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2003-09-28
Oakland, CA. New City Zoning Could Ban Wal-Mart Supercenters.

According to the Alameda Times-Star, officials in Oakland, California are proposing a permanent ban on stores larger than 100,000 s.f. with more than 10% of floor space devoted to non-taxable food items. A similar measure in Tucson was recently ruled constitutional by a judge in Arizona. The Oakland Planning Commission proposal, however, would not apply to membership warehouse stores like Costco, or Sam's Club, and also exempt stores like Home Depot and Lowe's, which do not sell food. "Wal-Mart believes these types of ordinances are anti-consumer," a company spokesman told the Times-Star, "and we are extremely opposed to such an action." The Oakland Citizens' Committee for Urban Renewl (OCCUR) said the ban on big stores is needed to help existing stores survive and preserve well-paying jobs in Oakland. "The city is starving for retail," OCCUR said, "but while big box is tempting, hopefully the city will not bite." Oakland city staff say the law is needed for environmental and economic reasons. The megastores will draw away customers from grocery stores that often anchor neighborhood stores in established commercial districts. City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, who is sponsoring the meaasure, also said that "discount grocery stores have destroyed other grocery store chains that have provided better paying jobs." Earlier this year, Oakland passed a temporary moratorium on big box grocery stores. The permanent ban will be taken up by the city's Community and Economic Development Committee on October 14th.

What you can do: Although these "non-taxable sales" limiting ordinances have become popular in the West, a cleaner, more straightforward zoning approach is to simply limit the size of all retail buildings. Many communities have enacted straight dimensional limits on buildings, which is very mainstream zoning. The Oakland ordinance may deal with Wal-Mart, but ironically, not with Sam's club. It is also of little use to the hardware or furniture merchant. A more rounded approach is a cap on size. For more background, search this database by the word "cap".










 
 
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