What Can City Heights Residents Do In Response To Albertson's Store Closure?
January 28, 2014 1:22 p.m.
Marti Emerald, City Councilwoman, District 9
Ricardo Moran, President of the Azalea Park Neighborhood Association
Jeanette Neeley, co-chair, Mid-City CAN Coordinating Council and City Heights resident
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Albertsons in City Heights closes its doors next month and it will likely put another obstacle between residents and healthy food options. City Heights has been described as a food desert where the number of full-service supermarkets are few and far between. I was so says that the the closures part of the cost-cutting move in closing under producing stores. Joining us with reactions this closer are my guests Marti Emerald, Ricardo Moran, and Jeanette Neeley. Jeanette let me start with you, what constitutes a food desert?
JEANETTE NEELEY: Technically they list a food desert as an area that is insecure for the next meal, see you may be able to pick up McDonald's or good or food at 7-Eleven, but for nutritious foods you need a full-service grocery store.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Besides the Albertsons in the 4400 block of University Avenue, tell me by the grocery and food store options that you have in your neighborhood.
RICARDO MORAN: So we have a small circumvent supermarket down the street called Murphy's which does have some fresh produce we also have a lot of little specialty Latino supermarkets and provide prepackaged foods, but for the most part we are in a serious deficit of fresh produce available the neighborhood and so what my husband and I to is actually shop outside of City Heights and we lived there for about three Years virtually all of our soft shopping is that omission is hot of Mission Hills Northpark or Hillcrest.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What kind of food options are in your neighborhood?
JEANETTE NEELEY: We do have specialty sports stores and we do have our destination for many restaurants who want to have cooking of foreign foods. We have good Indian, Mexican, Guatemalan and some process. A lot of residents in City Heights are shocked by people from outside in the whole of San Diego County, but we and many of my residents get a lot of our groceries from Albertsons.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What is your reaction to the closure of this supermarket?
MARTI EMERALD: City Heights is composed of many communities and this is one place that you get everything they need. And do it within walking distance or on a bus or a cop many people in City Heights do not have cars and they rely on public transit, and said this is a huge hurt for the community. We will not sit and allow this to close without trying to create some options, so this afternoon some key stakeholders are meeting to start discussing what options exist or how we can create new options for the better City Heights community and the people the meeting would be the City Heights community development corporations impress charities and civic San Diego, there are some other private investors were going to be part of the bidding as well to see what we can do to influence the company that owns and manages the property to get in other grocery there that actually has product and service and prices that better serve the community.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Albertsons was in this location for about twenty years as far as I know, issued a statement in response to the Sparks for closure that reads that Albertsons has a responsibility to do it is best for the long-term growth and success is the company of law as a whole, that is part of the statement from Albertsons. Ditto for a fact that Albertsons in City Heights is under producing?'s
MARTI EMERALD: We do not and Albertsons is not provided any documentation to prove that they are losing money, and it's a large corporation that treated him several years ago and you may require at all it was sold for 2.3 million billion dollars about 3.2 billion went to cover the grocery chains that said this is a company that was in trouble for a while and put up a big investment firm for the debt we don't know what their long-term intent was, and that is why we have to create options locally and that is what is happening now with the meeting that is planned today going forward, they know that people in the community are discussing this on social media and meeting with computing community? Planning groups talk about what they want to see their and so we will have a big job ahead of us and I think that all of the secrets they recognize this is incredible challenge but also presents the opportunity for the community to have some kind of control over its future, which is so very important.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Into a no different costs supermarket chains more to operate and low income neighborhoods because some there've been some allegations of there is shoplifting the store and they need more security, do you know anything about that?
MARTI EMERALD: I would like to see any documentation to those allegations and this my understanding that companies like Albertsons will invest in place stories and communities that are one size fits all. When I want to shop in my district and stop the Albertsons store and I know Saddam's graphics of the area the demographics of the area people speak that which is in that area for just about every demographic. Did the food there is very general and it does not address cultural needs of our demographic and the prices are relatively high for the community, and so I think it was not a great set, but is the only store we have had all these years, the blood had to use it and now we have an opportunity to through the organizations that are coming together to perhaps create a new kind of market that supports art diversity.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Ricardo you used to run a market La Mesa, can you compared the options in those neighborhoods to where you live now in City Heights?
