The 7-Eleven corporation wants to put more stores in City Heights but they should be prepared for a fight if they try to get a license to sell beer and wine. That’s the message City Heights residents emphasized to corporate representatives at a community meeting Monday night (March 6).
“We are saturated with beer and liquor,” said community activist Maria Cortez. “I can see 7-Eleven thriving here with fresh produce, more fruits and vegetables, and healthy choices. Without beer and liquor.”
The community planning group and City Heights residents have fought 7-Eleven before, usually over the liquor and beer sales and parking-lot security. Some of the planning-group members remember back five or six 7-Eleven applications ago. But Kristy Duncan, a corporate operations manager, said the company believes there’s room for a few new stores in the neighborhood.
The proposed location is at 37th Street and El Cajon Boulevard, on the southwest corner currently occupied by an auto body shop.
“[City Heights] is moderately low density as far as the number of sites per population,” Duncan said. “We’re trying to add more stores here because we believe we have offerings that this community would like.”
Almost all 7-Eleven stores are owned by people who paid a franchise fee of between $250,000 and $350,000, company representatives said. Of San Diego’s approximately 250 stores, 3 are owned and operated by the corporation. That gives the company limited control over what franchisers do with the stores, she said.
Recalling past attempts to place 7-Elevens in the neighborhood, residents brought up problems with the existing store on the corner of Euclid Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard.
“Let me tell you about the people getting drunk or sleeping in the bushes, and how you don’t feel safe,” said Kendra. “Our neighborhood is saturated with liquor stores.”
City Heights has the highest concentration of liquor stores per resident or per square mile in San Diego, and residents are increasingly opposing new liquor licenses.
Several planning-group boardmembers indicated they’ve lost count of how many times they’ve fought that fight in the past few years. But the last time it came up, an owner of a 7-Eleven who had a liquor license wanted to transfer the license to a new location down the street. Residents came en masse to scold the planning group for approving the license.
“Are you aware of what happened with the last 7-Eleven that came here?” Ken Grimes asked. “Do you understand how opposed the community is?”
But the community wouldn’t mind having a store that carried foods they like — including ethnic foods in the diverse neighborhood. While the area is saturated with liquor licenses, it has been called a food desert because of a shortage of supermarkets.
“Our goal is to tailor the store to fit the neighborhood, and we are carrying ethnically diverse products for our community,” Duncan said. “We prefer vendors with items that have local interest and come from the area where the stores are.”