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April 17, 2007 > Superstores in Union City?

Superstores in Union City?

By Diana Marroquin

At the Tuesday, April 10 city council meeting, memories of New York City's tragic terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were not far from the surface when William J. McCammon, project coordinator for the East Bay Regional Communications System, spoke. McCammon sought council support for the proposed EBRCS, a coordinated system of emergency communications networks for Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

The purpose of the system is to mitigate mismatched communication system problems encountered by the hundreds of fire-fighters, police officers, and emergency aid personnel during the burning and collapse of the Twin Towers.

Still in the creation stage, the EBRCS is about two years away from implementation. Currently, Alameda and Contra Costa County cities are being asked to provide input and delegates to the Joint Powers Authority which will govern the blending and matching of communication systems. This will be challenging and expensive, but all parties agree to the critical necessity of the task.

Also on Tuesday, staff submitted a request of council to authorize further relocation monies to the displaced auto repair shops in the Union Square area, site of the future Avalon Bay development project. Council authorized a second allocation of almost $140,000 in retention funds from the original $600,000 fund.

One-Stop Auto Service's request for the largest portion of funds from this second allocation signals the end of the line for the shops occupying Union Square. One-Stop is expected to begin moving its facilities to Atlantic Street, in the near future. They are the last of six repair shops eligible for reimbursement from the fund first established under a cloud of controversy last year.

Though One-Stop plans to move soon, work on the property will continue in the form of removal and cleaning of environmentally hazardous materials that have seeped into the ground where the businesses operated. Several residents addressed council, adding their concerns to council comments regarding the decades-long accumulation of contaminants from the several auto shops.

One more allocation request is expected for the four auto repair shops which have chosen to relocate within Union City. That condition was a requirement for participating in the Avalon Bay fund first negotiated by Mayor Mark Green.

In other matters, council is getting set to review future ordinances regulating, or even banning, so-called "superstores;" identified as buildings over 130,000 square feet in size, with at least 5 percent of that space devoted to nontaxable items (usually groceries). Council directed city staff to move forward with studies and impact reports on the superstore issue.

The announcement of even the possibility of a superstore arrival into an area opens the gates to a sea of contentious debate over its impact on local businesses, crime, and economics. Many communities have fought tooth and nail to keep superstores out of their neighborhoods, arguing they will negative impact public safety and tax revenue, in part by setting in motion a domino-effect loss of small businesses.

While others question the accuracy of these conclusions, the mere listing of the superstore topic in the Union City council agenda, brought out a representative from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 5. Executive Vice President John Nunes, described a number of negative impact statistics on city neighborhoods, resulting from the presence of superstores.

Council referred the question to the planning commission for extensive study, but did not specify a date for public comment and discussion.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 24 at 7 p.m.

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