Santa Monica Mandates Small Storefronts on Promenade

Date: 1 Sep 2003 | posted in: Retail | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

In an effort to prevent further consolidation of small storefronts into large chain outlets along the Third Street Promenade, the city of Santa Monica has adopted an ordinance that limits stores to no more than 50 linear feet of street frontage. The City Council has also directed city staff to compile data on the number of formula businesses in the district and draft options for limiting their proliferation.

The Third Street Promenade is a vibrant, three block long, pedestrian corridor of stores, restaurants, and theaters. The area was blocked to car traffic in the 1960s, but failed to attract shoppers and struggled with vacancies and decline for two decades. In the late 1980s, the district began to turn around. A diverse mix of small, one-of-a-kind stores started drawing crowds.

The Promenade’s success caught the attention of corporate chains. They began opening outlets on the street in the 1990s, driving up rents and squeezing many local stores out. Barnes & Noble, Borders, Banana Republic, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Abercrombie & Fitch, Old Navy, and J Crew are among the retailers currently on the Promenade.

To accommodate their larger formats, the chains often combined several smaller storefronts into one large space, which has reduced the number and diversity of shops along the street. The 50-foot limit is designed to prevent further consolidation of storefronts.

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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.