PALMDALE — The Planning Commission on Thursday approved permits for two grocery stores to sell alcohol, despite concern over one location being in an area that already has an abundance of retail outlets selling liquor.
The business which raised concerns is proposed for a vacant storefront in an existing shopping center at 3020 East Palmdale Blvd.
The proposed business is a Gonzales Meat Market, owned by the same family that has had a store in Lancaster for more than 25 years at Avenue J and Division Street. That store sells beer and wine and basic tobacco products, the owners said.
The owners sought a conditional use permit in order to sell beer, wine and tobacco.
In order to grant the permit, staff uses formulas for determining if the area already has an abundance of outlets selling alcohol.
By one formula, which takes into account population density, the census tract for the proposed market has an overabundance of these outlets, with five existing when the population ratio would allow for two, according to the staff report.
However, since the population of this census tract is lower than others because it is primarily in a commercial zone, planners also look at the density of similar retail outlets across the city, which leads to nine such establishments allowed, when the tract only has three at the moment.
Planners also look at the crime statistics for the area before recommending whether the permit should be approved. Again, there are two methods for determining this.
According to state regulations, an area is deemed as high crime if the crime rate is 120% of the citywide average. The area of the proposed market has a crime rate that is 437% of the citywide average.
However, planners also look at the overall crime rates with the many rural and undeveloped areas factored out to provide a more accurate assessment. By this method, the area for the market in question has a crime rate of 112% of the citywide average, which meets the state regulations.
Xavier Flores, of Palmdale Prevention Community Council, urged the Commission not to approve the conditional use permit allowing the store to sell alcohol as it is in an area with a high crime rate that is “unduly saturated” with similar alcohol retail outlets.
Research shows concentrations of alcohol outlets in a community “will likely adversely affect the residents of said community,” he said.
Flores said his organization was focusing on the 93550 ZIP code as the part of Palmdale that has a high concentration of outlets selling alcohol.
“We’ve got all the alcohol outlets and all the tobacco outlets in that ZIP code,” Flores said. “The residents that are living there have the lowest health rates and the highest crime rates as a result.”
Resident Tony Muasher, who lives in the same neighborhood as the proposed market, also spoke against awarding the permit.
“It is a high crime rate area,” he said, adding he fears going outside his home after 10 p.m.
Additionally, there are already a number of outlets selling alcohol nearby, and adding another seems unnecessary, he said.
The store owners said they have experienced few problems with selling beer and wine at their Lancaster store. At that store, alcohol sales make up between 8% and 10% of their sales, they said, and they depend on the sales from all departments within the store to be successful.
While stating he understood why they wanted to sell beer and wine at their market, Commissioner V. Jesse Smith said he was concerned about the neighborhood’s crime rate and whether the alcohol sales would increase the issues.
“Bringing alcohol to an area that already seems to be troubled will only inject more problems,” he said.
The Commission approved the permit on a 3-1 vote, with Smith dissenting and Commissioner Angela French absent.
The second store, an Aldi grocery store proposed for a building not yet constructed at a shopping center at 47th Street East and Avenue S, did not draw the same concerns regarding the conditional use permit for alcohol sales.
“We’re not here to oppose it,” Flores said. “There’s major differences.”
The Aldi site is distinguished from the previous market under consideration in that it is in the 93552 zip code, an area of the city that does not have the same issue with a high density of alcohol outlets, he said.
“We are not anti-alcohol, we’re anti-alcohol density,” Flores said of the Palmdale Prevention Community Council.
His organization previously had opposed the Aldi market on Rancho Vista Boulevard just east of 10th Street West because it was in an area that already had numerous outlets selling alcohol, he said. Those concerns do not apply to this application.
The census tract where the proposed grocery store is located does not have an overabundance of outlets by either density method, according to the staff report, and the crime rate is 67% of the citywide average, using the method which factors out rural and undeveloped areas.
The Commission voted 4-0 to approve the permit.
“I do believe that our residents on the east side will be quite pleased that this is able to go forward,” Commission Chair Stacia Nemeth said. “I think it will be a boon to the east side and to a lot of people traveling down 47th (Street East).”