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Signatures Gathered To Repeal Ordinance Regarding Impact Of “Big Box” Retailers

— Organizers of a petition drive seeking a special election to repeal a new ordinance that requires a study before so-called "big box" superstores can be built in San Diego collected nearly 54,000 signatures, according to the City Clerk's Office.

The "Ordinance to Protect Small and Neighborhood Businesses" was approved by the City Council in November. It requires developers of large businesses like Walmart to conduct community economic impact studies before new stores can be built.

The new law affects stores larger than 90,000 square feet that generate more than 10 percent of their revenue from groceries.

Opponents, including Mayor Jerry Sanders, claim the ordinance is a de facto ban on Walmart and an unnecessary restriction on where people can shop.

Sanders vetoed the measure, but the City Council overrode his veto earlier this month. Councilman Todd Gloria, who proposed the ordinance, said the law is designed to protect small neighborhood stores that would be forced out of business if superstores moved in nearby.

The petitions were turned in Wednesday. The clerk's office has 30 days to determine if enough of the signatures are valid -- 32,741 -- to authorize a special election.

The pro-business Lincoln Club of San Diego called on the City Council to repeal the ordinance on its own, so the debt-strapped city wouldn't have to spend several million dollars on a special election.

"Consumers are perfectly capable of deciding on their own where to shop," said T.J. Zane, the Lincoln Club's president and CEO. "They don't want politicians to make those choices for them. Voters need their elected officials to work on creating jobs and encouraging businesses to invest in San Diego."

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