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Councilmember Jay Schenirer opposes updates to big-box ordinance

Councilmember Jay Schenirer is calling on city staff to scrap the latest revision of the superstore ordinance, which keeps the current regulations on superstores active in only two areas of the city: the grid and East Sacramento .

"I have a real challenge, personally, with creating a zoning ordinance like this, and then excepting two neighborhoods," Schenirer said in an interview Wednesday.

Schenirer supports the original version of the ordinance that was passed by the Planning and Design Commission on May 29, which removes the requirement that companies seeking to build a "superstore" first conduct an Economic Impact Analysis, or a detailed report on the effect the store would have on the local economy and other businesses. Under current city code, the EIA is required for any proposed store with over 90,000 square feet with more than 10 percent of its space dedicated for groceries. The requirement does not apply to stores with membership programs, like Costco.

Under the new proposal, the city could still require that a company seeking to build a superstore to conduct an EIA, since the store would still need a conditional use permit, but it would be up to city staff to determine whether or not an EIA or other analysis was necessary.

However, after an outcry from neighborhood groups in Midtown and East Sacramento, city staff revised the ordinance so that the EIA would still be required for stores seeking to locate in those neighborhoods.

Schenirer believes that the city shouldn’t create an ordinance that applies to some neighborhoods but not others.

"I’m asking staff to look at thinking about other language that might show us where we can locate stores of that size, rather than saying it’s ‘OK, except for these neighborhoods,’" he said.

Scott Mende, the city’s New Growth Manager, said that changing the ordinance so that the EIA requirement was based on a criteria rather than a specific geographic area would be difficult.

"That’s obviously a lot more challenging,” he said. "It’s easier to draw a line rather than come up with criteria that work in all circumstances."

The Marshall School/New Era Park Neighborhood Association and East Sacramento Preservation remain opposed to the ordinance, despite the latest changes exempting their neighborhoods. Union groups, such as Sacramento Central Labor Council, are also opposed to the ordinance, but business groups, like the Metro Chamber or Regional Builders, are strong supporters.

Mende said that Schenirer’s concerns might mean that the city needs to rethink the ordinance, again.

"Obviously, I’m sensing that there is not a consensus here, we have not arrived at a compromise that is making everybody happy, so back to the drawing board," Mende said.

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About the author

Jared Goyette

  • Julie Murphy

    Below is the text from the letter forwarded to the City Council and Mayor regarding the Superstore ordinance.

    The Marshall School/New Era Park Neighborhood Association Board (MSNE) is not in favor of revisions to the City’s “Superstore” Ordinance as proposed by City Staff. It is important to consider the economic impacts that stores like Walmart cause to a community, as a whole. In Midtown, we are blessed with a diverse number of local, independent businesses. While we appreciate that City Staff has come around to our thinking on preserving the small business community in Midtown and East Sacramento, we still advocate for the superstore ordinance to remain a citywide ordinance. The small business communities in Oak Park, Tahoe Park, Hollywood Park, Land Park, and so on, are just as important as the small business community in the Central City and East Sacramento.
    Businesses like Walmart negatively impact these small, independent businesses. Those impacts should be studied and considered prior to bringing these businesses into our community.

    Businesses, like Walmart, pay their workers a low wage and train their employees as to how to take advantage of government services such as WIC, Medicare, and other government programs (U.C. Berkeley Labor Center). According to an article on Truth-out.org “Many of these workers need welfare to survive. Thus you, the taxpayer, are paying part of Wal-Mart employees’ incomes, to the tune of between $900,000 and $1.75 million per store, and about $5,815 per employee.”
    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/16863-you-pay-walmarts-workers-as-company-keeps-its-money

    MSNE applauds the forethought of the City Council to enact the “Superstore” ordinance in 2006. It was the right thing to do in 2006 and it is the right thing to do now. The City of Sacramento needs to seek out a diversity of business opportunities and not chase after low paying jobs that will only lower the overall economic base for our community.

  • George Raya

    I would like to point out something, retaining the city ordinance does not ban ‘superstores. The ordinance simply requires companies seeking to build stores with over 90,000 square feet first conduct an Economic Impact Analysis, or a detailed report on the effect the store would have on the local economy and local businesses. Target had no problem complying with this ordinance.

  • Julie Murphy

    Great point, George. We, as a community, deserve to know all of the impacts of this type of business model on Sacramento – citywide.

