SF takes up big box store issue once again

September 17, 2012 9:29:13 PM PDT
In San Francisco there is another round in the continuing fight between chain stores and local mom and pops. A new study finds those big operations could have a negative impact on small businesses.

There are just over 1,100 stores in San Francisco that sell fresh food. Most of them like Arguello Market, are small, independent businesses. But the Target that's preparing to open in the Metreon next month will sell food and those kind of big box chain stores make some owners of mom and pop groceries feel threatened.

"If a Walmart comes to San Francisco, you can kiss half of the independents in this city goodbye," said Arguello Market owner Sal Qaqundah.

A new study, based on the results of previous and contested data about Walmarts in Chicato and New York, paints a dire forecast.

The city's Budget and Legislative Analyst finds if any large chain store selling food opens in a central location, within two years 321 small grocers would close, and up to 1,284 jobs would be lost. There is no estimate of how many new jobs might be created. San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar requested the study.

"While this can lead to greater access to fresh food, it comes at the cost of small businesses, closures, lost jobs, and lower labor standards," said Mar.

But Supervisor Malia Cohen says it's a balancing act for poorer neighborhoods like those she represents.

"We've got some serious pronounced needs that mom and pop stores would not solely be able to provide support for, for our neighbors," said Cohen.

The report, presented at City Hall Monday, suggests the Planning Department could require an economic analysis each time a large chain store wants to open. Planning Commissioner Mike Antonini believes that's just another unwanted layer of bureaucracy.

"We don't need more protectionism. We have some controls, some oversight, what we have is good enough," said Antonini.

Mar plans a series of proposals in the next few weeks.


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