Dark Store Ordinance – Oakdale, CA

This ordinance, adopted by the city of Oakdale, California, allows the city to require that developers of retail stores larger than 40,000 square feet obtain and carry a performance bond that will cover the city’s cost of demolishing the structure and maintaining the empty site should the store be vacated and remain dark for more than one year. 

The relevant section is at the very end, shown in bold.

                                      Code Text Amendments

Major Retail Establishments 

1.      Amend Zoning Ordinance: Definitions

Amend Section 36-2.2 (Definitions) by adding new definition of “Major Retail Development”.

87.A     Major Retail Development: A major retail development is a singular retail establishment or shopping center that involves any one, or a combination of the following and as defined herein:

a.                New construction of a singular retails sales establishment that is greater than 40,000 gross square feet in size; or,

b.                New construction of a shopping center on a parcel or combination of parcels comprising ten acres or larger; or,

c.                 Expansion to a singular retail sales establishment or shopping center existing as of the effective date of adoption of this ordinance and which said expansion will increase the square footage of a singular retail sales establishment to become more than 40,000 gross square feet in area or increase the size of a shopping center to more than ten acres.

Amend Section 36.2.2 (Definitions) by adding new definition for “Retail Sales Establishment”.

106.A  Retail Sales Establishment: An establishment or place of business primarily engaged in selling goods directly to the consumer, where such goods are generally available for immediate purchase and removal from the premises by the purchaser.

Amend Section (Definitions: Shopping Center) by amending present definition of “Shopping Center”.

109.          Shopping Center:  “Shopping Center” is defined as a grouping of six (6) two (2) or more commercial units built primarily for retailing purposes on common property planned, developed, owned or managed as a unit with common off-street parking provided on the same site. For purposes of this ordinance, a Neighborhood Shopping Center shall be considered to be a shopping center primarily serving adjacent residential area.

2.      Amend Zoning Ordinance: Permitted Uses in C-2 Commercial Zone with a PD Permit

Amend Section 36-12.3 (General Commercial [C-2] Principal Uses) by adding Sub-section “F”.

F.       Major Retail Development, as defined in Section, may be permitted after first obtaining a planned development permit pursuant to Section 36-23.30, and subject to the Major Retail Development Standards in Section 36-23.35 P., Q. & R.

3.      Amend Zoning Ordinance: Establish Development Standards for Major Retail Development in Planned Development Requirements

AmendSection 36-23.35 (Property Development Standards) of the Planned Development Requirements Section by adding new Sub-sections P., Q.& R. establishing new property development standards applicable to Major Retail Development proposals.

P.    Major Retail Development Standards.  The following development standards apply to all Major Retail Development.  The goal of these development standards is to affirm the City’s objective that Major Retail Development create or impart a sense of place and/or streetscape at a scale appropriate to the character of Oakdale with it’s small town atmosphere, its exceptional unique architectural characteristics and rural western community heritage, as well as preserving the diversity and vitality of Oakdale’s commercial districts and the quality of life of Oakdale residents.  It is generally noted that the typical or classic ‘big box’ type of commercial building and development pattern does not meet these community development objectives.  In addition to the development standards prescribed elsewhere in this Chapter, including, but not limited to the applicability of Site Plan Review or discretionary review process prescribed in §36-19, §36-20.2, or §36.23.30 of this Chapter, all Major Retail Development shall comply with the following development standards:

1.    A typical or classic ‘big box’ design shall not be allowed (e.g., large four-sided structure with little or no ornamentation, decoration, unique architectural features, interesting fenestration, etc.).

2.   When the project site is within three-hundred (300) feet of a residential zoning district, measured from the property line and excluding streets and alleys, the maximum height of any wall excluding architectural accent features shall be the maximum height permitted in that residential zoning district.

3.    The design of service areas, including outdoor storage, trash collection, loading, etc., shall be incorporated into the primary building design and shall be of materials of comparable quality and appearance as that of the primary building.

4.    When the service areas(loading docks, refuse storage and enclosures, etc.) are adjacent to or across the street from residential neighborhoods, all delivery trucks, garbage trucks, and other large vehicles servicing the commercial development shall access the service areas via internal driveways and not from the residential street.

5.    Rooftop equipment shall not be visible from a point of view that is five-feet above grade at a distance of two-hundred (200) feet from the walls of the structure.

6.    The off-street parking serving the commercial development shall be divided into multiple ‘lots’, as necessary, so that no single ‘lot’ has more than one-hundred, twenty(120) parking spaces.  The ‘lots’ shall be separated from each other by a visually aesthetic buffer, such as a landscape area including a landscaped street or landscaped pedestrian way.

7.   The maximum number of off-street parking spaces serving the development shall not exceed by more than ten (10) percent the minimum number of required off-street parking as prescribed in the Oakdale Municipal Code.

8.    A covered passenger loading area shall be provided.

9.   Pedestrian walkways within the development shall be differentiated from driving surfaces through a change in elevation and materials.

10.        Parking and security lights shall not be taller that the buildings within the development, or a maximum of twenty-four (24) feet above grade, whichever is less.

11.         All free-standing signs shall be located in a landscaped area that is equal in size or larger than the total sign area for that freestanding sign.

12.         No reader boards having changeable copy, electronic or otherwise, are allowed.

13.        If the development is located on an existing public transit route, or a reasonably foreseeable future transit route, a bus pullout and shelter shall be developed on-site or at a location approved by the transit service provider.

Q.   Major Retail Development –Economic Study.  As may be required by the City, all development applications for Major Retail Development as defined herein, shall prepare an economic study in accord with the provisions of this subchapter, and all other applicable laws, regulations, code, etc.  The economic study shall be accompanied by supporting data, including, but not limited to, a market analysis determining the trade area of the proposed development, the present and future population within the trade area, and other economic indexes, including, but not limited to, data on effective buying power within the trade area; the projected number of jobs created by the development; the estimated wages; the estimated tax revenue including estimates of shifts from existing similar retailers; and the projected sales figures for the development.

R.  Major Retail Development – Abandoned Building Surety Bond.  As may be required by the City, all Major Retail Development as defined herein, shall obtain, provide evidence to the City, and carry in full force and effect throughout the duration of the life of the project, or time period as may be stipulated by a development agreement, a performance/surety bond providing for demolition of the primary building or buildings as identified by the City.  Said performance/surety bond shall provide funds to cover the cost of complete building demolition and maintenance of the vacant building site if the primary building is ever vacated or abandoned, and remains vacant or abandoned for a period of more than twelve consecutive months following primary business closure.

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Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its Independent Business Initiative, which produces research and designs policy to counter concentrated corporate power and strengthen local economies.