Bremberg Fights for Glendale Law in Sacramento
Glendale Mayor Ginger Bremberg took her battle for the “home rule” power of cities to the state capital last week in an attempt to preserve Glendale’s year-old ban on the sale of alcohol and gasoline at the same places.
And although she won some minor concessions, Bremberg said Glendale--and more than 30 other California cities that have imposed similar bans--will most likely lose the fight.
A measure by Assemblyman Gary A. Condit (D-Ceres), would outlaw bans on concurrent sales of gasoline and alcohol, and instead require cities to review applications to operate such businesses on a case-by-case basis.
Bremberg, a feisty leader in the fight to preserve the bans, was among more than two dozen local government leaders from throughout California invited last Thursday to a closed negotiating session with Condit.
The assemblyman said he called the two-hour meeting with the hope of forging a compromise that would be acceptable to both the retail industry and city representatives. He had sought to soothe opponents before a May 5 committee hearing on the bill.
But, while the League of California Cities appears to have been mollified by the technical amendments agreed upon during the session, Bremberg and representatives of some other cities are still opposed.
Amendment Extends Some Prohibitions
Bremberg, who said she expects the legislation to pass, was able to get just a few changes. One was an amendment allowing cities to indefinitely extend prohibitions on the advertisement of alcoholic beverages at fuel pumps, the sale of alcoholic beverages from a drive-in window, or the display of beer or wine near the cash register. State regulations on those matters expire in 1990.
But Bremberg said she still believes the legislation is rigged in favor of the liquor industry and blasted the measure as “totally unenforceable.” She told Condit a penalty provision in the bill, requiring a 72-hour license suspension of an establishment found to have sold liquor to a minor, is a joke.
“You would have to hire a policeman to stand 24 hours at every place that sold booze to see if anybody violated the law in order to go into this silly-billy 72-hour suspension,” Bremberg said before stepping into the meeting.
The bill, touted by Condit as balanced legislation that protects both the industry and cities, would nullify any blanket ban but would allow cities and counties to deny an application or impose restrictions on the operation or design of a particular establishment.
At the urging of parents and community leaders, Glendale City Council members adopted the ban last April in an effort to make alcohol less accessible to minors and to show their opposition to drinking and driving.
Opponents of the ordinance--composed mainly of convenience store operators and oil companies--say the law discriminates against gas stations and convenience stores while ignoring other liquor retailers.
But Bremberg disagrees, arguing that mini-marts that sell gas and alcohol should be treated differently from other retail liquor outlets.
“Convenience stores are different because they encourage young people to come. . . . They offer hamburgers, Slurpees, beef jerky. I have no intention ever of attacking a free-standing liquor store that doesn’t sell gasoline. What I’m going after is filling up both your tanks,” she said.
Industry representatives are especially angered by the Glendale ordinance which, unlike those imposed elsewhere in California, applied the regulations retroactively to existing outlets. In adopting its ordinance, Glendale gave the city’s seven existing businesses licensed to sell gas and alcohol a choice: either stop selling liquor or shut down their pumps within a year. The city gave these businesses until this May to comply.
Other cities have allowed existing businesses to remain intact while imposing the ban on new applicants.
“It impacts directly on people who are already in business--those who took out licenses and invested their money,” said Richard Usher, chairman of FFREE, an industry coalition known as the Food and Fuel Retailers for Economic Equality that supports the Condit legislation. Atlantic Richfield Co., which operates AM-PM Mini-Marts and the Southland Corp., which operates 7-Eleven stores, are among the other representatives of the powerful industry lobby that supports the measure.
If the Condit legislation passes, FFREE has offered to dismiss court challenges it filed last August against cities that imposed bans. However, the coalition will not drop the suit against Glendale unless city officials agree to allow the continued joint sales of gas and alcohol at the previously licensed outlets.
“The same rule went into effect for absolutely everybody. Why should they be grandfathered in? We gave them a year to get out of the business,” Bremberg told The Times, adding that despite the lawsuit, Glendale will not give into industry demands. “Not unless my colleagues want to. And the last opinion I got was that we’re going to hang tough.”
A staunch advocate of local control, Bremberg launched opposition to the bill after reading about it in a League of California Cities weekly bulletin published two months ago. The bulletin indicated that a compromise acceptable to the League had been reached with industry representatives. The League is a statewide lobbying organization for California cities.
Bremberg contends the issue was sent to the wrong League committee and quietly slipped by those, like herself, with a particular interest in the categorical ban.
“I flew up to the ceiling,” Bremberg recalled.
She immediately began publicizing the issue by mailing a letter to the 84 cities within the Los Angeles County division of the League of California Cities, Bremberg said. The resulting publicity led to the meeting with Condit.
Last Saturday, however, the League of California Cities board voted to officially support the Condit measure because “it’s a pretty moderate bill that keeps our local ability to regulate,” said League attorney Connie Barker.
Condit said he considers the organization’s endorsement a boon. “The League wouldn’t have supported the bill if it had any kind of negative impact on the cities,” the assemblyman said.
Despite acknowledging that the League support will probably overshadow Glendale’s opposition to the measure, Bremberg vowed to keep fighting.
“I’m not going to curl up my toes and quit yapping and screaming about it . . . . I still think it’s an incredible encroachment on local government . . . . We are not required as members of the League to blindly follow the state board’s recommendation. Like anybody else we can take independent action.”
Such action, she said, may include sending a Glendale representative to oppose the bill during next month’s hearing.