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September 17, 2011

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Editor:  Lee Perkins



  1. CA SB469 – impact on Big Box developments

  1. Subsidize Big Boxes at Local Shops’ Expense


V. Community Announcements



Walmart is again delaying, this time implementing the EIR directive.  Walmart is saying its “fair share” is $1.5 M versus the $3 M or so that the Walmart/Annex road/over-change improvements will cost.  The Rottman Group says they cannot afford to pay a share of these improvements.  A TT editorial suggested, the City should not cross the line between “discussions” and “negotiations” in talks now ongoing re funding of traffic improvements for a new Walmart center.  “In this case, we [TT] firmly believe the developers should pay their own way–which is what they offered to do practically from the start.”


Another reason for delay could be the CA Legislature’s Bill, SB 469, which is now on Gov Brown’s Desk.  Please see below.  This will require the city or county considering the superstore application to hire a qualified consultant to conduct an economic impact study. The cost of the study is paid by a fee levied on the applicant.  This is in addition to what the traditional EIR mandates for an economic study.

II. CA SB469 – impact on Big Box developments

Economic Impact Review - California


INTRODUCED BY Senator Vargas FEBRUARY 17, 2011
An act to amend Section 65950 of, and to add Section 65957.3 to, the Government Code, relating to land use.

On September 2, 2011, the California Legislature passed the following bill, which requires cities and counties to have an economic impact analysis prepared before deciding whether to approve an application to develop a large superstore.

Governor Jerry Brown has until October 9, 2011, to sign or veto the bill.  PLEASE BE IN TOUCH WITH GOV BROWN TO LET HIM KNOW THAT YOU WANT HIM TO SIGN SB 469 ASAP TO SAFEGUARD OUR CITIES BUSINESSES.  YOU CAN REACH HIM AT:  Mailing address:  Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160 (preferred contact other than phone)

Emails could take up to 90 days to respond

The legislation defines a superstore as a retail store of at least 90,000 square feet that devotes 10 percent or more of its space to groceries. It will affect Walmart and Target, both of which operate large stores that include groceries.

Under the law, the city or county considering the superstore application must hire a qualified consultant to conduct an economic impact study. The cost of the study is paid by a fee levied on the applicant.

The study must assess a range of impacts enumerated in the law, including:

  • the extent to which the proposed superstore retailer will capture a share of retail sales in the market area.
  • how the construction and operation of the proposed superstore will affect the supply and demand for retail space in the market area.
  • how the construction and operation of the proposed superstore will affect employment in the market area, including an analysis of whether the proposed superstore will result in a net increase or decrease in employment in the market area.
  • the effect on wages and benefits of employees of other retail businesses, and community income levels in the market area.
  • the costs of public services and public facilities resulting from the construction and operation of the proposed superstore retailer and the incidence of those costs.
  • the effect that the construction and operation of the proposed superstore retailer will have on retail operations, including grocery or retail shopping centers, in the same market area.
  • the effect that the construction and operation of the proposed superstore will have on average total vehicle miles traveled by retail customers in the same market area.
  • the potential for long-term vacancy of the property on which the superstore is proposed in the event that the business vacates the premises

The “market area” is defined as an area around the store large enough to support its operation, but which may not extend further than 25 miles from the store.  After the study is complete, the city or county must invite public comment on the study and the application at one of its meetings.

In 2010, San Diego enacted a ordinance requiring an economic impact review of superstores. The measure was repealed in early 2011, after Walmart threatened to organize a referendum campaign to overturn the law.

The repeal prompted San Diego Senator Juan Vargas to introduce the statewide bill. Vargas has said that the legislation does not violate local control; cities are still free to approve superstore applications, regardless of the study’s findings. “They will know what they are doing is wrong but at least they will have the facts,” he said. “Before they were acting in the dark.”

San Diego Assemblyman Ben Hueso, who presented the bill in the house, said that it provides decision-makers “with facts, not hearsay.” Walmart and other large retailers often claim their stores will increase employment, but studies indicate these stores often cause more job losses than gains.

By making the requirement apply statewide, the new law ensures that cities that would like to consider economic impacts are not placed at a disadvantage. The preamble to the bill notes: “Currently, local governments that desire to perform due diligence for their constituents by performing an economic analysis are placed at a disadvantage because a neighboring city or county may not perform an economic analysis. This a situation may result in the shifting of sales tax and destruction of the business community in a city or county that simply wants to study the impacts of the development project before making a final approval.

III. Don’t Subsidize Big Boxes at Local Shops’ Expense

When governments use public money to woo national chains, economic growth and job creation are negligible. Independent retailers also suffer

By Stacy Mitchell

Sifting though the postmortem news of Borders Group’s demise, I came across a local newspaper story about a California town that had spent $1.6 million to lure a Borders bookstore to a local shopping center. According to the paper, government officials in Pico Rivera in 2003 agreed to pay part of a new Borders store’s operating expenses by providing a $10,833 monthly subsidy for the next 15 years.

That might seem like an astonishing amount of public money to give a retail shop, but what’s truly remarkable about the deal is just how unexceptional it actually is. Handing out multimillion-dollar subsidies to large chains has become commonplace in much of the country. These deals are premised on the idea that new shopping centers and big-box stores expand employment and create economic growth. The trouble is, these giveaways have done little more than help large retailers at the expense of small businesses.