    • bye bye Sacpress

      Great point, George. But don’t you think all Sacramento businesses should be required to do an EIA, not just big, non-membership stores with >10% grocery?

      Afterall, it is impossible for a new business to enter the market without it negatively impacting an existing business. In practice, the worst offenders in the Sacramento core are large supermarket chains like Safeway and Raley’s, whose large size and buying power make competition impossible for markets that aren’t super.

      I also think existing businesses should be required to prepare an EIA. Why should an existing business have any kind of advantage over a new business just based on legacy?

      Join the cause… EIAs for all businesses! EIA for all businesses! Yeah!!!

    • William Burg

      “Reductio ad absurdum” gets old really quickly, cogmeyer.

    • Cogmeyer, it’s like saying a danish is a a donut without a hole. A danish has a different flavor and texture than a donut.

      WalMart has a different business model than a grocery store. You also need to look at all of the other businesses that WalMart will harm.

    • Tony Sheppard

      But the ordinance, as it currently stands, wouldn’t require an EIA from Walmart unless it specifically was likely to be both very big AND harm grocery stores. If Walmart wanted to build a very big non-grocery store (and harm all those other businesses), they could do so without an EIA – and if they wanted to build a “quite big” store and harm grocery stores, they’d be OK too.

    • William Burg

      cogmeyer: Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op is a union store. I’d appreciate it if you removed that particular lie from your repertoire.

    • bye bye Sacpress

      To Tony’s point, how is WalMarts GROCERY model different than Costco, Sunflower, Trader Joes, deleted, Whole Foods and other non-union grocers? I see more similarities than differences: similar floor space for grocery operations, similar low pay for low skill work, similar ultra-efficient supply chains, and a similar (devastating) impact on small family run corner markets. You think Corti Bros. hasn’t been impacted by having Trader Joes down the street?

      But somehow because Trader Joe’s has a tastier beer and falafel selection and employs cuter college girls, WalMart has to confirm to higher regulatory burden then Trader Joe’s. That is some pretty warped thinking on the role of government.

    • bye bye Sacpress

      The lie has been deleted!

    • bye bye Sacpress

      A grocery ordinance targeted against non-union grocers is what is absurd. Especially when it goes after one non-union grocer (Walmart) but not (deleted), Trader Joes, Sunflower, Costco etc etc.

      And my broader point is valid. If EIAs are truly useful for a community to understand and manage market competition, why wouldn’t we want EIA’s for all new businesses? Starbucks putting local coffee shops out of business, or a new taco truck reducing the profits at a nearby taquieria?

      I truly really don’t get the basis on why our city is focused on managing the competition between Wal-Mart Corporation and Safeway Corporation, which is essentially what the current ordinance attempts to do.

  • Transparency is best for the neighborhoods and community at large. Why would citizens be opposed to being informed of the economic impacts? Wouldn’t we want to know what businesses are good and bad for the economy of our city?

    • bye bye Sacpress

      Agreed. EIA’s for all businesses in Sacramento! Transparancy for everyone!

  • Tony Sheppard

    The ordinance isn’t designed to protect small businesses, it’s designed to protect large grocery stores. Walmart can build a store anytime it wants as long as it isn’t putting grocery stores out of business by selling a large amount of food.

    And there’s a false dichotomy in thinking that requiring an EIA analysis stops other businesses from going under. It pushes the big stores across the city line and the smaller businesses still suffer and the city loses sales tax revenues from both the small store and the big store. I’m not against EIA’s but let’s not pretend they solve all the problems.

    • Why not make an informed decision? Isn’t that what scientists do? The community deserves an Economic Impact Analysis. Why should we trust the City of Sacramento to make decisions for us?

    • Tony Sheppard

      Like I said, I’m not against EIA’s (although many prove fairly worthless – after all, pretty much every large business that has ever failed has gone through some kind of EIA or feasibility analysis that has said positive things in advance).

      But when it comes to cities/municipalities, we have to realize/remember that we’re also at the mercy of whatever our neighbors in other cities/municipalities do. If we decide we want to restrict certain things in order to protect other things, but the city/municipality next door doesn’t make the same decision, it’s very possible to end up losing both. Look, for example, at where most of the area’s car dealerships are located and who’s getting those sales taxes. I’m sure many people would say they wouldn’t want huge car dealerships in their neighborhood – but they’ll also complain when the city doesn’t have enough money to keep their neighborhood pool open – and the local auto malls, outside the city, are siphoning away car sales taxes from city residents.

