Peskin and Home Depot

SUP. AARON Peskin, who rode his pro-neighborhood, anti-chain store activism into public office, took nearly everyone by surprise last week when he provided the swing vote to keep Home Depot's plans for expansion into Bernal Heights alive. The matter comes up again Nov. 2, and Peskin needs to reject the giant chain store – or lose a lot of credibility with his neighborhood base.

Opponents of Home Depot went into last week's board meeting thinking that six supervisors – Tom Ammiano, Jake McGoldrick, Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi, Gerardo Sandoval, and Peskin, the core of the progressive bloc on the board – would rule that the environmental impact report on the 140,000-square-foot store was inadequate. That would have sent Home Depot back to the drawing board – and maybe scuttled the proposed store for good.

It's a shame that the neighborhood forces couldn't count Sup. Sophie Maxwell, who represents the district where the store would be built, as an ally. To her eternal shame, Maxwell has bought the chain store line (jobs, taxes, all the bunk that exploitative chains peddle around the country) and has supported Home Depot all along.

But Peskin shocked his allies when, after a hearing that lasted for hours, he bowed to a request by Sup. Bevan Dufty and voted to continue the matter a week to give Home Depot time to come back with plans for a slightly smaller store. Dufty argued that a 110,000-square-foot outlet might be more acceptable, particularly if Home Depot signed some sort of contract with community groups promising to hire local people.

But that's just political garbage, cooked up by lobbyists who knew they were in trouble. This is an example of everything San Francisco doesn't want or need: A giant suburban-style outlet of a national retail corporation that cares nothing about, and will do nothing for, the community. It's as if someone needs to send Peskin back to Urban Economics 101: Small, locally owned, independent businesses are the engine that drives economic development in San Francisco. Chain stores suck money out of the city and life out of the neighborhoods. Home Depot doesn't belong on Bayshore Boulevard, or anywhere else in town, and if Peskin doesn't understand that, he needs to recognize that his political future is going to be a lot less bright.

PS: Why is Mayor Gavin Newsom getting plaudits for hosting a screening of the new anti-Wal-Mart movie when he's strongly supporting Home Depot? Is one giant out-of-town, anti-union, small business-wrecking corporate chain really a whole lot better than another? Movie fans who see him at a showing of Wal Mart: The High Cost of Low Price should confront him and ask.