By  on November 30, 2006

San Diego has become the latest U.S. city seeking to restrict development by Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers.

The city council on Tuesday night voted to ban stores of more than 90,000 square feet that devote 10 percent of space to nontaxable goods such as groceries.

The 5-to-3 vote came on a measure aimed at retailers such as Wal-Mart, which operates stores that average 185,000 square feet. The world's largest retailer has 21 supercenters — units as large as 261,000- square feet — in California, but no supercenters in the San Diego area. However, Wal-Mart operates a total of 18 stores in the metropolitan area, including four in the city.

Mayor Jerry Sanders said he will veto the ban if the council confirms it in a second vote that is expected in January. Five votes are necessary to override a mayoral veto.

"We'll take the second vote of this sometime next year and [expect it] to turn out exactly the same….The city council will override the veto," Scott Peters, council president, said.

Wal-Mart in 2002 set a goal of opening 40 supercenters in Cali­fornia, but the company has encountered opposition from union groups, grassroots coalitions and elected officials. A handful of cities, including Los Angeles, Inglewood and Turlock, have passed ordinances that restrict store size.

In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley successfully vetoed an ordinance in September that would have required big-box retailers to pay employees a so-called living wage of at least $10 an hour, with $3 an hour in benefits, by 2010. The veto was a major victory for large-format retailers.

Sanders opposes the big-box ban because "he does not believe that it is the place of local government to limit the choices that consumers should have available to them,'' said his press secretary, Fred Sainz. "Nor does he believe that the San Diego City Council should be making a political decision because they don't like a particular company's business model. Lastly, he believes that this is a decision that can very well send the message that we are unfriendly toward businesses."

Wal-Mart representatives could not be reached for comment, but Sainz said the company has already announced plans to battle the ban, which could include a legal challenge should the measure become law."My neighborhoods don't want to see any large-format big-box stores at all," Scott said. "[They] concentrate too much traffic impact in one place. That's a huge concern in my district and around the city."

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