Community Group's Attempt to Challenge Walmart In Works

The Chinatown Walmart saga continues, this time with an appeal from a community advocate

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A coalition of community groups isn't taking the city's approval of Walmart's building permits as the end of its battle to keep the retail giant out of historic Chinatown.

    Friday, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) appealed Walmart's building permits, which were approved March 22, and on Monday the Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) began preparing a report, the first step in the appeal process.

    The facility at Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues where Walmart plans to open a neighborhood market was built with public funds allocated by the California Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and mandated to provide permanent, quality jobs for low-income residents.

    APALA's appeal is supported by a coalition of advocacy organizations, including the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). 

    "We didn’t feel the conditions indicated by the CRA when they subsidized the building had been fulfilled," said Aiha Nguyen, a senior policy analyst at LAANE.

    This was just one of the points in the more than 700-page document APALA submitted to LADBS.

    Now LADBS will conduct research for the report regarding APALA's concerns before submitting it to the city's Planning department, said David Lara, LADBS spokesman.

    LADBS expects to finish the report by the end of April, Lara said.

    Once LADBS passes on the report to the Planning department, the decision concerning the appeal is out of the department's hands.

    Planning will review APALA's appeal with the context of LADBS's report.

    "As far as we're concerned, [Walmart's] permit is valid," Lara said, though their research could generate different findings.

    LADBS requires a fee from apellants including item-by-item charges depending on the depth of the research LADBS must do to explore the appeal.

    The proposed development would be about one-fifth the size of a typical Walmart, allowing the retailer to sidestep the LA superstore ordinance passed in 2004, which allowed the city to review implications like job quality and potential neighborhood business loss before approving stores larger than 100,000 square feet.

    Walmart insists that they have met all city requirements, and "have every confidence that our plans will continue to move forward," Walmart spokesman Seven Restivo said in a statement.

    "The site has always been zoned for a grocery store, has been empty for most of the last two decades and our plans clearly comply with all City requirements," Restivo said in a statement.

    Though Nguyen admits that the site was zoned by the CRA for a grocery store, she said this isn’t enough to justify the city’s approval of Walmart.

    "You have to consider the intent of the CRA," Nguyen said. "They wanted Chinatown to thrive, and we don’t think Walmart will allow that to happen."

    Citing Walmart’s notorious reputation for destroying locally owned businesses and other traffic and safety concerns, Nguyen said LAANE will continue to challenge Walmart until an appeal is accepted.

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