      And we also need to know the actual rules and what they affect. The current ordinance doesn’t stop big box stores – it stops big box stores that threaten grocery stores. It doesn’t stop Walmart from building a store, with or without an EIA.

      There’s a great tendency to look at these issues as though they are simple, black and white dichotomies, not parts of much larger, more complex systems.

    • William Burg

      On the other hand, generally when cities decide to restrict one kind of business in favor of another, generally it works out about equally: they don’t necessarily gain or lose tax revenue, but they end up with more of the kinds of businesses they would rather see, and fewer of the kinds they don’t. So people inside the city limits who want something at Wal-Mart might leave the city limits for it, but people outside the city limits who want to patronize a local business are more likely to cross into our city limits to shop there (note that “local” also means “regional.”) There are also down sides to flashy tax revenue generators like auto malls–they have a lifespan. Auto malls are kind of a drug on the market, and they don’t age well. They are an inefficient use of land that only works well on an urban perimeter–the economics change radically in city centers.

    • bye bye Sacpress

      William,
      If I reasonably beleived that “it would generally work out about equally” I would probably be on board with your argument (minus the consumer choice angle… consenting adults should be able to shop or not shop whereever they please without government social engineering).

      But bottomline I don’t believe it does works out equally. Sacramento’s anti-business broadcasts eventually reach their target audience, to the detriment of Sacramento’s tax base.

  • This ordinance sounds like another attempt for the City to support Big Corporations and dump on Small Business. I see no good for small businesses in this endeavor. It’s time the City had more people who were Small Business minded on the City Council.

    • William Burg

      Unless the “small business” in question wants to open a store larger than 120,000 square feet that sells groceries, it wouldn’t apply to small business at all.

  • Michael Murphy

    I’m baffled and confused by Jay Schenirer’s position on the big box ordinance. He dismisses science and data gathering with ease. An Economic Impact Analysis will allows a part-time city council a second set of eyes to make sure that a big box store would complement the community instead of hindering it. This study also gives the community and small businesses the opportunity to weigh. We deserve a study.

    As a supporter of Measure U, I’m quite disappointed in the direction that Sacramento is heading. I voted to increase my taxes to provide more services. In return, our city seems to be bottom feeding by trying to bring big box stores without an Economic Impact Analysis. As a taxpayer, I’m going to have to subsidize these low paying jobs to the tune of approximately $5,000 per employee or about $1 million dollars per store. Sacramento came to the taxpayers and asked for our help. Is this how they are going to repay us?

  • Ryan Schauland (f.k.a. ryuns)

    I hate to come out swinging in favor of corporations, but I’m not a fan of this ordinance, nor do I like the exception that was added. But I do like me some Jay Schenirer. He made me a hot dog in Curtis Park one time. True story. Anyhoo.

    This is clearly designed to set hurdles in front of a business that unions and lefties just love to hate: Wal-Mart. I don’t dispute the reports of Wal Mart employees that are net costs to taxpayers, etc. But, y’know, s’all in the game. Corporations gonna be corporations. We’re supposed to make laws to keep corporations from being a–holes, but this just isn’t a good example. If you want Wal Mart to pay higher wages and stop costing taxpayers so much money, we need a higher minimum wage and/or fines for not giving your employees health care–you don’t need to design an ordinance for one municipality that keeps Wal Mart just on the other side of the border. And if your city doesn’t like big box stores, you need to set out ordinances and zoning requirements that make clear where these businesses are and are not appropriate and why, given things like transportation options and even qualitative aspects like neighborhood character. Wal Mart doesn’t belong in Midtown or East Sac, but not because those neighborhoods yelled the loudest when an ordinance was passed, but because it would be a short-sighted to put something that clearly doesn’t belong in that neighborhood. And a big box store wouldn’t belong because it has a huge footprint and generates a ton of traffic. Not because it has Wal Mart in the name. A Wal Mart Neighborhood Market has just as much right in East Sac as a Sprouts.

    • William Burg

      And a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market wouldn’t have to do an economic analysis under the current ordinance.

