Giant big box store gets inhospitable reception at meeting

ENCINITAS — Dozens of residents turned out during the regular City Council meeting on Sept. 28 to show their dissatisfaction with the city’s process of issuing Walmart a building permit.
The retail giant was given the green light to convert the former Home Depot Expo on Sept. 6 of this year after negotiating space issues and parking requirements with the city since July 2010.
No changes to the exterior of the building except for signage are expected. However, because of the city code’s parking requirements for commercial occupants, Walmart will have to leave 8,664 square feet of the 104,759-square-foot building vacant.
Sensing a hostile crowd, the city’s planning and building staff told the council that there was little it could do to prohibit Walmart from moving into the space still leased by Home Depot.
“The city has very limited permitting authority in tenant changes,” said planner J. Dichoso.
In fact, several residents derided the process of issuing the permit without public input. Joann Hoffman called it the “Walmart sneak in” and told the council she was troubled that the applicant did the parking study.
“I feel like it’s a conflict of interest,” she said. Typically the applicant is required by code to prepare a traffic study according to city staff.
Hoffman, who has been a vocal opponent of the Walmart move, said she was never told about her right to appeal the permit issuance or that the ability to do so expired 15 days after the issuance of the permit.
She asked that the time length to appeal be extended in this case given the delay in bringing the issue to the public’s attention during a council meeting.
City Attorney Glen Sabine said a civil code provision at the state level sets the appeal process at 90 days, but that municipalities have the ability to change the timeframe.
“It’s the rule we have in place right now and with that rule we have to follow it,” he said.
Hoffman also expressed a concern that such a large retailer would bring additional traffic to the already crowded Leucadia Boulevard intersection.
“The major thing for me is the traffic,” she said. “I just think it’s good for us to know how all these things roll out.”
James Cowles lives within walking distance to the intersection. He predicted that traffic would increase dramatically.
“Home Expo parking is not going to be the same as Walmart use,” he told the council. He said the number of cars in the parking lot could be counted on one hand when the specialty, interior design store owned by Home Depot was operating in the space. ”That won’t be the case with Walmart,” he warned.
“It’s telling that Encinitas gets 15 days and the rest of the world gets 90 (to appeal),” he said. “You owe it to the citizens to let that happen.”
Cowles said the council and the city should have advertised the permitting process with Walmart. “To carry it under the radar is really disingenuous,” he said.
The city requires a minimum of 627 parking spaces in the existing retail center according to planning director Patrick Murphy. Those spaces will be shared with REI and a few restaurants currently in the center.
Rachelle Collier, a Leucadia resident, was frustrated with the process. “You’ve given them a permit and now we’re here telling you we don’t want Walmart,” she told the council.
“Walmart just doesn’t belong here,” she said. “I don’t know what you can do, and I know some of you don’t even like me but what can we do to keep Walmart out of Leucadia?”
Sheila Cameron, a former mayor and councilwoman, said that maintaining community character was one of the reasons the city was incorporated 25 years ago, adding that Walmart didn’t fit that criteria. She also warned that walmart allowed overnight RV parking.
“We don’t have a clear regulation,” Murphy said when asked about overnight RV parking on commercial property by Councilwoman Teresa Barth. He said the formula of five parking stalls per 1000 square feet is the parking standard the city uses to determine the required number of spaces needed in a commercial setting.
Barth questioned whether there were any options to extend the appeal time period. “There’s not,” answered Sabine.
“The city doesn’t choose in this type of free market zoning,” said Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar. She conceded she’d like to see a movie theater in the space, but said that’s not a decision for the council to make.
“We have to remain fair, we do have to remain consistent,” she said in creating policy.
“We all know Walmart is divisive wherever it goes,” Barth said. “There’s nothing we can do unfortunately at this point.”
Barth said the general plan speaks more often to new development rather than the “repurposing” of existing developments. She urged the public to get involved in thinking about making those changes to the general plan update that is currently in draft form.
“I am extremely frustrated,” she said. “There is no action unfortunately for us to take tonight.”

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  1. Dismas says:

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
    Is sit that Ms. Hoffman doesn’t have the inclination to determine ‘How’ the City works, or is it she isn’t capable of determining ‘How’ it works?
    Blaming a system that she obviously hasn’t taken the time to familiarize herself with would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. Wal-Mart has been in the system for almost two years and Ms. Barth has known darn well about it the entire time;and playing to the crowd by pleading ignorance is disingenuous.

