George Boardman: Real world economics and western Nevada County retail development |

George Boardman: Real world economics and western Nevada County retail development

George Boardman
John Hart/ | The Union

Observations from the center stripe: Crumbling edition

CALIFORNIA’S POPULATION growth should slow down when the movie “San Andreas” debuts Memorial Day weekend. You can guess what this one’s about … TV NETWORKS apparently can’t have too much live sports. That’s the only explanation for the resurrection of boxing … OPPONENTS OF same-sex marriage claim they are defending traditional marriage, an institution with a 50 percent failure rate … THE SEC is forcing corporations to explain how the pay of top management tracks the firm’s financial results. That should lead to some creative writing and juggling of numbers … CORRECTION: Gov. Jerry Brown declared a water emergency in January 2014, not earlier this year as I wrote here last week. Last year is when the state should have imposed mandatory water cuts …

Residents of western Nevada County who are skeptical of ANY retail development seem to believe they can ignore the iron laws of economics and dictate who will set up shop here.

The latest manifestation of that comes from Nevada City, where a town meeting was held last week to discuss a possible formula, i.e., chain store, ordinance. As in keeping them out.

“The primary motivation is to promote and protect local businesses, and preserve the original character of Nevada City,” Vice Mayor Jennifer Ray told The Union before the meeting. “The phenomenon of franchise businesses is ever encroaching; it’s kind of an infectious thing.”

Grass Valley succumbed to the virus years ago, but if the residents of Alta Sierra have their way, it won’t spread south of the city limits. Angrily brandishing their metaphorical golf clubs and tennis rackets, they vow to fight to the death the building of a Dollar General store at the entrance to their community.

The large number of empty storefronts along Broad Street suggests Nevada City may have all the local merchants residents will support, and the new Dollar General store is being proposed for an area where several businesses have failed in recent years. Meanwhile, Glenbrook basin and plaza off Brunswick Road — a franchise and chain paradise — generate substantial tax revenue for Grass Valley.

Consumers vote with their dollars, and the results show there is some local appetite for franchise and chain stores. A survey taken by the city of Grass Valley a couple of years ago showed people would like to see several chain operators set up shop here. Nobody expressed a desire for more of what we have, which is what the anti-development types want.

People who fear big-box stores — I’m talking about stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and Costco — should find something else to worry about. Those stores are not coming here anytime soon because their nearest outlets are too close — think Auburn — or we don’t have the population and income to make such big stores profitable.

But Russ Jeter, developer of the proposed Dorsey Marketplace, thinks he can attract smaller regional and national retailers to the area without adversely impacting existing retailers in downtown Grass Valley.

Jeter maintains the biggest competition for downtown Grass Valley is the Galleria Mall in Roseville. “Both offer specialty items that are not seen in mixed retail centers such as the one we are proposing,” he told The Union when he unveiled plans for 150,000 square feet of retail space.

He has since withdrawn his proposal for more work, but if Jeter is right and Dorsey Marketplace gets built, the residents of Nevada City will have more excuses for spending their retail dollars outside the city limits.

That’s the way economics works in the real world.

A healthy place to live

Nevada County is one of the healthiest places to live in California, according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute.

We finished 11th in the study, not as healthy as Placer County (No. 2 in the state behind Marin), but much better off than neighbors Sutter (27), Butte (42), Yuba (48) and Sierra, which finished 57th out of 58 counties.

The ratings took into account the length and quality of life, adult smoking and obesity, number of uninsured residents, physical environment, and social and economic factors. The ratings emphasize controllable factors that communities can improve, such as air quality and access to health care.

While we’re about average when it comes to adult smoking, we have less adult obesity than the rest of the state, fewer uninsured residents, and active residents who take advantage of what’s outside their front doors. We are also aggressive with preventive measures, like diabetic monitoring and mammography screening.

One area where Nevada County is worse than the rest of the state: Alcohol-impaired driving deaths (38 percent vs. 31 percent). Residents are aware of this problem, as the recent Grass Valley Police Department survey showed. Now, we need to be more active in discouraging such behavior.

Shooting blanks, again?

Lovers of guns, ammo and hunting have the opportunity to stand up for their beliefs by backing a state Assembly bill to roll back California’s impending ban on the use of lead ammo for hunting.

The ban, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013, starts to take effect July 1 and becomes permanent for the 2019 hunting seasons, the first like it in the United States. Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, wants to put a stop to that.

Gallagher’s legislation, AB 395, would roll back the ban everywhere in the state except in the California condor range. The ban was passed in part to protect the state’s fragile condor population, which is susceptible to lead poisoning.

Gallagher says this concern is overblown: “Studies show that lead levels in condors have remained the same since 2007, and even increased in some areas,” indicating they are getting lead from other sources.

The assemblyman also cites a state Department of Finance estimate that a lead ammo ban would trigger a drop of $9 million from the sale of hunting licenses, money that’s used for wildlife restoration.

The bill was scheduled for a hearing last week before the Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, but Gallagher asked for a postponement. Speculation in Sacramento is that he’s trying to line up more support from the urban/suburban Democrats who control the committee.

Gallagher’s bill isn’t likely to succeed unless supporters can bridge the gap with non-hunters. About 95 percent of the state’s residents live in urban/suburban areas, and as the 1996 state ban on the killing of mountain lions showed, they have little sympathy for or understanding of the concerns of rural residents.

If the bill ends up going nowhere, will that provide more ammunition for backers of the State of Jefferson?

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays in The Union.

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