RICARDO MORAN: When I lived in Hillcrest I would walk down to the Ralph's shopping center or Trader Joe's and I found there is a lot more variety in options in terms of being able to choose quality produce at an affordable price. I think it City Heights we really haven't a great opportunity to gauge residents and save, kind of supermarket you want? I would love nothing more than to be able to just shop locally instead of having to drive away for have my husband how to drive out of the neighborhood.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Just to find somewhere to go shopping. It's not just groceries, there are people who fill prescriptions of this Albertsons.
JEANETTE NEELEY: The last I heard is that CVS has received all of the prescriptions from Sav-on, so I have a lot of concern about HIPAA laws and pricing, and it is in the community and is not an affordable and accessible acceptable option that asked the one everyone that is truly out of bounds, they've got to be stopped on that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Basically they are taking it upon themselves to transfer all of the prescriptions over. What do you think of that?
MARTI EMERALD: Was really surprised by that too and we will be looking into that as well, will be having some community meetings going forward and as soon as we understand but some of the options are and we're going to start getting progressively getting out to the community and getting more input. Find out what the concerts are, there's also transportation issues and the Albertsons was selling the MTS comforts cards for bus passes and we're going to stop doing that so we've got to create some options for the community place and they come anywhere people come by bus passes as well but we have a lot of questions as well and we have an engaged community, this is his real and a real hit to the community and folks are sitting up and taking notice Bob need first food security and the need for putting down deep roots and making a real investment in the community here that is a reflection of the committee meets their needs, I am hoping that we can get some things done here locally and by. Surely the fact that civic San Diego is involved copies or to organizations that have generous tax credits for investors and have investment money to put into this community when redevelopment way got these organizations and ways to continue helping communities like City Heights, this will be a great test case to see what is possible, but it will all work together to be successfully create something new and exciting, that is a reflection of the commitment that we are from all over the community.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It sounds familiar saying is that the option you're looking at here is not necessarily to attract another grocery or supermarket chain to develop, you want to develop something locally and new kind of opportunity?
MARTI EMERALD: The want to explore that option. The if we get another discount store and they the neighborhood needs. We want an option for people that really serves them and is here for the long haul, and we have got the pieces, we just want to bring them together and do it quickly so that folks will not be left in the lurch when they go looking for fresh produce a fresh meats or the kind of food that the need for the growing children, have together the prescription filled at the need to get a bus pass, this is more than a grocery store, I think this will be catalytic and it will create some real change in our community.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And just a couple of years ago Michelle Obama visited City Heights and she was there to highlight the fact that this is a community emerging from the food deserts status, and I'm wondering has that progress continued even as we hear about Albertson's big big blow to the community cop either other emerging food sources also continued like farmer farmers market so forth?
JEANETTE NEELEY: Yes I meant to tell you that a new co-op wants to open in City Heights. They were thinking across from the new YMCA, but this would be a perfect opportunity and they do local produce at higher locally, and we have sixty languages, food be more tailored for a community and also a farmers market that to celebrate their fifth year, have Press, fresh and to what was restarted the farmers market we used to start some people up with paper and in the instructions we had in English and Spanish and it's now in sixteen but which is on the computer and also resurrecting taste in City Heights to join Hillcrest and not parking La Mesa, so I think will highlight that we are not a food desert terms of cooked food we have great country.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: With the federal cut from CalFresh has hurt the farmers market in City Heights, is that right?
MARTI EMERALD: This farmers market has been around for five years and I love it, I like to drop in. It's small and it is struggling in this trying to get some traction, and so that is a piece but it doesn't come close to the solution that we need, the bottom line here we can make plans and dream and we can explore options but this is still private property and we have to work with the private property of owner and property management company.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Will the community be involved in that?
MARTI EMERALD: What we can make noise and make a case to Kimco that we want to have something different, and to ask them to work with us. That is what my office is Hardy started doing and I know the meeting that happens later this afternoon Those are very influential players, and I know that they will be carrying a message to the property owner about what it is that we want their and what we're willing to do to make that happen. Investment, policy, whatever is going to take to make it happen for City Heights.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We will end it there, I want to thank you all for coming in to talk about this, thank you all so much.