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Los Angeles Planning Commission Makes Smart Move for City, Downtown Residents

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In February, we announced plans to open a 33,000-square-foot Walmart Neighborhood Market on the ground floor of a senior housing complex in downtown Los Angeles, near Chinatown. The store would offer full-service grocery -- addressing a well-known local need -- and revitalize a decades-old empty building.

This news was met with enthusiasm by those who live and work in the area and with disdain by special interest groups who sustain themselves by opposing economic development efforts that would create jobs and shopping options for residents in this area of downtown. The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) even went so far as to quickly help introduce an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) to temporarily halt the opening of new "formula retailer uses" within a small section of the Chinatown Redevelopment Project area that just happened to include our proposed store location. Put simply, the measure was intended to block Walmart.

On March 23, the City Council adopted the motion, which in turn instructed the Planning Department to draft the ICO.

At the time, the Los Angeles Times called the ICO "unwise and counterproductive" and opposed the proposal. And yesterday, the Planning Commission voted to disapprove the proposed ICO and recommend that it not be adopted by the City Council.

This is good news for the city as it helps chip away at the notion that L.A. is a place that is difficult to do business. More importantly, this is a victory for downtown residents who currently don't have as many shopping options as those who live in other parts of the city and are increasingly concerned about the negative ripple effects of vacant buildings like crime, blight and decreased foot traffic for nearby businesses.

Many think Walmart can help spark a turnaround.

That's why our plans to open a Neighborhood Market have received strong support from organizations such as the Tenant Association of Grand Plaza, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Central City Association, the Latino Business Chamber, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Asian Business Association, the Chinatown Business Improvement District and others.

These groups are among those who recognize the need for development downtown and see our store as a magnet for future real estate growth.

Earlier this week, Larry Kosmont, president of the government consulting firm Kosmont Cos., told the Los Angeles Business Journal, "At some point, Los Angeles has to let the free market deploy to bring jobs and money into the community."

While there are several ethnic food options in the neighborhood, the closest full-service grocery store is more than a mile away. Our store would complement the existing businesses in the area and make life more convenient for those who are forced to travel outside their neighborhood to buy fresh food for their family.

The L.A. Times said it best:

The company scoped out a potential site and identified a parcel that already is zoned for the kind of store it wants to put in. It announced plans to build on property that has been vacant for decades, and in accordance with the site's intended use. It did not propose one of its superstores but rather a relatively modest grocery outlet.

We applaud the recent action by the Planning Commission and look forward to greeting the thousands of downtown customers who will visit us when our Walmart Neighborhood Market opens next year.