As San Rafael makes way for the new Target store, smaller towns in Marin are considering placing restrictions on chain retail stores and restaurants.
At last week's San Anselmo town council meeting, council members discussed the possibility of limiting the amount of formula-retail establishments in their downtown.
Do you think we should have a similar restriction in San Rafael?
McDonald’s vs. High Tech Burrito
Councilman Jeff Kroot said San Anselmo's location, far from a freeway and “right off the beaten track,” has protected the town from a lot of chains.
Founder and President Greg Maples said he was concerned High Tech Burrito would be considered a chain. There’s interest in opening a High Tech Burrito in San Anselmo, he said.
“I started [High Tech] on Miracle Mile some 20 years ago. Recently the lease came up for renewal and we let it go because we felt it wasn’t supporting our customer base. Since, we’ve been in the hunt for the right place. We feel San Anselmo would be a great alternative to Miracle Mile,” Maples told the council.
There are 12 High Tech Burritos in the Bay Area, Maples said. “We’re a success story from this area. We don’t want to be punished for that. We support the community.”
Kroot said an area that could be protected from formula retail is San Anselmo Avenue and a small portion of Sir Francis Drake Blvd near Bank Street, where Marinitas restaurant and other businesses are located.
“If we do this we have to do it in a thoughtful way,” Kroot said. “There’s a difference between a Subway and McDonald’s and something like High Tech Burrito.”
Mayor Tom McInerney agreed with his colleagues that downtown San Anselmo is where the anti-chain focus should be. “We, as a council, shouldn’t be in the position of picking and choosing which businesses come in, especially in Red Hill, which is a strip mall,” he said.
Redhill Shopping Center owner addresses ‘misconceptions’
During public comment, Tom Arntz, one of the owners of the Redhill Shopping Center, told the council he wanted to dispel some of the misconceptions that recently rose while he was out of the country. “What concerns me is that the idea of this ordinance has come from whatever happened at Red Hill … that came up had nothing to do with chain stores. It had only to do with their failing business. They hadn’t paid us any rent in a year-and-a-half and their lease ran out three years ago.”
Arntz said the center is a small business, where the ownership has never changed, and they are talking to local groups to fill vacancies.
He also said a rumor that Chipotle was moving into the center was just that: a rumor. “I had an unsolicited offer from Chipotle nine months ago, and it was financially the best offer by far, but we didn’t want them there. We don’t think that should be the focal point of the Red Hill Shopping Center. We’re looking for something with local flavor that will draw in people.”
San Rafael's Chains
San Rafael is home to many "big box" stores. At the Northgate Mall, most of the businesses are national chains, like or and restaurants like and Chipotle. During the summer, the mall will open a new Panda Express location.
The coming of over the chain's impact on local groceries and even brought on a lawsuit by the organization Keep It Local San Rafael, which was settled in February.
Do you think San Rafael should have restrictions on the amount of big box stores allowed in the city's limits? Tell us your thoughts in the Comments below.