Ikea goes grassroots to thwart objections to chain's expansion

EAST PALO ALTO, CA: Ikea, the Swedish furniture chain, has mounted

a grassroots effort to combat opposition to a proposed store in East

Palo Alto.

A city council vote Tuesday may reveal if the company's efforts have

been successful, although there is always the possibility of appeal on

both sides.

An Ikea spokesperson admitted the company was taken by surprise by the

opposition to the proposed store.

"I guess you could say we didn't anticipate this issue would come up

because we felt support all along," said Pat Merwin, Ikea's project


"It concerns us because we think that the majority of residents do

support Ikea."

Some East Palo Alto residents and city council members are concerned

that the heavy traffic of thousands of flat-pack shoppers will blight

the area.

Opponents recently handed out fliers in front of city hall that read,

"I've got furniture," along with chairs and tables they brought along to

demonstrate the point. One angry resident has signs outside her house

that read, "Stop Ikea" and "Ikea the blue death," according to the San

Jose Mercury News.

But Ikea has countered that it will be bringing over 500 jobs and almost

$2 million in sales tax revenues to an area that needs it.

Ikea, which retains Jericho Communications as its agency of record, has

relied on grassroots efforts of local supporters to convey the benefits

the store would bring. "It is very important for the support for Ikea to

come from within the community itself," Merwin said.

One group that has been actively supporting Ikea is residents from the

University Square housing development. The group has used its website

and has attended city council meetings to demonstrate its Ikea-friendly


Ikea has also encouraged supporters to write letters to local

newspapers. Merwin said many in the community were not aware the issue

was undecided. "People assumed it was a done deal. We hope their voices

can be heard."

The city council was deadlocked in a vote taken on October 18. Ikea

believes the council does not represent the views of the majority of the

community, and since then has set out to drum up local feedback. "It is

difficult to combat when you have council members saying the community

doesn't support us," Merwin said. Ikea has also gained the support of

employment advocate organizations, including Free at Last and the

Opportunities Industrial Center West.

The company might have anticipated some problems after local opposition

forced the cancellation of two proposed stores in Brooklyn, NY and New

Rochelle, NY earlier this year.

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