From JAMES HOULE
The ALH Urban & Regional Economics Analysis prepared last August by Environmental Science Associates, Inc. does a very inadequate job of characterizing the sales impacts of the proposed Costco Store upon retail food and beverage businesses in the Ukiah Market Area. Of all commercial sectors, ALH believes the food and beverages sector will be impacted most severely. There are a total of 26 groceries and supermarkets stretching from the Hopland to Willits and eastward to Lake County that ALH identifies as likely to experience some impact upon their sales volumes. Of these, seven are quite large including 2 Safeways (Ukiah and Willits), 2 Grocery Outlet Stores (Ukiah and Lakeport), Lucky (Ukiah), Raleys (Ukiah), and Food Maxx (Ukiah). ALH says there is “a potential for one of these larger supermarkets to close” and that large scale vacancies may occur amongst amongst the nineteen smaller neighborhood groceries (they describe these as discount stores, conventional stores, niche markets, and ethnic oriented stores). They are not troubled by this impact upon smaller groceries and do not even bother to estimate the number likely to close.
They then assure the reader that these smaller volume enterprises won’t “cause substantial hardship to the commercial marketplace” while giving no evidence to support this rosy conclusion. Urban Decay is stated to be the most severe impact that closures can have upon the marketplace and since ALH sees little probability of vandalism., graffiti, loitering, or deterioration of structures, they do not appear the least bit worried about a downward spiral of business closures. “There is limited evidence to suggest that closed store spaces will exhibit traditional signs of deterioration and decay”, they assure us.
The City Council has expressed fear of “Urban Sprawl” and feels that large out-of-town big box superstores will somehow contain and inhibit this sprawl. But when single family zoning forces residents to be dependent upon autos to reach shopping malls where big box enterprises are sequestered, and to drive a considerable distance to schools, health and government services, we find ourselves 100% reliant upon our cars. Those families unable to afford 1 much less 2 cars are very isolated. The Redwood Business Park is a fine example for pedestrians: lacking adequate sidewalks for walking shoppers, unreliable bus service, and separated ¾ to 1 mile from high density moderate income neighborhoods, a distance that ALH feels is much too far to walk, even if there were sidewalks. When Costco shuts down many of these smaller neighborhood groceries that have served the poorer neighborhoods along North and South States Street, the sense of isolation will be complete and the opportunities for vacant store fronts and urban decay will be enhanced. Surely the type of myopic urban planning that ALH has produced must be rejected…
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