ALAMEDA, CA-The California Court of Appeal ruled this week in favor of shopping center owner IRES California, Inc., saying that keeping former supermarket space empty does not violate state unfair business competition laws.

In 1972, IRES leased a large space in the Bridgeside Shopping Center, an 8.3-acre strip mall on Blanding Avenue, to Albertson’s supermarket. The lease was negotiated through 2042, including extension options, but Albertson’s closed the store in 1997, relocating to a nearby location.

Margaret Gregory, a local woman, recently filed a lawsuit against IRES, charging that IRES allowed Albertson’s to keep the Bridgeside store vacant to ensure that supermarket competitors would not move in. Gregory alleged that this illegal practice kept the area blight, reducing property incomes and preventing much-needed sales tax dollars from entering the city.

In 2001, the Alameda County Superior Court ruled in favor of IRES and Albertson’s, saying that neither party was in violation of the state’s unfair competition law. The appeals court this week supported that decision.

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