Proposed ‘99-Cents Only' Store Causes Controversy in Escondido

The City of Escondido has denied plans for a new “99-Cents Only” store in the community’s downtown area, limiting the amount of discount shopping choices for residents.

The city council argues that Escondido should boast a nice mix of high-end, middle-income and discount stores, and adding one more 99-cent store would offset that balance.

The decision has created controversy among some residents who say the government has gone too far by limiting their shopping choices.

Some Escondido residents, including April Puda, say they enjoy the merchandise – and bargains – the 99-Cents Only chain has to offer.

“I have actually found some great, great deals there. And I think in today's economy, people have got to shop around. They have to look at different choices," said Puda.

However, some residents argue that putting the bargain store in a downtown shopping center – in place of an Old Navy Outlet slated to close soon – isn’t appealing.

“I think it downgrades the neighborhood and hurts other businesses,” said resident David Martin.

Currently, there are other discount shopping choices near the proposed site of the new 99-Cents Only store, including DD’s Discounts a few doors down and a Dollar Tree a few blocks away.

“We only need three. What more can we support?” said one resident.

“I think there’s enough [discount shopping]. I really do,” added another woman.

But critics say those shoppers, and the city council, have the wrong idea about the quality of merchandise, and the shopper, at a 99-Cents Only store.

"They're fixating on what they may have been 10, 15, 20 years ago. And that's not what they are anymore,” said Kevin Cassidy of Cassidy/Turley Real Estate, who’s trying to negotiate the lease for the proposed new store.

Cassidy says consumers love the chain's brand name products, sold at deep discounts.

“[This chain has stores] from Beverly Hills to Vista – and there’s a reason. The consumer really wants them and really likes them," he said.

Puda says that at the end of the day, the choice on where to shop should be solely left up to the consumer.

“If people want to go to Nordstrom, they go to Nordstrom. If they go to Kohl's, they go to Kohl's. I just believe the free market will work itself out," she added.

For now, the 99-Cents Store and the Escondido shopping center aren’t giving up the fight. Proponents want the Escondido planning commission to override the city's decision and issue a permit.

A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for Jan. 14 at Escondido City Hall.

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