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Supercenter Veto Squashed

— You can still build a massive supercenter store in San Diego. But you’re going to have to do some additional studies beforehand. The city council has overturned a mayoral veto that would have blocked tougher regulations for supercenter developers.

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Aired 12/2/10

You can still build a massive supercenter store in San Diego. But you’re going to have to do some additional studies beforehand. The city council has overturned a mayoral veto that would have blocked tougher regulations for supercenter developers.

Walmart Supercenter
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Above: Walmart Supercenter

There weren’t any changes of heart when it came to this ordinance that could limit the development of stores like Walmart Super Centers. The mayor made good on his promise to veto the measure. But before the veto ink was dry, the council scheduled a special meeting to override it.

Supercenters are classified as stores that sell groceries and other merchandise and are larger than 90,000 square feet. Councilman Tony Young called in from Denver to ensure the five votes were there to keep the tough environmental and economic studies in place. But that didn’t stop several of his constituents, like Ray Smith Jr., from trying to change Young’s mind.

“We need jobs, more than you can believe it. When we walk down our streets we have drugs and all that kind of stuff and no opportunity,” Smith Jr. said.

Councilmembers Carl DeMaio and Kevin Faulconer said supercenters give consumers more choice and that San Diego should welcome any tax revenue and jobs that come with them. But Young said he’s tried to get stores like Walmart to open in his district for years with no luck. He said he would still back an appropriately sized store in the Fourth District. But he said studies are needed for the bigger superstores.

“Think about Lincoln high school. You see how huge that is? That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a huge site,” Young said.

Walmart had launched a fierce campaign against the measure. The company’s Aaron Rio singled out Councilman Todd Gloria and labor unions for backing it.

“This ordinance was written, planned and orchestrated by organized labor in a desperate attempt to protect market share for the Fortune 500 it represents,” he said.

Rio said union members who testified in favor of the ordinance work at large grocery stores who don’t want additional competition. He said Walmart may choose not to build anymore stores in the City of San Diego or it may try to force a public vote on the measure.

Gloria shook his head during Rio’s testimony and was straightforward in his response.

“This is not an emotional issue. This is a land use item. This is appropriate land-use policy and it deserves my colleagues support,” he said.

Gloria said the ordinance doesn’t prevent supercenters from opening, it just requires extra studies be done before they can. He said the measure will ensure more choice for consumers and protect small and neighborhood businesses.

In the end arguments over whether superstores were good or bad for consumers didn’t sway any council members. The five members who’d voted for the ordinance originally backed it again and the mayor’s veto was overturned.

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