VISTA — In 2007, concerned that incoming discount stores would ruin the image of Vista’s redeveloping downtown, the city imposed a moratorium on the establishment of dollar and bargain basement stores in its redevelopment zones. The council unanimously lifted the moratorium Feb. 9, but amended the code to require these stores to obtain a Special Use Permit subject to a review by the city planning committee. They must also pay a $6,958 nonrefundable processing fee.
Other affected business types include bail bondsmen, check cashers, hiring halls/labor centers, pawn shops and smoke shops. Day spas are also regulated but require a less stringent and costly Minor Use Permit.
“(The amendment) would not restrict the establishment of these usages, but would provide better land use control regarding their location and operational characteristics,” Director of Community Development John Conley said. He explained that the provision would prevent clustering of like businesses, which can lead to blight.
Both the Vista Chamber of Commerce and the Vista Village Business Association endorsed the decision. No existing businesses are affected by this amendment. Despite this, a number of agents representing bail bonds companies in Vista took the podium to protest the amendment.
“We find ourselves fighting against an unfair stereotype,” said Justin Brown representing Aladdin Bail Bonds. He said that bail bonds businesses in Vista had to cluster by their very nature and asked that bail bonds agents be removed from the amendment.
“Business is dependent on the vicinity to the court and the jail,” he said. “That proximity to both the courthouse and jail facility are absolutely integral to both the people we’re serving (and) ourselves — the entire community.”
San Diego Bail Agents Association representative Byron Mantack called the amendment a ban on bail agents. Marco J. LiMandri, vice president of Big Marco Bail Bonds, asked that the bail bonds part of the amendment be excised or at least tabled.
“If President Obama can sit down with the Iranians, at least you can sit down with the bail agents,” he said. The council was not swayed.
At the same time some businesses were restricted, others were allowed into Vista for the first time. Smoke houses and tattoo parlors can now set up shop in the city, though they must also get Special Use Permits. Response from tattoo shop owners was generally positive, but some balked at the price.
“I’m not a big business man,” art gallery owner and tattoo artist Joey Chavez said. “I don’t have deep pockets. That’s money that could be put into my shop.”
“I think it’s a fair fee and we’d be more than happy to pay it,” San Diego parlor owner Gary Hernandez countered. “We’ll probably come in Wednesday with a check.”
The motion to adopt the amendment passed but
not without misgivings. Councilman Robert Campbell wanted smoking lounges off the approved list. Mayor Morris Vance recalled walking the streets of San Diego shortly after World War II and finding its endless tattoo parlors and bars distasteful.
“There’s a little fear and trepidation up here, and I think it’s warranted,” Vance said. “These are items we’re going to have difficulty with in our downtown area.”