Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Zoning proposal bad for city


As an owner of supermarket/superdrug shopping centers in the San Diego and San Francisco Bay areas for the past 30 years, I find it difficult to believe that this supermarket fiasco continues to be considered by the City Council.

For someone in the shopping center business as a career, the overall suggestion of purposely moving commercial pedestrian traffic out of the existing downtown core is absolutely astounding, not to mention the removal of an already zoned large LI site viable for its existing use, in order to make room for this poorly conceived notion by our mayor.

There must be an undiscovered agenda here. The question is why is this a move that makes any sense whatsoever to the standing core of retail, or otherwise, businesses? Is there any regard at all for those whose lives are wrapped up in these businesses?

Simply put, providing big new competition for their foot traffic defeats the progress and investment already recently made in the downtown corridor to increase and solidify business. Competition is great, but not when government shoves it down your throat without strong acceptable justification. I find it mysterious as to who is going to benefit here.

The "on-the-ground" reality is that without 100 percent support by the city for the protection of the core, vacancies will be their reward.

To support my contention, we have more than 30 supermarket shopping centers built and managed over the past 35 years. In the last seven years, Albertsons, for example, sold its chain to a private equity company, and vacated the stores we own. Along with every center there are generally approximately 20,000 square feet of retail tenants, about the size of the usual retail shop in Ketchum. The result was, as expected, a large loss of foot traffic that only a supermarket could provide. As owners we had to scramble to find another supermarket—not easy and not quick. Needless to say, briefly, the retail tenants suffered losses of business; some closed when our financial support became difficult, and others moved away.

In the current market, or any market, the City Council can't begin to justify its ambitions. Studies and consultants are one thing, people who have to live it is another.

In closing, the City Council could not do worse for some very earnest people who live and work in our community.

Jack Thornton

Ketchum




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