Dublin, California is located in the Tri-Valley region of San Francisco’s East Bay. The city was created in 1982, and today has a population of roughly 42,000 people. The city says it has a “mild climate and a positive attitude toward commercial, industrial and residential growth.” But the positive attitude towards companies like Wal-Mart may have worn away. There are 9 Wal-Marts within 20 miles of Dublin, including a Wal-Mart less than three miles away in Pleasanton. According to the Tri Valley Herald newspaper, one Dublin Councilman wants to bar the door before Wal-Mart drops another application in the city’s planning office. Councilman Tim Sbranti wants to launch a pre-emptive strike against superstores that may be looking to locate in Dublin. Sbranti told the newspaper he wants to bring up the issue of the city banning “nonmembership” big box stores greater than 90,000 square feet of sales space, which also contain at least 5% or more of their shelf space for nontaxable groceries. Such a ban would impact Wal-Mart supercenters and Target Greatland stores, but would not impact warehouse clubs like Sam’s and Costco. Sbranti said he opposes such stores because they consume large amounts of land, the city gets no sales tax from groceries, and the big boxes are bad for local merchants. “I think we can do better for Dublin in terms of land use planning,” he explained. Over the past few years, Sprawl-Busters has written many stories about cities and towns in California and other western states that have adopted such a cap. This particular variant of the cap idea was proposed by the United Food and Commercial Workers. In other states, a simple cap on size has been enacted, which impacts all large stores, including member clubs. Wal-Mart had plans to build a 200,000-square-foot supercenter in Dublin on Isabel Avenue, but the retailer withdrew the proposal in late January after strong community opposition was expressed. Councilor Sbranti does not want to wait for another proposal to get filed. He worries that other commercial property is available for big stores, and the city needs to be proactive. At the city council meeting next week Sbranti will ask the council to direct Dublin planning staff to explore the issue.
Dublin does not have to reinvent the wheel. A number of California communities have pioneered this type of size limit, and the courts have upheld such ordinances. Wal-Mart has tried to challenge this type of zoning ordinances in court, but has lost each case. The fact is, cities and towns have the police power to limit the size and location of big stores. The courts have also said that such ordinances — even if they have the indirect impact of limiting competition — are legal. Size caps have become a piece of mainstream smart growth planning, and Dublin will have a clear legal precedent to adopt such a limit. Readers should call Dublin Mayor Janet Lockhart at (925) 833-6663 and urge her to support a cap on the size of big boxes. You can email the Mayor at: [email protected] Then give Councilor Tim Sbranti a call at (925) 833-6664 or e-mail him at: [email protected] Congratulate him on his size cap plan, and urge him to push hard to make the cap a reality in Dublin. For other stories about size limits, search Newsflash by “caps.”