EAST PALO ALTO, CA: Ikea, the Swedish furniture chain, has mounted
a grassroots effort to combat opposition to a proposed store in East
A city council vote Tuesday may reveal if the company's efforts have
been successful, although there is always the possibility of appeal on
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
Some East Palo Alto residents and city council members are concerned
that the heavy traffic of thousands of flat-pack shoppers will blight
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.