‘Big Box’ Store Delays?

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A San Diego City Councilman says more studies are needed before Wal-Mart and other "big box" retailers can build huge stores that sell groceries along with their usual department store products.

But Wal-Mart says those studies are unnecessary, will only add more costs to the projects, and could deprive San Diegans of the opportunity to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at lower cost.

Councilman Todd Gloria says his proposed "Economic Impact Analysis" would study the impact that a new "big box" store would have on existing small businesses in the area. Gloria says 92 percent of stores and shops in San Diego are considered small businesses, and could be bankrupted by a "big-box" retailer.

"Those are the folks that (should) at least be given a voice in the process," Gloria said.

Gloria says the economic analysis, which would be paid for by the company that wants to build the store, would also predict the store's impact on existing shopping centers, and the potential for neighborhood blight.

"This provides decision makers with more information, (and) I don’t know anyone who could argue against that," he said.

But Wal-Mart strongly opposes the measure.

A company spokesman says an Economic Impact Analysis is the last thing a company should have to pay for, in a time of high unemployment and budget deficits.

"This really is no time for the city to be considering impediments or delays or extra hurdles for businesses in trying to create job growth or economic developments for the city," said Wal-Mart’s Aaron Rios.

Rios says much of the information that would be compiled in that proposed study is already available to the city.

"There comes a time where you can get analysis paralysis," Rios said.
Rios also says another costly study will only delay the construction of new Wal-Mart’s and other big retailers, that offer lower-cost food to some of San Diego's poorer residents.

"And Wal-Mart is committed to try to find healthy food alternatives, to try and serve the community," he said.

The City Council's Land Use and Housing Committee is discussing the proposal this afternoon.

If it approves the measure, the full City Council will then debate and vote on the matter.

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