  • Excellent idea – Wal-Mart should pay a living wage. Washington D.C. thought the same thing and passed an ordinance that big box stores should pay a living wage. The only problem – – Wal-Mart does not want to pay a living wage.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/18/walmart-worker-wages_n_3611531.html

    According to a study quote in this article, it would only cost Wal-Mart customers an additional 46 cents per transaction if Wal-Mart paid a living wage to its employees. It is much easier for Wal-Mart if the taxpayers of Sacramento County pay for the social services that Wal-Mart employees need to use because they don’t get paid a living wage and don’t have adequate medical benefits.

    I just don’t know why any sane person thinks doing business with a company like this is a good idea for this region. People are more important then the bottom line sometimes. Let’s draw the line here. Now it is just up to Councilmember Schenirer to realize that fact as well.

    • bye bye Sacpress

      If the goal is that all grocery employers in Sacramento (big box or otherwise) should pay a living wage, I frankly don’t understand why anyone supports this particular ordinance, which has no such requirement.

      Why not just lobby City Hall for a living wage ordinance?

  • bye bye Sacpress

    Does Trader Joe’s in East Sac pay a “living wage”?

    • William Burg
    • bye bye Sacpress

      i read the article but i dont see the living wages for Trader Joe’s, only for Quik Trip. 18 yrs ago my girlfriend worked at Trader’s, and they paid a little better than minimum for part timers, who were the majority of the Crew. Glass Door say Trader J employees in Cali make $12/hr and full time earns $13. This is well below the union wages paid at Raley’s, Safeway etc. i don’t know if 12-13 is a living wage or not, but the wage structure at Trader’s looks a lot more like Walmart’s rather than Safeway’s. It qould seem logical to include Trader Joe’s when requiring EIAs for new grocery stores in Sacramento.

    • William Burg

      $13/hour for a 40 hour work week: $26,000 or so per year

      $8/hour for a 28 hour work week (to avoid paying benefits): $11,000 or so per year

      Per capita income for Sacramento County is $27180 a year. So, yeah, I suppose I’d call that a living wage. Maybe not quite as much as union-represented Safeway, but nothing to sneeze at either.

      If Trader Joe’s is too fancy-pants, how about WinCo? They pay their employees better than Wal-Mart, and have lower prices.

      http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/WinCo-Pays-Its-Employees-Better-Than-Walmart-And-Has-Lower-Prices

  • Michael Murphy

    First of all Cogmeyer, Trader Joe’s isn’t a big box store! Trader Joe’s does not sell furniture, fishing gear, hunting gear, clothing, a full plant nursery, and may other things. Trader Joe’s also does not have a McDonald’s. For me, this is a community issue, it isn’t a big box store issue.

    The knee-jerk reaction is to just say “no regulations for any businesses.” That is the easy approach. Cogmeyer, I would invite you to research all of the big box-related issues including impacts on small businesses, environmental issues, exit strategy, traffic impacts, pollution, and all the negative impacts that a big box store like Wal-Mart brings to our neighborhoods and tell me your comfortable without doing an Economic Impact Analysis. Do you really trust big business to be honest with a community? I don’t. Do you trust the City of Sacramento to tell you all the pluses and minuses of a proposed large-scale project? I don’t.

    • William Burg

      Please give us a list of Trader Joe’s stores with a square footage more than 120,000 square feet, cogmeyer.

    • bye bye Sacpress

      Michael’s point, and I believe yours as well William, is that this ordinance is needed to protect existing grocers from large national competitors who have lower wage, Part Time labor models.

      I don’t beleive its effective for local government to try to regulate labor models. But if we insist on doing so, we should apply the same standard to all grocery stores in the city.

    • bye bye Sacpress

      Michael, read the ordinance, it only applies to big box stores when a grocery is attached. So however distasteful you may find big box retailers, one could plop down in East Sac tomorrow without an EIA. So let’s talk about the focus of the ordinance, which is grocery.

      Trader Joe’s grocery square footage, pricing, supply chain and wage structure is very similar to WalMart’s. Why are you not in favor of an ordinance that covers all grocer’s?

  • “Many employers believe that one of the best ways to raise their profit margin is to cut labor costs. But companies like QuikTrip, the grocery-store chain Trader Joe’s, and Costco Wholesale are proving that the decision to offer low wages is a choice, not an economic necessity. All three are low-cost retailers, a sector that is traditionally known for relying on part-time, low-paid employees. Yet these companies have all found that the act of valuing workers can pay off in the form of increased sales and productivity. [Emphasis added.]

