BERKELEY -- The City Council said "no" June 3 to the escalation of what some are calling Berkeley's "drugstore wars."
The unanimous council asked the city manager to review an ordinance written by the Planning Commission that would prevent a drugstore of more than 5,000 square feet from locating within 1,000 feet of another drugstore in Berkeley's small commercial districts. The council will vote on the law June 17.
"Let's keep our neighborhoods sustainable for small businesses -- for a variety of small businesses," North Berkeley resident Dr. John Gilman told the council. "Stop the oversaturation of neighborhood shopping streets with large chain drugstores."
While the council underscored that the new law would address Berkeley's small commercial districts such as Elmwood and North Shattuck -- while excluding downtown, San Pablo Avenue and the Adeline Street corridor -- the focus was on Solano Avenue, where Walgreens would like to build a new store, replacing a gas station at 1830 Solano.
Neighbors have been fighting the Walgreens store proposal on several fronts.
An online petition, signed by more than 2,000 people, states that, "Our small North Berkeley community already has FOUR drugstores, including CVS, Safeway Pharmacy, Pharmaca, and Sal's, in less than one mile from each other on Solano Avenue. Furthermore, there are already FIVE Walgreens in Berkeley and one is on Shattuck Avenue 1.4 miles away from the proposed site on 1830 Solano Avenue."
Councilman Jesse Arreguin pointed out that the Walgreen's on the north end of Shattuck Avenue is just a block south from a CVS.
The proposed Walgreens site on Solano is in Councilman Laurie Capitelli's council district.
"It's not about one particular store or one particular kind of store," Capitelli said.
"There's an appropriate scale and size for a business in the small neighborhood commercial districts."
Capitelli made the motion to delay the vote on the ordinance so that the city attorney could review it.
"I want to be very clear in the findings that we're making that we are not spot zoning," he said, but want to "limit the size and scale of businesses in these small commercial districts."
Spot zoning benefits a single parcel by creating a zone for just that parcel.
Tim Frank, a 16-year resident living near Solano, was the lone public speaker in favor of a Walgreens on Solano.
"I really care about that shopping district," he said. "I'm concerned about the fact that the proposed ordinance would say 'no' to something I think is a dramatic benefit to the neighborhood."