Fresno, CA. Wal-Mart Asks For A Larger Store In A Saturated City
Wal-Mart continued its aggressive push into California last week with an announcement that the company wants to expand its existing discount store in Fresno, California at a time when the greater Fresno area is already saturated with Wal-Marts and other big box stores.
According to an article April 26th in The Fresno Bee, the giant discounter wants to expand its store in southeast Fresno to add groceries. The add-on would increase the current 131,164 s.f. store by 52,000 s.f. Wal-Mart claims -- without substantiation -- that the larger store will bring 85 "new" jobs to Fresno -- but most if not all of those jobs will come from existing grocery stores already doing business in Fresno. Wal-Mart's website lists 11 Wal-Mart stores close to Fresno, including two superstores.
Wal-Mart is taking its plans before the city's Planning Commission on the evening of May 4th. To grease the wheels, Wal-Mart conducted its own 'poll' of Fresno voters, and has told the media that two out of three city voters want the store's expansion, along with 9,000 area residents who have signed petitions placed in existing Wal-Mart stores. It is no news that Wal-Mart shoppers want more and bigger Wal-Marts, but Wal-Mart's survey, which was done last August, was not independently conducted or verified.
"We have heard from small business owners and community leaders who support this project because it will bring increased economic stimulation to southeast Fresno as well as create approximately 85 quality jobs and increased access to fresh, affordable groceries," a Wal-Mart spokeswoman was quoted as telling the Fresno Bee. The company also claims that the average wage of its 69,821 workers in California is $13.10 per hour. These claims cannot be independently verified, because Wal-Mart does not allow 3rd party review of its wage calculations.
It doesn't rain much in Fresno, but City Councilor Sal Quintero rained on Wal-Mart's parade last week. According to Quintero, he is hearing from residents who are not happy about this expansion just to create another grocery store. "Some folks I've talked to just don't want it, period," he told The Bee. "The mom and pops -- they don't want it." That's because they know the trade area has too many merchants already. Quintero counted 14 grocery stores just in the immediate trade area near the proposed Wal-Mart store.
What you can do: Wal-Mart has recently coerced two cities to support expansions by threatening a costly special election if municipal officials did not go along with their plans.
Special elections are very expensive to hold, and it is very easy for Wal-Mart to hire signature collectors to put themselves on the ballot. In nearby Kerman and Milpitas, California, Wal-Mart got the city councils to vote in favor of expansion -- or face a very costly special election. In Milpitas, such an election would have cost an astounding $436,000. The city of Milpitas would have been unable to afford such an election, so they caved-in to Wal-Mart's pressure.
Readers are urged to email City Councilor Sal Quintero at: http://www.fresno.gov/Government/CityCouncil/District5/Contact.htm with the following message:
Dear Councilor Quintero,
The proposed Wal-Mart expansion is something that will affect your constituents in District 5 -- but all of Fresno as well. There are already 11 Wal-Marts within a short drive of Fresno, and as you point out, a wide range of grocery stores from Winco on down to the neighborhood markets.
Allowing Wal-Mart to add a grocery store to its existing store is like inviting the cannibals to dinner. This expansion will definitely not create 85 new jobs. Once you subtract out the jobs that will be lost elsewhere, the net impact on taxes and jobs can be negative.
Don't let Wal-Mart threaten you like they did in Kerman and Milpitas. Fresno should pass a zoning ordinance which says that any zoning petition brought to the voters shall take place on the next regularly scheduled citywide election.
Wal-Mart is relying on the fact that they can gather signatures for an expensive special election, and extort their way into town by threatening such a costly election. Now is the time to close that loophole by requiring zoning initiative petitions or referendums to be scheduled at the next general citywide election.
Fresno doesn't need larger Wal-Marts, and it doesn't need dead, empty stores either.