    QuikTrip, Trader Joe’s, and Costco operate on a different model, Ton says. “They start with the mentality of seeing employees as assets to be maximized,” she says. As a result, their stores boast better operational efficiency and customer service, and those result in better sales. [… ]

    Read more: http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/03/25/rejecting-wal-mart-strategy-trader-joes-pays-employees-a-living-wage-and-wins/#ixzz2bhOFtWgE …”

    All grocers aren’t the same. Some try to be a net benefit to the community.

    • bye bye Sacpress

      Yeah i read that too. Again what wage does Trader Joe’s pay in Sacramento? Or is this one of those theoretical “good grocer / bad grocer” discussions?

  • Michael Murphy

    There is a great article written by Thom Hartman on Alternet.com about why it is important for Wal-Mart to pay a living wage and why Costco is simply a better business.

    The article states: “Costco, a wholesale distributor and one of Walmart’s major competitors, is among America’s most successful companies. In the first quarter of 2013 alone, its profits “jumped 19 percent to $459 million,” beating out its rivals K-Mart, Target, and, of course, Walmart. Since 2009, its stocks have doubled in value and profits are up 15 percent. But unlike Walmart, Costco pays its workers a living wage, and then some. The average Costco employee makes a little over $20 an hour and takes home, on average, around $45,000 a year. By comparison, the average yearly pay of an employee at Walmart’s wholesale unit, Sam’s Club, is only about $17,500.”

    http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/its-time-do-something-when-corporation-walmart-wont-pay?page=0%2C1

    Sacramento deserves businesses that pay a living wage to its employees. We don’t need businesses that are a drain our social services.

    • bye bye Sacpress

      How about Trader Joes, who unlike Costco, actually has a store in East Sacramento? They were welcomed with open arms to East Sac, but they do not pay $20/hour. It is reasonable that a portion of their $13 per hour workforce receives govt assistance to make ends meet. Why wouldn’t you support an EIA requirement for Trader Joe’s?

  • We’ve provided several links showing how much government assistance WalMart employees cost the taxpayers, but you haven’t show us one single link showing us how much government assistance Trader Joes employees cost taxpayer’s. So does that make your argument purely theoretical ?

    Cogmeyer, have you ever been in a Trader Joes? How can you compare Trader Joes to WalMart?

    • bye bye Sacpress

      Yeah, been there. (I have the door dings from East Sac TJ’s to prove it 🙂

      What is the key difference(s) in your opinion?

      As I mentioned before, the grocery floor area, low wage-P/T labor model, and ultra-lean super competitive supply chains make the two business models quite similar.

      Trader Joe’s has certainly pursued a different and somewhat more unique product selection than Wal-Mart, but hopefully city ordinances are not defined by a store’s blue corn tortilla selection.

  • “According to Walmart’s website, a full-time hourly Walmart employee earns an average of $12.78 per hour in the United States. However, according to the IBISWorld research, an average sales associate actually earns around $8.81 per hour, making less than the Federal Poverty Level for a family of four, annually.”

    http://www.buzzle.com/articles/walmart-employee-average-salary.html

    $13 per hour seems like a lot more money compared to the statistics provided above.

  • I hate stores like Wal Mart, Target, Costco, and Sam’s Club, etc. Talk about ruining America!!! Have you ever gone to the Wal Mart at El Camino and Watt? It pretty much shows you that America is turning into a lost cause. I had to go there a year ago with a friend who buys her jeans there. OMG!!! What a lowlife haven that place is. Plus, the employees look like they came from Loaves and Fishes. Missing teeth, dirty hair, etc. And, they had a grocery section right up front near the check-out stands. The lines were so long at the check-out stands that they extended back to the grocery area. I saw people’s kids picking up fruit and vegetable with their dirty, sticky hands while waiting in line. They also had some kind of pizza place in there and the entire store smelled like burning crust. In the areas where they sell clothes, people had taken clothes from the shelves, apparently held them up to look at them and, instead of putting them back onto the shelves, they just would drop them on the floor. That was my one and only time in one of those stores. To me, they exemplify all that’s wrong with America today. It’s depressing and disgusting. Those stores are merely large warehouses stocked with Chinese merchandise. Ugh.

    • The fact that the lines were “so long they extended into the grocery area”should make it clear how successful these stores are.I dont think they are ruining America or the United States for that matter.They provide goods that people are willing to purchase.If you feel that the merchandise is below your standards, by all means shop somewhere else.The funny thing about snobbery is that when you look down on others, you are kinda saying more about your own character.

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