Boarded-Up But Open Sears Cited For Urban Blight

Rioters destroyed storefronts in downtown Oakland, California five months ago, filling the area with sadness and boarded-up windows. All of the businesses have fixed up their public faces except one. One retailer’s huge building still has boarded-up windows and looks abandoned. Local residents call the blighted storefront “depressing,” and the city issued a citation for “blight.” The blighted business? Sears.

It’s easy to make fun of Sears, and we often do. In this case, the issues are much more complex than just assuming that Sears doesn’t care about its stores. A whole building of broken windows is a bigger problem than a few stained carpets or empty racks here and there.

The real problem is Sears’ legacy. Specifically, that huge building that a very different company called Sears, Roebuck & Co. built in the 1930s. Yes, technically Sears Holdings and Sears Roebuck are the same company, but every American consumer knows that they aren’t really the same company at all.

The city issued a blight citation, but Sears says that it can’t fix the storefronts. The problem is the age of the building: the company can’t just run to Home Depot to replace custom windows that date back to the 1930s.

Tipster Gordon let us know about the situation, observing that the pictures in the article are terrible, and things look even worse in real life. “This is a huge, currently-operating Sears location, but from the outside you could be forgiven for thinking it had been abandoned for decades,” he writes.

When the city told Sears that it couldn’t leave unfinished plywood on its windows, the company’s solution was to paint the wood. That solved the problem

“It really affects the quality of life in that area because the building’s such a huge presence there,” one neighbor told the San Francisco Chronicle. Retailers are supposed to cheer us all up with their holiday displays at this time of year, not depress us with their blight.

The city has given Sears another month to replace the windows. You can safely make a bet that the plywood will still be there then.

Oakland Sears still hasn’t repaired windows [San Francisco Chronicle]

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