More than 300 residents turned out for a Town Council meeting last month in Ocean Beach, California to voice their opposition to Starbucks. The chain plans to open a store on Newport Avenue, one of the main drags running through this town of 15,000 just north of San Diego.
“There has never been a chain store on this street,” noted Dawna Perkins, a member of the Town Planning Board. Ocean Beach is home to numerous locally owned businesses, including eleven coffee shops. Residents have successfully fought chain stores since the late 1970s, when petitions and rallies led a chain donut shop to drop its plans for an Ocean Beach location. Last year, local opposition forced Exxon to abandoned plans for a gas station. To date, only three chains have opened in the community.
Keeping Starbucks out is proving especially difficult, however. The company is willing to pay almost double the going rate to lease the property, which opponents say will drive up nearby rents and force local businesses to close. “Very soon, we will be like other communities with chain stores up and down the street. That will be the beginning of the end of Ocean Beach,” contends resident Kip Krueger.
The Town Planning Board opposes the project, but may have no legal recourse to stop the chain. The site is zoned commercial and Starbucks requires no special permits to locate there. On a unanimous vote, the Board sent a letter of opposition to the company and property managers. Members of the Board are currently reviewing options for limiting future chain store expansion, including a restriction on formula businesses.
Meanwhile, residents are keeping up their protest of Starbucks with phone calls and plans for a boycott. A rally in March drew several hundred.