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LandWatch helps get Monterey County’s first Big Box Ordinance Passed


LandWatch Monterey County, along with our labor and small business allies, supported the Big Box Ordinance that the Salinas City Council voted 5-2 in favor of on Tuesday, March 10, 2009. The city’s planning staff introduced an excellent ordinance - Zoning Code Amendment 2009-002 - to ensure that superstores will not induce urban blight in the city by running other Salinas retailers out-of-business.

Superstores which combine large grocery sections with general merchandise are dangerous for a city’s fiscal planning and represent bad land-use for two primary reasons: super stores cannibalize existing stores and create urban blight; also, most grocery items are non-taxable. In these challenging times, the City of Salinas needs to maximize the available floor space for taxable items to generate more revenue for the city.

Wal-Mart Corporation recently purchased the former Home Depot building located in the Harden Ranch Shopping Center. That building is currently 102,370 square feet and could be modified to incorporate an additional 20,000 square feet formerly used as an open-air garden center. This building provides enough square footage to become the first Super Wal-Mart in Monterey County and that’s why the ordinance gained traction among city leaders.

The City of Salinas’ Planning staff put forth a very good ordinance to ensure that superstores cannot dedicate more than five percent of the total gross floor area for non-taxable merchandise. The original purposed ordinance had one significant weakness: the restriction on the floor area dedicated to non-taxable merchandise goes into affect ONLY for stores exceeding 100,000 square feet of total gross floor area.

The City of Stockton approved such an ordinance and Wal-Mart responded with a proposal for a 98,000 square foot Superstore that is not subject to the restriction on non-taxable merchandise. It would be easy for Wal-Mart to dodge a 100,000 square foot ordinance by reduce the square footage of the former Home Depot Building to less than 100,000 square feet, since the existing building would only have to be reduced by 2,370 square feet.

On February 18, the city’s Planning Commission voted 4 -1 in favor of recommending to the City Council to pass the ordinance. At the urging of members of the public and LandWatch members, the Planning Commission recommended the City Council not only pass the purposed ordinance, but modify staff’s recommendation so that the restriction on non-taxable merchandise begins with stores larger than 90,000 square feet.

On March 10th, with a full City Hall Chambers, the City Council members debated the ordinance and listened to over an hour of public testimony. Well into the night, the vote was finally called and it passed with 5 -2. The two dissenters were Mayor Dennis Donahue and Councilwoman Janet Barnes. LandWatch is very pleased at the outcome. Both the City of Salinas’ Planning Commission and the city Council voted to protect both existing businesses in Salinas and to protect the economic vitality of downtown.

If you want to read LandWatch’s letter to the Planning Commission, please click on the link below.

Also, if you’d like to review analyses on how superstores can affect a city’s economic health, please click on the links below. These documents are not too large.

LandWatch's mission is to protect Monterey County's future by addressing climate change, community health, and social inequities in housing and infrastructure. By encouraging greater public participation in planning, we connect people to government, address human needs and inspire conservation of natural resources.



306 Capitol Street #101
Salinas, CA 93901

PO Box 1876
Salinas, CA 93902-1876

Phone (831) 759-2824

Fax (831) 759-2825




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