SB 469: This Is About Local Decision-Making

In California, local governments are required to study how new development impacts the surrounding environment, and rightly so. Before buildings are put up, the public deserves to know if there will be more traffic impacts, if it will harm wildlife or if there’s a possibility that nearby creeks or beaches will be polluted as a result.

With our state facing such a deep recession, why aren’t we requiring the same studies when it comes to economic issues – like jobs, benefits and businesses?

It’s very encouraging to see state leaders begin to start that discussion.

Senate Bill 469, the Small and Neighborhood Business Protection Act, was authored by Senator Juan Vargas to help address a very significant impact on local economies in California – Supercenters. Last week, the State Senate voted to approve the bill, which would require big-box superstores like Wal-Mart Supercenters to undergo an economic impact analysis before they can be built in California.

We all know the harmful impacts that these Supercenters have had on our communities. They’ve put mom-and-pop stores out of business. They’ve driven down wages and even property values in communities where they’re located. And they’ve increased the need for public services like police and food stamp assistance because of upticks in crime and unemployment in nearby communities.

But why wait until those awful impacts happen? Shouldn’t local decision makers have that information at their fingertips before considering whether or not a big-box superstore can be built?

As SB 469 moves to the Assembly, we’re hopeful that the our state’s leaders understand the true purpose of this bill, which is to arm our local cities and counties with the information they need to make thoughtful land-use decisions. SB 469 doesn’t ban a certain type of business, but it does require a new and necessary level of transparency that the public deserves.

As Governor Brown said during his campaign, the state should be empowering local governments so they can make decisions benefit their communities. With information about the impact of these superstores on the local economy, city councils and county boards would have a new tool to use to make their communities the best they can be.