Grocery stores have a longstanding presence in the community providing food, Girl Scout cookies and community engagement. Residents can count on being stopped, upon entering and leaving the store, to be solicited for fundraisers and to sign petitions for various ballot measures, that will directly impact them. Credit Suisse AG & The Vons Companies Inc. seeks to put an end to the longtime practice. They have filed a lawsuit, seeking to ban petition solicitors from their property, after signature gatherers began appearing in front of the Inglewood location with signs saying “Stop Gentrification, All Life Matter.”
According to the lawsuit, Safeway stores “are not open to the general public to solicit signatures to engage in conduct unrelated to Safeway’s business”.
“It’s interesting that Vons is coming out against petition gatherers, when they welcomed them for the NFL initiative with open arms,” said a political consultant familiar with the process. “Grocery stores, especially Vons and Ralph’s, are the top places to engage voters in the city of Inglewood.”
Property records show that a company based out of the Cayman Islands owns the Inglewood Vons location.
On July 23, 1992, the company gathered with Inglewood elected officials, and the media, in front of the former Sears and Roebuck building at 500 E. Manchester to announce their commitment to invest $100 million to “Rebuild L.A.”.
“The Inglewood Redevelopment Agency (IRA) gave Vons the land, a grant to build the building and a rebate on sales tax,” said Diane Sambrano a long time resident of District 4. “Vons used to be on Crenshaw and Imperial and the deal with IRA allowed them to move to Manchester and Hillcrest.”
Sambrano attributed the move to a large union strike, which turned Ralph’s on Manchester and Crenshaw into Pic N Save, and Alpha Beta, on Crenshaw and 85th became a private school called the Academy.
Uplift Inglewood members discussed how difficult Vons made it for them to gather signatures, for a proposed ballot measure, for rent control in Inglewood. Vons, and Ralph’s on LaBrea and Centinela, are two of the largest grocery stores where petition gathers congregate to engage voters.
Many wonder if Mayor James T. Butts has a hand in this as he and the council were forced to take action on rent control and refuse to admit gentrification is taking place in Inglewood. In an interview with journalism students with Annenberg Media, at the University of Southern California, Butts attempted to insult their intelligence when they too brought up the gentrification occurring in Inglewood.
The more we tried to get Butts to address some of the concerns we’d heard in our interviews with home and business owners just steps away from the soon-to-be stadium, the more defensive the mayor became.
When the word “gentrification,” was uttered, Butts assumed we didn’t know what the word meant.
“Did you say a gentrification threat? And you’re a college student right?” Butts asked.
The specifics, he said, don’t line up. Middle and upper-middle class are not moving into depressed properties and improving them so that the housing is no longer affordable for those formerly living in the area.
“What’s happening here is we have a turnover of properties, but they’re not depressed properties—they’re upper-middle class properties. And there has been some mix in the demographic that lives here but it’s been done along socioeconomic lines,” Butts said.