Major Fight Looming Over Walmart’s First L.A. Grocery Store

Nearly a Decade After Losing Costly Election in Inglewood,

Retail Giant Sets Sights on Chinatown Location

 

Los Angeles, CA—Walmart, which has been trying to gain a foothold in the lucrative L.A. grocery market for years, may be closer than ever before to achieving its goal.

 

According to a story in today’s Frying Pan News, L.A. City Building and Safety grocery permit applications have been filed for a Walmart grocery store in Chinatown. Some of the applications have already been approved. Two well-placed sources in city government, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed this morning to Frying Pan News that the applications were submitted on behalf of Walmart. Calls to Walmart were not returned.

 

Walmart plans to open a small-format grocery store in order to avoid an existing L.A. City superstore ordinance. The law, passed in 2004, enables the city to weigh numerous factors, such as job quality and business loss, in deciding whether to allow big box developments to proceed.

 

L.A.’s superstore ordinance was enacted following Walmart’s failed attempt to open a superstore in the city of Inglewood. Despite spending more than $1 million on a ballot initiative to circumvent the public review process, Walmart was soundly defeated by a coalition of small businesses, clergy, community groups, and unions.

 

The proposed Walmart grocery store has sounded alarms in Chinatown and adjacent communities.

 

“The Chinatown store will continue Walmart’s track record of perpetuating poverty jobs in low-income communities in Los Angeles,” said Roxana Tynan, executive director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), which led the successful fight against Walmart in 2004. “We are committed to protecting good jobs for residents in all communities.”

 

The store, located at 701 W. Sunset Boulevard, will open below a senior citizen center and across from a high school in a dense neighborhood and create heavy competition against existing Asian-owned small businesses. Community groups monitoring the site fear that the entrance of the retailer would be devastating to small businesses. The store is part of a development which once received a $4 billion subsidy that mandates the creation of permanent, quality jobs for low-income residents.

 

“We’re concerned that our historic community is going to be negatively affected by the development of this Walmart,” said Sissy Trinh, executive director of the Southeast Asian Community Alliance (SEACA). “The reality is that our local businesses that have serviced the Asian community for generations will likely get squeezed out of Chinatown.”

 

In urban communities here and across the country, Walmart workers have largely been unable to rise above the poverty line, with depressed wages and lack of health benefits the norm. “We end up choosing between food, bills and health insurance, which we shouldn’t even have to be thinking about working for one of the largest retailers in the world,” said Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Walmart Department Manager Girshriela Green, who makes $9.80 an hour.

 

Combining dynamic research, innovative public policy and the organizing of broad alliances, LAANE’s work has helped tens of thousands of people attain better wages and health benefits, and has improved public health for hundreds of thousands of people across the region. LAANE has led the coalition of community, clergy, and labor groups to win the “Superstores Ordinance” in the City of Los Angeles and Inglewood in 2004. For more information on LAANE, visit http://www.laane.org

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