Recall petition signature-gatherers hoping to oust Mayor Bob Filner may find some spots more welcoming than others as they fan across the city.
Some businesses, including an RV dealership outside San Diego, invite recall supporters but at least one grocery chain has already encouraged them to stay away.
Vons, a grocery chain with about a dozen locations in the city, actually has a policy against such endeavors.
They’re simply following customers’ wishes, said Carlos Illingworth, a Vons spokesman. “In response to what our customers have told us they want, we enacted rules barring this activity in front of our stores by everybody, and without regard to the content of the petition.”
The law allows them to do that.
A series of U.S. Supreme Court and California Supreme Court rulings declared shopping centers modern-day main streets governed by the rules of public spaces. Stand-alone stores, however, can turn signature-gatherers away, said Jim Sutton, a San Francisco-based election law attorney.
Store policies vary.
Some, like Vons, generally turn petition circulators away.
An Albertsons spokeswoman said that chain considers them on a case-by-case basis.
Larger shopping centers, particularly newer malls or stores surrounded by other businesses, have less authority to turn petitioners away because they’re often set up in spots where nearby residents gather, Sutton said.
Regardless of an individual business’s views, San Diego police say they generally aren’t seeking out signature-gatherers.
“Petitioners have the right to pursue peaceful political activities on private property that is open to the general public, which includes most shopping centers,” said Lt. Kevin Mayer, a police spokesman. “The San Diego Police Department’s primary role is to keep the peace.”
Political consultant John Hoy, who is working for the recall campaign, said his group will soon provide fact sheets with rules and suggestions for volunteer signature-gatherers. They’ll emphasize the importance of being respectful and encourage volunteers to check in with store managers before they start collecting signatures.
Hoy said the group also plans to provide simple “Recall Filner” signs to replace some of the homemade signs, including one that angered mangers at an Allied Gardens store.
He acknowledged it’s challenging to keep tabs on more than 1,500 volunteers, some of whom haven’t notified the campaign that they’re gathering signatures.
“It’s very decentralized and we’re counting on people’s own initiative to make this happen,” Hoy said.
Efforts to boot Filner from office may soon be less necessary. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith announced Wednesday night that officials have reached a proposed settlement after three days of mediation with Filner. The City Council will vote on the matter behind closed doors at 1 p.m. Friday.
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