As national chains continue to expand in cities across the country, they’ve been driving up commercial rents, displacing neighborhood-serving businesses, and eroding the individual feel and function of communities.
Now, Boston is the latest city taking steps to regulate them. On July 11, three city councilors introduced a petition to amend the city’s zoning code to make chain stores a conditional use throughout the city.
“Locally owned businesses contribute to the economic and social vitality of the neighborhoods throughout the City of Boston,” the petition reads [PDF], “and the City of Boston should recognize the importance of small and locally owned businesses in its land use and planning objectives.”
Boston isn’t alone in its desire to take action. Communities around the country have also taken steps to recognize chain stores as a distinct land use, and regulate them with additional scrutiny. From major cities like San Francisco and Jersey City, N.J., to small communities like Port Townsend, Wash., these policies, which are known as formula business policies, have proven effective, durable, and popular.
“Small businesses across the city are facing commercial gentrification and increasing pressure from national chains,” said Councilor Michelle Wu, a co-sponsor of Boston’s petition, according to the community publication North End Waterfront. “This legislation supports jobs in our neighborhoods by giving residents and stakeholders a voice, so that our business districts are not just shaped by which multinational corporations can offer the highest rents.”
“With increased development, we need zoning codes that assure our local businesses have a certain level of protection and the chain stores have a level of accountability to our neighborhoods,” said Councilor Lydia Edwards, according to North End Waterfront.
For more on formula business policies, see our trove of resources:
- Our explainer gives an overview of communities around the country that have implemented formula business policies, and also covers different forms that these policies can take and legal considerations to keep in mind when crafting them.
- Our deep-dive on San Francisco’s policy, which looks at the policy’s evolution from 2004, when it was first passed, to 2014, when the city performed an in-depth review and significantly strengthened it.
- This 30-minute talk by AnMarie Rodgers, a senior policy advisor in San Francisco, which breaks down the nuts-and-bolts of San Francisco’s policy, how it won support, and how the city’s planning department sees the benefits. (We also recorded a podcast episode with Rodgers).
- Our article on Jersey City’s formula business policy.
Photo of street in Boston by Stilfehler via Wikimedia.
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