WatchSonoma Watch

Deal paves wave for new Santa Rosa grocery store



Santa Rosa and the Living Wage Coalition have reached a lawsuit settlement that will allow a Smart & Final grocery store to open in south Santa Rosa under the

A Smart & Final will open in this former Circuit City location on Santa Rosa Avenue. (PD FILE, 2008)

A Smart & Final will open in this former Circuit City location on Santa Rosa Avenue. (PD FILE, 2008)

city’s “food desert” ordinance.

But under the settlement of the lawsuit by the coalition, the City Council must rescind the ordinance it adopted last September.

The ordinance allows grocery stores to open in an existing building in a federally designated “food desert” area without needing a use permit and Planning Commission oversight. The area bordering Santa Rosa Avenue is the only part of the city that meets the criteria of being an area where low-income residents are underserved by grocery stores.

The Living Wage Coalition sued in October in Sonoma County Superior Court, contending the ordinance makes it easier for a large grocery store to open with no input from residents or an assessment of effects on other businesses.

Both the city and coalition said the deal satisfies their needs.

It paves the way for Smart & Final to open in the vacant Circuit City store in the Santa Rosa Town Center, a section of the city that desperately needs a grocery store, said Mayor Scott Bartley.

“It is by the federal definition an area that is underserved by food stores, and the whole goal was to trigger someone going in in that area,” Bartley said. “Ultimately, it worked. I don’t know how we would have done it differently.”

For the coalition, rescinding the ordinance will close any loophole Wal-Mart or other big box store would use to try to open a store, said Marty Bennett, coalition co-chairman.

The coalition opposes those stores because they pay what the coalition contends are poverty wages and do not provide benefits, Bennett said.

“We never thought this food desert policy was about healthy foods, about giving access to healthy foods to the community. We thought it was giving a free pass to a developer,” Bennett said.

Tom Laugero, an agent for Keegan & Coppin commercial real estate firm, said Smart & Final is planning to open within the next few months.

He said that as part of the settlement, the landlord, Santa Rosa Town Center LLC, has agreed to pay the coalition’s attorney fees, up to $30,000.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.

8 Responses to “Deal paves wave for new Santa Rosa grocery store”

  1. John Seamans says:

    Smart and Final, don’t need a membership to shop there! Plain and simple. Is going to bring jobs. JOBS…something this area needs. If we get more structure in this area again, maybe…JUST MAYBE…more bigger, better paying jobs will come back to Sonoma County.

    Missed Smart and Final since moving up here from Southern California.

  2. neighbor says:

    I’m very happy about it and I will go there a lot so stop complaining.

  3. James Bennett says:

    This isn’t free market capitalism.

    This is socially engineering fascism.

    Other than preventing monopolies, our government should set the free market free.

    But freedom isn’t the Agenda that our Council has signed up with.

  4. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    What exactly is LOLA’s on Healdsburg Ave? There’s also an Asian market. Both have reasonable prices. Then there’s COSTCO and TARGET. I shop at them all. Love the greens available at the Asian market and the Mexican food available at Lolas.

    Not exactly a desert.

  5. homegirl says:

    Good news for that neighborhood. Why the Hammer would object to working people earning a living wage is a mystery. One can only surmise that he doesn’t do the family grocery shopping.

  6. John Pendergast says:

    Stop the Presses! Stop the Presses! We’re getting a Smart and Final, something every other city in California has had since 1962!

    It just goes to show how provincial this area is.

  7. Snarky says:

    Hey Hammer:

    Notice that the Press Democrat neither identifies who the members are of the “coalition” nor identifies where their funding comes from ? :)

    Thanks, Press Demo. Always glad to see intentionally filtered news. Not.

  8. The Hammer says:

    Another group of wackos, Living Wage Coalition.