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Challenge to Downtown L.A. Wal-Mart Permits Rejected

A new Wal-Mart grocery store on the edge of Chinatown is on track to open in March after a city Planning Department official rejected a challenge to the city’s permitting process for the market, it was announced Thursday.

Associate Zoning Administrator Maya Zaitzevsky concluded the Department of Building and Safety “did not err nor abuse its discretion” in granting Wal-Mart two building permits to upgrade an approximately 30,600-square-foot commercial space on the corner of Cesar E. Chavez and Grand avenues downtown.

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance filed an appeal in March challenging the permits, alleging that Building and Safety officials failed to do an environmental review of the Wal-Mart’s potential effects on the area, including increased traffic.

Zaitzevsky, however, found that tenant improvements are exempt from review under California Environmental Quality Act guidelines. The space was previously entitled for use as a grocery store.

The appeal was one of several hurdles that Wal-Mart has so-far cleared in order to open its new store near downtown. In July, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and United Food Workers Local 770 sought to block renovations of the store, but a judge denied the request.

Wal-Mart Senior Director of Community Affairs Steven Restivo said the zoning administrator’s ruling is “a victory for city residents who want to bring revitalization, jobs and affordable shopping options to downtown L.A.

“This is the third time a challenge has been rejected, sending a clear message to those who seek to block economic development only to serve their own special interests.  We look forward to soon opening our doors and providing the community what they have wanted all along: a new choice for their grocery shopping needs,” Restivo said.

Opponents of the Chinatown Wal-Mart argue the world’s largest employer does not pay its workers fair wages and benefits. Some Chinatown small businesses and food markets also fear the Wal-Mart will put “mom-and-pop” stores out of business.