The public hearing in Capitola-by-the-Sea should have ended by dinnertime, but so many people crowded into the City Council chambers that speakers were lining up in the aisles long past 1 a.m.
The year was 1999, and Capitola — a charming coastal village about four miles south of Santa Cruz, California — was about to decide whether Borders Books and Music would be permitted to build a “Titanic-sized” store (22,000 square feet) in the middle of downtown.
If the Council voted yes, as predicted, at least four local bookstores would be wiped out, and this was the reason that people kept getting up to take their place behind the two microphones in the aisles.
And boy, were they mad.
A Big Bag of Garbage
One woman walked up to the stage with her husband and dumped a big bag of garbage in front of shocked City Council members. “We’ll clean this up, but Borders won’t,” she declared, having gathered the trash from the parking lot of the nearest Borders store in Sand City, about 10 miles away.
An independent traffic consultant reported that parking needs for the proposed Borders had been grossly underestimated. The audience gasped at revelations that Capitola’s traffic engineers had used 15-year-old studies, published “long before megabox bookstores like Borders were around.”