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2003-10-23
Oakland, CA. City Council Votes to Adopt Zoning That Caps Size of Food Sales.

Capping off earlier stories from this Newsflash, the City Council in Oakland, California, as expected, has voted to put size restrictions on superstore development. The action, taken October 21st, does not apply to all big box stores, but prohibits only big stores with more than 10,000 square feet of nontaxable sales -- which means food sales. The ban does not affect warehouse clubs or home improvement stores, for example. "Oakland has a lot of neighborhood stores," Oakland city councilor Jane Brunner told Reuters news. She said the new ordinance was passed in order to protect smaller stores. Critics charge that Wal-Mart, which is the number 1 grocery in America after only 15 years in the business, has created a "race to the bottom" on wages, forcing grocery competitors to seek wage and benefit take-backs from their unionized workers. A number of major grocery chainstore competitors which are unionized have been battling with workers over give-backs. A United Food and Commercial workers strike is currently underway in Southern California, where Wal-Mart has planned a major assault. The union says the average Wal-Mart sales clerk earned between $7 and $8 per hour, while the average wage for a check-out clerk at Albertsons was $18 an hour. Wal-Mart, which is suing several communities which have enacted such size limit laws, and challenging others on the ballot, said they were "clearly disappointed," in the Oakland vote. Wal-Mart is challenging similar votes in Contra Costa and Inglewood, California. "Oakland is trying to create a false marketplace by not allowing all retailers to compete," a company spokesperson told Reuters. Wal -Mart has never said it pays higher wages than its competitors. Instead, it says it pays the prevailing wage. A single woman with a child, working at Wal-Mart for $7.50 an hour, and working "full time" at 28 hours per week, is working below poverty, eligible for food stamps, and eligible for a federal earned income tax credit -- all subsidized by federal taxpayers.


What you can do: A couple of years ago, then Governor Grey Davis vetoed statewide legislation that would have made laws like the Oakland ordinance a state law. Under pressure from Wal-Mart and Costco, the Governor vetoed the bill. In other parts of the nation, cities and towns have passed laws to cap the size of all retail stores, not just those with food sales. This more general purpose ordinance is solidly in the mainstream of zoning, which allows municipalities to regulate the size, location and use of property. Wal-Mart has vowed to fight all these Oakland style ordinances, but they will have their hands full as more and more California communities adopt them as law. For more stories about size limits as a sprawl tool, search the Newsflash page by "caps" or "size limits".










 
 
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