Similar to San Diego, Long Beach approved a ban on big-box grocery stores last fall. And, just as similarly, Wal-Mart has geared up to ask that Southern California city’s voters whether they want to the retail giant’s Supercenters to set up ship there.

According to an L.A. Times story this week, the Long Beach City Council scheduled a public vote on the ban after Wal-Mart and the local chamber of commerce gathered the 33,391 signatures needed to put the item before the voters. The ballot measure will be considered in the 2008 primary.

You can read the entire story here, but here is an interesting passage:

Councilman Gary DeLong cast the lone dissenting vote, citing the costs involved in placing the issue on the ballot. The Chamber of Commerce and Wal-Mart also criticized the cost as wasteful.

City Clerk Larry Herrera told the council that placing the issue on the June ballot would probably cost the city about $400,000.

Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, who fought the development of a downtown Wal-Mart several years ago, scoffed at blaming the cost on the council. She noted that the chamber has repeatedly tried to overturn council actions in the last year.

“The City Council did not bring this cost upon taxpayers,” she said. “Wal-Mart and the chamber did.”

Wal-Mart has indicated that it is leaning toward mounting a similar referendum in San Diego, but cannot proceed until the ban is finalized, which requires a second vote and — most likely — a third vote to override Mayor Jerry Sanders’ promised veto.

If a regular election isn’t held within 11 months of the time Wal-Mart submits the needed number of signatures, a special election must be held. Council President Scott Peters has indicated that he is holding off on scheduling a second council vote in the near term because Wal-Mart’s impending challenge would require a special election, which would be more costly than adding it to a regularly held ballot.

However, proposals to move the 2008 primary to an earlier date could lead the council to resume its series of votes in the nearer future.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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