Wal-Mart opponents claimed victory this week as the San Diego City Council voted 5-3 to ban extra-large retail stores within city limits.
The ban pertains to stores in excess of 90,000 square feet with more than 10 percent of their floor space devoted to selling groceries and other merchandise not subject to sales tax. Although the ban is not expressly against Wal-Mart, momentum behind the ban has taken on an anti-Wal-Mart sentiment.
Supporters of the ban say Wal-Mart Supercenters hurt small businesses and create traffic problems. There are no Wal-Mart Supercenters in San Diego now but the nation’s largest retailer admits to having identified several potential sites in the city.
“For me again, the issue is the concentration of traffic and the intensity,” said Council President Scott Peters, who represents the northwestern edge of the city.
But Mayor Jerry Sanders, who spoke in opposition to the ban before the controversial vote was cast Nov. 28, said the ban impedes consumer choice, sends an anti-business message to retailers and would cost the city valuable revenue.
Sanders is expected to veto the council’s decision. However, the move would be largely symbolic because the mayoral veto power is superseded as long as five or more council members agree with the decision.
Council members Jim Madaffer, Kevin Faulconer and Brian Maienschein voted against the ban but supported a related action by the council that would impose stricter review procedures for stores in excess of 50,000 square feet. Sanders also supports stricter review.
“We are in favor of regulating big box but we’re not in favor of banning any super stores,” Sanders said.
The ban does not apply to membership stores, such as Costco or Sam’s Club, because shoppers of those stores make less frequent trips for bulk groceries, thus creating a lesser traffic problem, city officials said.
, Jessica Long