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Sample letters to the editor that the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce distributed to protest a new state regulation take a shot at big-box retailers, despite the business group’s opposition to the City Council’s ban on superstores.

As part of its campaign against the new municipal storm-water permit, which the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board approved Wednesday, the chamber dispensed to its members sample messages that it encouraged its members to adopt from when penning a letter to The San Diego Union-Tribune. One letter likens the new regulation to the hardship caused by big-box stores:

Dear Editor:

Before long, it will be impossible for a small business to make it in the state of California. Besides all of the competitive pressures we face from big-box retailers and cheap foreign labor, the government is trying its best to do us in!

A good example is the new set of storm water rules proposed by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. I had never heard of this board before reading a recent article about its efforts to prevent water pollution by slapping costly new requirements on small business owners. …

Soon, the best way for a California small business to succeed will be to move to another state. Maybe then, when it’s too late, our government officials will realize that thriving small businesses are essential to a healthy economy.

The letter made into Tuesday’s issue (scroll to the last letter).

While the chamber likened its competition with giant retailers to the expense of complying with the new storm-water requirement, the group has been very supportive of big-box stores in recent times. During hearings over the City Council’s ban on superstores, the chamber was one of the most outspoken critics of the new law, arguing that it would restrict free enterprise and make San Diego anti-competitive.

Chamber spokeswoman Rachel Laing replied saying, “While we agree with the goal of the letter I concede that particular line of the letter was unfortunate.” But she denied a contradiction in the chamber’s position. “We don’t think that the fact that big-box retailers might cause the failure of small retailers is a reason to ban them,” she said. “A competitive environment is good.”

Laing also said the sample letters to the editor were prepared by Southwest Strategies, who coincidentally, are Wal-Mart’s lobbyists in San Diego. Calls and e-mails placed to Southwest Strategies were not returned.


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