California County Considers Banning Big Box Groceries

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California County Considers Banning Big Box Groceries

MARTINEZ, Calif. -- Contra Costa County in California is considering a ban on super-sized retailers such as Wal-Mart that sell major nonfood items alongside grocery items, reports the Contra Costa Times.

The draft law under review by the planning commission mirrors similar supercenter laws adopted recently in Martinez, Oakland, several Southern California cities and elsewhere in the nation. The regulation would prohibit a retailer with a store in excess of 90,000 square feet from devoting more than 5 percent of its sales space to groceries.

Membership stores such Costco are exempt, as planners say these stores do not generate as much traffic or impact local shops as significantly as supercenters. No company has built or even applied for a supercenter in Contra Costa County, according to the report, but critics say it is only a matter of time before the nationwide "bigger is better" phenomenon strikes.

Social justice, labor and faith groups laud the ban as a way to protect good-paying union jobs and to preserve neighborhood grocery stores.

"Supercenters rob market share from neighborhood stores and drive them out of business using aggressive low-pricing tactics and by paying low wages," said Contra Costa Labor Council President John Dalrymple.

The commission will vote on the draft ordinance next month. The Board of Supervisors could cast the final decision later this year.