City leaders protest bill as ‘jobs killer’

A bill mandating that cities and counties have economic impact reports prepared before a superstore can be built was criticized as being anti-jobs legislation Thursday morning in Atascadero.

Senate Bill 469, which is sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk pending his approval or veto, was called “another layer of bureaucracy for local governments” and a “jobs killer” by a group of some 20 elected officials and business leaders during a protest rally at Atascadero’s Sunken Gardens.

Those urging the governor to veto the legislation included Atascadero city councilmembers Roberta Fonzi and Jerry Clay, and Mike Brown of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business.

According to Brown, the bill would make it “more difficult to bring new jobs and opportunities in communities that need it most.”

Sponsored by state Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, the legislation calls for local governments to assess potential socio and economic impacts of stores that are at least 90,000 square feet. Similar legislation passed the Legislature in 2004 and 2006, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“I think it’s adding another layer of regulations,” said Fonzi, “making it harder for larger stores to come into California. And it’s a state regulation that will impose an economic burden on local government.”

Wal-Mart has been seeking to build such a superstore in Atascadero for the past eight years, and “this is changing the rules for us at the very last minute,” Fonzi said. She added that the proposed Atascadero Walmart would create 300 new jobs within the city.

According to Vargas, the “goal of this bill is to create financial accountability and the transparency that local communities need to make in land-use decisions about the impact giant supercenters have on existing businesses, jobs, public services and neighborhoods.”

Fonzi disagreed. “I think whether you’re for or against Wal-Mart, you should be against this legislation because it’s taking away local government’s ability to make land-use decisions.”