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UPDATE DEC. 2:  The council has voted 5-3 to override a veto by the mayor to enact this law.  The same members who initially supported the ban voted for the override.

Requires impact study before a Supercenter could be built; mayor may veto measure

November 29, 2010 (San Diego) – Negative TV advertising by Wal-Mart didn’t dissuade members of the San Diego City Council from voting against Wal-Mart. By a 5-3 vote last week, Councilmembers voted to require a neighborhood impact study be conducted before a building permit may be issued for big-box vendors such as Wal-Mart that want to open stores over 90,000 square feet that sell groceries.

Wal-Mart spent heavily on advertising on television and print, targeting members of the Council who supported the measure. One ad showed a picture of a closed check-out lane and asked, “Who is Councilwoman Marti Emerald fighting for?” The ad accused Emerald of turning her back on hard-working San Diego families and seniors by supporting the measure.

But Emerald fired back, “That just isn’t true and Wal-Mart knows it. Wal-Mart spent enormous money on false and misleading advertising intended to bully the Council and frighten consumers. It’s reprehensible.”

Emerald said the new ordinance is needed to detail how a Superstore would ilmpact smaller businesses and neighborhoods within a five-mile radius. Historically, many small businesses have found themselves forced out of business when a superstore has moved into the area. “This is designed to preserve more shopping choices. That’s good for consumers,” said Emerald, a former TV consumer advocate.

Wal-Mart has been fighting for years to gain share in the San Diego marketplace with a superstore. The company contends that the City is losing $175 million in tax revenues because shoppers go to Wal-Mart Supercenter in neighboring communities. “Passage of the ban will restrict consumer choices, discourage job growth and limit access to affordable, fresh food,” Wal-Mart spokesman Aaron Rios told the Council.

Labor has also fought to keep Wal-Mart supercenters out of San Diego because Wal-Mart does not provide union pay or benefits such as healthcare to its workers, while other major grocery chains do.

In 2006, San Diego’s Council voted to ban all supercenters, but later rescinded the ban after Councilmember Donna Frye changed her vote. Frye supports the impact study measure, but not an outright ban.

Analysts predict that Mayor Jerry Sanders will likely veto the measure next week, in which case Council would need a two-thirds vote to override the measure. Democrat Sherri Lightner joined Republicans Carl DeMaio and Kevin Faulconer in voting no on requiring the economic impact study measure. The measure was introduced by Councilman Todd Gloria; members Marti Emerald, Donna Frye, Ben Hueso and Tony Young also voted in favor.

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