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2007-07-31
Ventura, CA. Voters' Poll Shows 62% Oppose Wal-Mart Coming To Town

Sprawl-Busters received an email today from a resident in Ventura, California. "Wal-Mart has signed a lease on an existing K-Mart location here in Ventura," she writes. "I don't want them AT ALL, but the city council and local chamber needs some convincing. They have heard all the horror stories but are still not buying it. What they have requested is very specific info on how Wal-Mart has negatively impacted a community of
approximately the same size and demographics of Ventura. We're around
100,000 people and the average wage is listed as $65,000." Wal-Mart first talked to city planners two years ago about demolishing the Kmart store on Victoria Avenue and replacing it with one of its discount stores. Sprawl-Busters reported on March 12, 2007, that the City Council in Ventura had adopted a 20-year "smart growth" plan for a seven-block area along Victoria Avenue that calls for more offices and pedestrian-friendly development. The council passed an "urgency" ordinance on Victoria Avenue that requires a building greater than 50,000 s.f. to undergo a special review and a use permit. City planners told the Ventura County Star that Wal-Mart appeared to be willing to meet the city's new development guidelines, which would force Wal-Mart to reduce the size of its store to a 60,000 s.f. maximum, and build it on two stories. The citizen's group Livable Ventura has been pressing the city to pass an ordinance controlling big-box development. A recent telephone poll of 300 voters found many Ventura residents -- 62% -- oppose Wal-Mart opening a store along the busy Victoria Avenue corridor. Nearly 75% support strengthening the rules on where big-big retailers could locate in the city. The Wal-Mart project has become a key political issue in the November election for the City Council. Three Ventura City Council seats are up for grabs in the Nov. 6 election, and Livable Ventura members say they plan to meet with each candidate. Wal-Mart's latest proposal entails demolishing the Kmart and replacing it with a 150,000 s.f. building, with parking underground. The large parking lot in front of the Kmart would be replaced with grass and a fountain. Wal-Mart told the city it was interested in designing a store with a sustainable-building design. "They are definitely going in the right direction," one city official told the County Star. "The front facade was a whole lot better, but it's still very large, larger than what our guidelines would permit."

What you can do: Livable Ventura wants big box stores to pay living wages and provide housing to their workers. "If the city encourages Wal-Mart to build in Ventura, our supporters are ready to propose a big-box ordinance," the group said. As reported by Sprawl-Busters, the California Supreme Court has ruled that cities and counties can limit where, and how big, the big-box superstores can be. The court said that elected officials have a right to decide what kind of commercial development they want, even if one of the side-effects is to restricts competition. After the Wal-Mart store was proposed in Ventura, the city passed a year-long moratorium preventing new large businesses along Victoria. The moratorium was lifted in January, 2007, but officials have still not finalized the new design guidelines. Wal-Mart has said repeatedly that it wants to be flexible in meeting local zoning codes. "We have tried to make it perfectly clear that Wal-Mart is welcome if they comply with our guidelines," one official concluded. But as of today, the plans they have put on the table continue to ignore Ventura's design guidelines. Last week, Ventura's city manager wrote on his blog, "Wal-Mart still hasn't applied. But we now have a first draft of the new rules and are taking to the City Council a proposal to finalize those rules. That way, Walmart or any other retailer will have to follow the same rules when it comes to building new stores on Victoria. Reasonable people can certainly disagree about what those rules should be. And reasonable people can certainly disagree on whether they personally want to see a Wal-Mart store on Victoria Avenue. But I hope all reasonable people can agree that we should have clear and consistent rules about what is and is not allowed to be built on Victoria -- regardless of the company that will occupy the building." Readers are urged to email the Ventura City Council at: council@ci.ventura.ca.us. Tell them: "Make big corporations like Wal-Mart fit into Ventura's Vision plan -- not the other way around."




For earlier stories, search Newsflash by "Ventura."










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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