City Planners Oppose Banning Big Retailers in Chinatown

By City News Service

The city Planning Department, in a report out Tuesday, laid out its opposition to a City Council proposal to temporarily ban big-name retailers from opening stores in Chinatown north of downtown Los Angeles.

The report is a blow to opponents of a proposed Wal-Mart in Chinatown, including labor unions, Asian American neighborhood activists and City Councilman Ed Reyes, who represent the area.

Wal-Mart is working to open a 33,000-square-foot grocery store at the corner of Cesar E. Chavez and Grand avenues that would employ 65 people, according to a company official.

Citing a risk to Chinatown’s cultural character and small businesses in the community, Reyes in March proposed an ordinance temporarily barring so- called formula retail stores larger than 20,000 square feet from getting permits necessary to open in Chinatown – an area bounded by the Harbor (110) Freeway on the west, Cesar E. Chavez Avenue on the south, Main and Alameda streets on the east and Cottage Home and College streets on the north.

The City Council approved the interim control ordinance, which banned new demolition or construction permits from being issued for big retailers on March 23. However, the Department of Building and Safety had issued Wal-Mart the final permits necessary to begin construction on its Chinatown location the day before the vote, a move attacked by the store’s opponents as suspiciously timed.

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and United Food Workers Local 770 jointly filed a lawsuit last week seeking to block the store from opening. The suit alleged irregularities in the city’s permitting process.

Planning Department officials drafted the ordinance banning big retailers as required by the council’s vote in March, but, in a staff report, they recommended council members oppose the ordinance.

“Staff has not observed a proliferation of new formula retail uses in the area, and limited staff research has indicated this issue does not appear to have the urgency that would call for such a temporary suspension of new permits,” a team of city planners wrote in the report. “Furthermore, the imposition of (the ordinance) may have potential unintended positive and negative land use and economic consequences that are unknown at this time.”

The City Planning Commission is scheduled to weigh the department’s ordinance and accompanying recommendations today.

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July 12, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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