“Economic fascists have already wiped out all of our downtown businesses,” explained California Assemblyman Richard Floyd. “They’ve destroyed independent clothing stores, hardware stores, appliance stores, music stores. Now we’re worried about grocery stores, particularly the small guys in my area.” Floyd, who represents Harbor City in the California state Assembly, authored AB 84, which would prohibit cities and towns in California from approving permits for any store that is larger than 100,000 square feet, if the store has more than 15,000 square feet of space for ‘nontaxable merchandise’, which in the Golden State means food and prescriptions. Floyd’s bill has been approved by the Assembly on a 43-30 vote, and on a 21-16 vote in the Senate on September 9th. The bill is now on the desk of California Governor Gray Davis, who has not indicated his position on the measure. Assemblyman Tom Calderon (D-Montebello) told the Associated Press that AB 84 was aimed at huge retail behemoths that come to a town, lower prices until the local stores are driven out of business, and then jack up the prices again. “This is about saving jobs,” Calderon said. “This is about competition.” The bill would not affect the 198 Wal-Mart and Costco stores already in the ground in California, but would affect future projects. A Costco official criticized the bill as usurping “the right of local governments to have their own local zoning”, even though local zoning is customarily defined by a state statute that sets the parameters for local police powers. Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa said of the bill “Facilities this large generate immense traffic problems and create a drain on public facilities. This bill will protect neighborhoods and communities.” Floyd, who filed the bill, described the big box stores as “monsters”. Similar legislation is now being considered in Las Vegas, NV. A draft ordinance there limits food sales in stores larger than 100,000 s.f. to 2% of square footage for the sale or display of food.
Let Governor Davis know that you support placing limits on uncontrolled big box development. California is about to put a leash around the kind of out of scale development that has laid waste to communities coast to coast. Governor Davis needs to hear from you now. To call Gray Davis, call 916-445-2841, or fax him your support of AB 84 at 916-445-4633. Many communities across the nation have passed local zoning laws to limit the scale of big stores. Building caps, “neighborhood commercial” zones, and other zoning changes have been adopted at the local level to prevent commercial districts from being dominated by one or two national chains. The Floyd bill comes at the issue from a state level, but seeks to accomplish the same end: controlling runaway retail sprawl. Contact Governor Davis as soon as possible.