Six weeks after an advisory referendum won broad support from residents, the Ocean Beach, California, planning board voted 8-to-4 in early May to recommend that the city council adopt an ordinance banning all formula restaurants and retail businesses.
Ocean Beach is a neighborhood of San Diego with a population of about 15,000. Each of the city’s neighborhoods has its own master plan and elected planning board. The boards have representation on the citywide planning commission and also make recommendations to the city council, which has final say over zoning changes.
The city council and city planner are not enthusiastic about the formula business restriction. Supporters say the council is unlikely to place the measure on its agenda until the fall at the earliest. The council may even hold consideration of the measure until the city’s new comprehensive plan is complete, a process that will take two years.
Last year, hundreds of residents came out to protest plans for a Starbucks coffee shop on the community’s main street, Newport Avenue. As far as anyone can remember, there has never been a chain store on Newport Avenue. Residents have successfully fought chain stores since the late 1970s. Starbucks, however, was willing to ignore protests and pay double the going rate for retail space. With the site zoned for retail, residents were unable to stop the store from opening.
But they continued organizing. Working under the name Save Ocean Beach, the citizens group gathered signatures to place a formula business referendum on the March ballot.
The measure reads: "Recognizing that the town . . . is unique in character, that the small individualized retail businesses and restaurants play a large role in maintaining that character, and that the unique character of Ocean Beach is being threatened by the influx of formula restaurants and retail establishments, the undersigned citizens. . . direct the Ocean Beach Planning Board to advise the City Council within 60 days of voter approval to modify the Ocean Beach Precise Plan to permanently ban any new formula restaurants and formula retail establishment. . . "
Save Ocean Beach distributed more than 7,000 flyers, ran ads in local newspapers, and hung posters around town to educate residents about the proposal and the need for it. Turnout was larger than usual and the measure passed with 77 percent of the vote.