Keeping large superstores out of South San Francisco is the focus of a potential ordinance sparked by a 2012 effort by Walmart to open a location that included a grocery section east of Highway 101.
Walmart had been looking at purchasing 720 Dubuque Ave., the current location of Lowe’s Home Improvement, said Vice Mayor Richard Garbarino.
The City Council adopted an interim ordinance in December 2012, which put a citywide moratorium on issuing use permits, building permits or any other applicable entitlement for large formal retail or superstore uses. These same restrictions were also put on the opening of stores with grocery aspects east of Highway 101. Now, the Planning Commission will take public comment on a draft environmental impact report for a permanent amendment to the zoning ordinance.
“We had concerns from the community that it would take money away from them, which it probably would,” said Mayor Karyl Matsumoto. “We were concerned for Hernandez (a grocery store on Grand Avenue) and smaller grocery stores.”
Matsumoto added she is open to looking at use permits on a case-by-case basis, such as putting in a Safeway superstore as long as it wouldn’t affect the other grocery stores. She is opposed to grocery stores opening east of Highway 101 because of traffic concerns.
The timing for the EIR has to do with the fact the moratorium, which was extended on Jan. 26, 2013 for 16 months, will expire soon on May 23. A draft ordinance suggests prohibiting superstore use in all zoning districts within which a superstore use may currently be allowed, prohibiting grocery use east of Highway 101 and revising, updating and/or adding new definitions (convenience market, large format retail, grocery store, supermarket and superstore) to clarify the city’s intent.
The draft EIR states adoption of these amendments would not result in significant and unavoidable environmental impacts. It also states development of a superstore would not be consistent with several general plan policies related to business retention, business climate and other economic criteria if a superstore were developed, even if the size of the zoning for a superstore were limited, according to a staff report put together by the city’s Planning Manager Gerry Beaudin.
Waiting and seeing what various pieces of data show is Garbarino’s mindset at this time, he said.
“We have to look at the sales tax revenue,” he said. “I’m not too keen on their (Walmart’s) personnel practices, but you can’t say no to somebody because you don’t care for them. Do we really want a big retail outlet over there? If we limit size, that’s one thing. Walmart is just generally on main streets and that’s (720 Dubuque Ave.) awkward to get to.”
The Planning Commission should be giving recommendations to the City Council on the proposed ordinance sometime this month or next. The 45-day public comment period ends Feb. 24. The commission meets 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6 at Council Chambers, 33 Arroyo Drive to take public comment on the draft EIR.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105