No one knows exactly how much public money has flowed to chains. These subsidies take different forms—property tax exemptions, sales tax rebates, job tax credits—and most states do not keep a central record of every municipal and county development incentive. But Good Jobs First, a nonprofit research group that tracks these deals, estimates that large retailers have received at least several billion dollars over the past 15 years. Its executive director, Greg LeRoy, says the giveaways have continued through the recession, despite budget shortfalls and a glut of vacant retail space.


Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) has been a frequent recipient. From 2008 through 2009, the company pocketed $7.9 million in tax exemptions from local development agencies in New York, according to data from the state comptroller. Wal-Mart also received $1.8 million in tax credits and rebates in 2009 to build five supercenters in Louisiana, records kept by the state’s Board of Commerce & Industry show. Last year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the city of Bridgeton, Mo., approved a $7.2 million deal to finance construction of a single Wal-Mart supercenter.

Other big retailers have been at the public trough, too. Target (TGT) picked up $1.4 million in local tax breaks to build a store in the small town of Kenner, just outside New Orleans, according to the Times-Picayune. Amazon (AMZN) secured a five-year sales tax exemption from the South Carolina legislature in exchange for opening a distribution center in the state.

Subsidy recipients and government officials often justify these deals on the basis of job creation and economic growth. While Wal-Mart and Amazon did not respond to requests for comment, Molly Snyder, a Target spokeswoman, says the “Kenner Target store created more than 200 new jobs.” She notes: “The business development agreement was a key factor in helping to get the project built.”


A recent study, however, indicates that subsidizing retail development produces neither job gains nor new tax revenue. Earlier this year a consortium of local governments in the St. Louis metro area found that cities and counties in the region had diverted more than $5.8 billion in public tax dollars to finance private development. More than 80 percent of these funds supported the construction of new chain stores and shopping centers.

Yet the region has seen virtually no economic growth. “The number of retail jobs has increased only slightly and, in real dollars, retail sales per capita have not increased in years,” the authors of the study wrote, noting that many of the region’s municipalities are now broke. According to the study, more than 600 small retailers have closed in the St. Louis metro area. The resulting job losses have offset the job gains from the new development.

These findings should prompt other cities and regions to reconsider the wisdom of giving big retailers tax breaks and subsidies. Not only is evidence of a public benefit lacking, but local businesses shouldn’t see their tax dollars used to boost their biggest competitors.

A more prudent, and fairer, way for cities to support economic development would be to invest in infrastructure, education, and other community assets that are broadly beneficial to a wide variety of businesses and potential entrepreneurs.

Had Pico Rivera taken such an approach, it might still have a bookstore. In the years since the city began funding Borders, more than 400 new independent bookstores have opened nationwide, according to the American Booksellers Assn. Virtually all did so without the benefit of public funding, staking their success instead on smart business skills and the kind of community support that must be earned one customer at a time.

Stacy Mitchell is a senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, where she directs initiatives on independent business and community banking. She is the author of Big-Box Swindle.


According to the TT today, Unionized grocery workers may vote for a strike tonight.  Grocery workers have been negotiating and without a contract for eight months.  The issue is over benefits reduction including health care.  In 2003 the Grocery workers settled a 4 month strike and compromised with Grocery owners reducing benefits for new incoming workers.  To maintain a head-of-household wage and health care, the Grocery workers have reached a limit for compromise.  It is likely, if the strike is voted to go forward, that Albertson’s will close temporarily. We hope you will not cross the picket line for Ralphs, Vons and Albertson’s if they open and the strike continues.

While the TT taks about the loss in business for the Grocers, it does not talk about what a difficult decision it is to strike.  Striking means a dramatic loss of pay for Grocery workers.

Please support your local family and neighbors who are grocery store workers and must take a stand now to provide for themselves and families.

Other options in Atascadero are Spencer’s and Food For Less.

IV. Community Announcements:


An Introduction to the Faith of Muslims

Come and learn about a faith tradition that many of us know little about. A day long seminar will be held at the Lake Pavilion on Saturday, October 29th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. It will be led by Dr. Stephen Lloyd-Moffett, the chair of religious studies at Cal Poly University, Dr. Rushdi Abdul-Cader, a local Muslim physician, and Rev. Jane Voigts from SLO United Methodist Church.

This seminar was held in SLO to rave reviews and a standing room only crowd, so we have invited them to the North County. The way to create peace in our world is through understanding and building relationships, and it begins here in our own communities.

We are suggesting a $20 donation at the door to cover the costs of the hall and lunch, which will be provided.

For more information, contact:

Rev. Susan Brecht, (805) 466-9108 or

Rev. Jane Voigts, (805)543-7580 or

ATASCADERO MOVING PLANET RALLEY- a single day to move away from fossil fuels.  Sat., 9/24 at the Atascadero Lake Park, 3-9:00 pm

3RD ANNUAL FOOD BANK HUNGER WALK, SUN., 9/25 at Lake Park, 2:00 pm


“MISS REPRESENTATION” a new film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Wed, Oct 5, 5-6:30 wine tasting and Tapas at Luna Red, 1009 Monterey, SLO. or 546-3456 for $50/person tickets. AND/OR

7-9:00 Movie & Q & A at the Fremont, free screening, suggested $15 donation at door at 6:00 pm.  Tickets can be reserved by email:

Bill McKibben (new book Eaarth) to speak at Fremont on Oct. 30-get tickets on line: and use your credit card.


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