Congresswoman Judy Chu and Community Support Councilman Reyes’ Plan to Protect Chinatown
Chinese American Leaders and Store Owners Believe Proposed Council Ordinance
Will Protect Businesses from Displacement by Large Chains
Los Angeles, CA—Congresswoman Judy Chu, Assemblyman Mike Eng, and Chinatown small businesses spoke out at a City Hall press conference to demand protection for Chinatown’s cultural heritage and small businesses and support an ordinance in City Council that will give the community the power to regulate large chains in historic neighborhoods.
In February 2012, Walmart proposed creating a small format grocery store, to be located at 701 W. Sunset Boulevard in the Chinatown neighborhood. The store has sparked resistance from community groups and small business owners who feel that the local community and businesses could be irrevocably disrupted by the entrance of the large retailer. The community groups also assert that in light of this, the City of Los Angeles and its residents cannot afford to subsidize profitable large retailers like Walmart at the expense of community businesses.
Chinatown is primarily comprised of small businesses and has 3 supermarkets, dozens of smaller markets, 12 bakeries, and 4 pharmacies that Walmart would be in direct competition with. A December 2009 West Chicago study found that 25% of small, local businesses located by an urban Wal-Mart closed after a year of it opening, with the number of business casualties rising to 40% two years later. Additionally, if the chain entered the Chinatown market, the revenue in the neighborhood would plummet dramatically as small businesses typically contribute more to their local economy.
Elected officials, community groups, businesses, and residents reacted with disapproval and concern to the multi-national retailer’s decision to open the store.
“At the heart of all Asian American communities are small businesses. I am deeply concerned that Wal-Mart’s willingness to expand at any cost will destroy our historic small business community and Chinatown,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu. “I opposed Wal-Mart displacing Asian American businesses in Rosemead and I oppose them coming into Chinatown, too.”
“We should always strive to preserve and to protect the qualities of our city that make our neighborhoods unique,” said Councilmember Ed P. Reyes. “The community of Chinatown is deserving of such protections and it is our intent to preserve its historic nature, the balance and the diversity of services in Chinatown while working closely with the local businesses.”
“Walmart will undercut the small businesses in Chinatown and bring nothing but poorly paying jobs,” said Aiha Nguyen, Senior Policy Analyst of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). “Taxpayers provided a $4 million subsidy for the development Walmart wants to operate in and the community should be getting their bang for their buck, not Walmart.”
“My family and I have run our bakery and served this community for 25 years,” said Chris Cheung, owner of Wonder Bakery. “We built this business with our sweat and tears. We want our community to be known for its unique Asian businesses and culture, not big retail chains you can find anywhere else.”
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 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