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2009-09-11
Poway, CA. Wal-Mart Slightly Shrinks Superstore Plan

On April 6, 2008, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart wanted to expand its discount store on Community Road in Poway, California. In September of 2007, Wal-Mart purchased the former Plowboys Market, a farmers market-style retailer. In December, the company submitted initial plans to add 49,177 s.f. to the existing Wal-Mart store, which opened in Poway in 1992. This city of roughly 51,000 people, located in the center of San Diego County, boasts of its "sunny climate, clean air, a pristine lake and ecological reserves." Poway says it has carefully planned for "balancing growth with the good life." In fact, the city says life in Poway is "the way California was meant to be." The community likes to describe its way of life as "the City in the Country." The Poway Chamber of Commerce and the City of Poway have launched a campaign to encourage residents and non-residents alike to shop locally. "Whether you're interested in shopping, dining, entertainment, great schools, or a prime business location," the city says, " make 'Poway -Your First Choice.' When you purchase goods, professional services, and meals in Poway, a portion of your sales tax dollars go to help fund essential City services... In fact, sales tax revenue accounts for 34.5% of the City's general fund. When you leave town to shop, your sales tax revenue benefits another community." Many residents in Poway don't want Wal-Mart as their "first choice," and they are fighting the retailer's plans to expand its Community Road store into a 200,000 s.f. supercenter. "Poway will not be the same ever again if we let this happen," Connie Messina, chairwoman of the South Poway Residents Association, told the North County Times newspaper. Wal-Mart said in 2008 that it hoped to have the expanded store open by 2010. Wal-Mart has to get the approval of the Poway City Council. Wal-Mart bought land on Midland Road right behind the existing Wal-Mart, to expand their store. But opponents charge that a superstore would worsen the traffic congestion in the area, force other supermarkets to close, and bring low-wage jobs to the area. Wal-Mart says they will actually reduce traffic as shoppers go to one store, instead of several. "We're going to have nowhere else to shop but Wal-Mart," said a spokesman for the South Poway Resident's Association. "We're going to have no where else to work but Wal-Mart." On July 6, 2008, Sprawl-Busters noted that Wal-Mart had actually filed its expansion plans. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the superstore plan checked in 197,000 s.f. The market in Poway is already saturated with regional grocery stores near the existing Wal-Mart -- Vons, Statler Brothers, and Henry's. But Wal-Mart has promised that the larger superstore will mean double-wide aisles and new signs. "Powegians will save time and money," a Wal-Mart spokesman said. Before Wal-Mart can build those important double-wide aisles, the Poway City Council has to conduct an environmental impact report. This week, the Union-Tribune reports that Wal-Mart has shrunk the size of the store -- but only by 9%. The existing store is 142,937 s.f. and the expansion is now slated to bring the store to 179,933 s.f. instead of 197,000 s.f. The average shopper could not tell the difference in scale by looking at the building. Opponents of the project won't notice the difference either -- because at three times the size of a football field -- the store is still way out of scale, and it will still be open 24 hours a day. Neighbors worry about lost jobs at other retailers, the glut of traffic, and the spike in crime that will take place -- regardless of this minor shrinkage. The comprehensive draft environmental impact report is now being written by a private firm selected by the city, paid for by Wal-Mart. The change in size was considered largely irrelevant to the study by the city's director of development services, who told the Union-Tribune, "The reduction in scope won't have a big impact on something of that size." The impact study may not be finished until early 2010, and the newspaper says the City Council vote might not happen until the summer of 2010. Even if the project were approved by the Council and not challenged in court by local residents, Wal-Mart could not have a store open before the spring of 2011. If the case is appealed, add another year or longer onto the delay. It looks like consumers in Poway will have a long wait before they enjoy the benefits of "double-wide aisles."

What you can do: There are already 11 Wal-Marts within 20 miles of Poway, including the discount store in Poway. All of these stores are discount stores, and Wal-Mart has plans to expand, or shut down all of them. There is no added value to the Poway economy for expanding this store, because the area already has plenty of grocery stores. A Wal-Mart supercenter would survive by capturing sales from those existing merchants, rather than creating new sales and new jobs. For a community that is trying to sell itself as the "city in the country," a supercenter imposes a suburban sprawl pattern that is incompatible with the lifestyle image of Poway. Readers are urged to email Poway Mayor Don Higginson at dhigginson@ci.poway.ca.us with the following message: "Mayor Higginson, The one Wal-Mart in Poway today is one more than enough. If you allow the existing store to expand, all you will get is other merchants shutting down. The retail pie will get sliced thinner. The supercenter is neither a revenue nor a jobs project -- it's economic displacement. The image of Poway "balancing growth with the good life," will tip the balance to leave the 'good life' on the short end. This expansion is what you would expect to find in suburban sprawl developments. A Wal-Mart three times the size of a football field also generates an enormous amount of traffic and crime. The recent shrinkage in store size was too little to make any significant difference. As Mayor, you could lead the way to put a cap on the size of superstores, instead of allowing these big box stores to eat up your retail sector. If you approve this expansion, you can forget about your 'shop local' campaign -- unless you consider Arkansas local. A supercenter for Poway, no way!"










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

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