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As San Diego’s Walmart debate has come down to a simmer — at least for now — elsewhere it’s starting to boil over. The New York Times reported recently that the retail giant is making a renewed push to open its first store in New York City, and its strategy to convince lawmakers there rings familiar.

The renewed push by Wal-Mart comes five years after the retailer tried to open stores in Queens and Staten Island but faced furious opposition from community leaders and elected officials. But the retailer and its supporters, and even its opponents, say that the dynamics have changed and that the city has become more receptive to so-called big-box stores, like Target and Ikea.

But perhaps the greatest difference is the economy. With the city’s unemployment rate hovering around 9 percent, any project that promises jobs might find appeal.

That was a case Walmart repeatedly made in San Diego in recent months, as it fought a law that was ultimately approved by the City Council that will make it more difficult for the company to open its supercenters here, the stores that sell groceries.

The story quotes a state assemblyman from one of New York City’s poorest neighborhoods, where joblessness is a big problem and urban redevelopment a pressing need. He said many of his constituents needed jobs, and that the city, which has until now resisted Walmart’s efforts, should look at different opportunities.

That sounded familiar to some of the arguments that in the last month came out of the San Diego district represented by Council President Tony Young, whose southeastern neighborhoods face similar unemployment and redevelopment challenges.

There, a prominent pastors’ group that has received financial support from Walmart pressured Young not to support the law because it would make it more difficult for the store to open up in his district, which is in desperate need of employment opportunities.

Though Young ultimately supported the law, he welcomed Walmart to open one of its smaller stores in his district, which the company has not yet agreed to do.

Another interesting tidbit from the story highlighted a key difference between San Diego and New York. Here, the new law that Walmart heavily opposed will restrict ultra large stores bigger than 90,000 square feet. In New York, the company is tailoring its pitch to that city’s particular land-use limitations. It wants to open stores smaller than 30,000 square feet.

Please contact Adrian Florido directly at adrian.florido@voiceofsandiego.org or at 619.325.0528 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adrianflorido.

Adrian Florido

Adrian Florido is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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