Reyes’ Move to Block Chinatown Wal-Mart Opposed

By City News Service

Business groups Wednesday voiced their opposition to City Councilman Ed Reyes’ effort to stop Wal-Mart from opening a scaled-down “neighborhood market” in Chinatown.

Wal-Mart recently announced plans to open a 3,300-square-foot store in an existing building containing senior citizen apartments on the northwest corner of Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues.

But Reyes introduced a motion, which will be heard by the City Council on Friday, that would ban retail chains from Chinatown that have standardized facades, decor, signage, or a trademark or servicemark.

If approved, the motion would lead to an ordinance blocking any permits for so-called formula retail uses.

Reyes said the motion is not intended to block the Wal-Mart from opening. The store already has the necessary entitlements and expects to start construction this summer.

Instead, he said he wants to draw the company’s attention to a public safety issue at its new site across from the Ramon C. Cortines School for Visual and Performing Arts.
Reyes said he was concerned that too many people would be walking in the area, and the sidewalk was not wide enough.

“It’s a real public safety issue that I’m addressing,” Reyes said.

“It’s urgent, because I want to address it before the store opens up.”

He said he expects the motion will be amended “to negate the unintended consequences of preventing economic investment in Chinatown,” while maintaining the neighborhood’s character.

Business leaders say any such ordinance would be an impediment to economic development in Chinatown.

The proposed ordinance would prevent stores such as Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, Whole Foods and other chains, according to a statement attributed to Gary Toebben, CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, in a statement released by a lobbyist for Wal-Mart.

In the same release, George Yu, executive director of the Chinatown Business Improvement District, said Reyes does not listen to “community members who live here and overwhelmingly support this Wal-Mart.”

Reyes argued in the motion that big retailers could hurt established small or medium-sized businesses in Chinatown, and that they “tend to be non- traditional or unique.”

In 2004, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance that makes it harder for Wal-Mart to open one of its Superstores by requiring an economic analysis that shows whether the store would depress wages or hurt nearby businesses.

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March 22, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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