis would include details on how the store would affect other retail stores and employment in the area. Downey officials said they opposed the legislation because "the decision to approve or deny a particular development is fundamentally a local decision, made by the informed local officials uniquely qualified to make land use decisions affecting the health, welfare, safety and economic well being of their communities." In a statement, Vargas said the proposed legislation would "create the transparency that local communities need to make sure coporations that want to build and operate these giant big-box businesses don't harm existing businesses, jobs, public services and neighborhoods." "Small and neighborhood businesses are the backbone of every local economy," said Vargas. "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." City officials, however, disagree. "As local officials, the City Council and Planning Commissioners are directly accountable for land use decisions affecting the quality of life in a community," Shannon DeLong, assistant to the city manager, wrote in a report to the council. "Each community may reach different conclusions on the extent to which the developments targeted in this bill may diminish or add value in their city." The council voted 3-0 to oppose the legislation, with Mayor Luis Marquez and Councilman Fernando Vasquez abstaining. Marquez and Vasquez did not give a reason for declining to vote and did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday. Councilman Mario Guerra, however, called their decision to abstain from a vote "insulting." "It's insulting that some people would not vote in the best interest of the city," Guerra said. "Voting on this was a no-brainer."

********** Published: May 12, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 4