    As for the reportage on this story, "Sensing a hostile crowd…" First of all, when isn’t there the same hostile crowd calling for council scalps? Secondly, most of the people who spoke were asking the Council to either break the law or pass ‘special’ laws to treat Wal-Mart differently than any other business; elitist at a minimum,and insincere mugging for the camera with an eye towards the 2012 election, at a maximum.

    Ms. Collier,a recent candidate for City Council (who has reopened her candidate’s bank account again) was quoted in this very paper a month ago as stating that she has been working carefully on the General Plan; the very same plan that will turn El Camino Real into a parking lot. Specifically targeting Wal-Mart seems a little disingenuous; but maybe that is an acquired skill for budding politicians?
    "We’re here telling you we don’t want Walmart,” Collier told the council." Who is ‘we’ the Leucadia Town Council? The Citizens for a Rural Leucadia?

    “Walmart just doesn’t belong here,” she said."I know some of you don’t even like me, but what can we do to keep Walmart out of Leucadia?”
    Principles before personalities! Liking or not liking Ms. Collier doesn’t trump the law and why would she believe it does?
    Finally,"Sheila Cameron, a former REMOVED mayor and councilwoman, said that maintaining community character was one of the reasons the city was incorporated 25 years ago."
    Ms. Cameron seems to be operating under the misconception that she speaks for anyone but herself.
    With hope, Ms. Cameron will run again for a City Council seat in 2012 and save us all.
    Read more: Coast News Group – Giant big box store gets inhospitable reception at meeting
    Yeah, 7 speakers. Wow.

  2. cazza says:

    What ‘Dismas’ are you being paid by Walmart – you sell out!
    There is much research on why and how Walmarts destroy communities they sneak into.
    Plain folks like myself don’t know are about the laws – your remarks are off base so much it is suspicious to say the least.
    I was astounded to read the news and I’m sure there are others like me that DEFINITELY would have been at the meeting last night if we had of known Walmart was going to the topic of conversation!
    ALL the town council should be held accountable – hiding this from us is most insincere! No wonder there was so few few speakers. This is outrageous, if it had been known there would have been a huge crowd.
    Well Mr/Ms ‘Dismas is seems Ms Cameron speaks for me on this matter and a LOT of others that I know feel the SAME way.

  3. Walmart- wine,beer says:

    The Planning Director, Patrick Murphy left something out of the staff report. Walmart sells beer and wine and will need an alcohol license from the ABC to sell from this store. The city would have to approve a city use permit and Coastal Development Permit which would involve a public hearing. Murphy shouldn’t have approved a building permit until all issues, the liquor license permits, were aired at a public hearing. Currently, there are two restaurants that sell on-site and the service station that has off-site sales. How many is too many businesses selling beer and wine in a shopping center? Residents should have the opportunity to give their opinions before the city approved a building permit.

  4. Silver says:

    Sincerely, Welcome Walmart, to the beach town of Encinitas! Why? I have grown up here since the 60′s. Does anyone remember that time around here? Totally different from now! We did not pay for this weather, the beach, or location. Our family house cost $16,100 in Solana Beach. Can’t buy a car for that now! Everything is so so much different,and more expensive. Money that was comanded from newly transplanted to the area in the last few decades drove up all our costs of living. Those whom hopefully are not the ones with the loudest opposing voice of the new walmart in Encinitas. We had to embrace your presence which drove out many of the locals. We accomodated you, shopped your business’ pay your prices and you need be thankful!

    New Jobs means more citizens and their children are less dependent on our tax dollars!
    Those aware of the economic crisis in our country raise your hand! Generated tax revenue and the employment walmart guarantees (more than 100 new jobs)proves to be an asset to Encinitas. For those who think and said that walmarts presence ruins a community should consider that it’s your same neighbors whom you have already lived next to and shopped the same stores with, that would be shopping with you at walmart! so if you’ve been able to coincide with them up till now then why not in the future? Since 1964 I have watched this place turn from "affordable"to "non-affordable" so it’s about time for us "LOCALS" to get back to our "NORMAL"! People are not going to come from an outside area and conjest the roads more to shop at this wal-mart, they have one in their neighborhood! If you have so much money that you are comfortable paying 100% mark up then go for it! But don’t tell the less fortunate they have to live on your terms, when they can’t! Unless you have an offer to put on the table! Hundred dollars says opponents have shopped there to save money! As far as parking issues, people may not know but wal mart is big in .com sales where product can be shipped to home or store for immed. pick up. Associates can be shuttled in, as area parking offers this opportunity. Accomodations can be made on a temp. basis when/if holiday shopping commands more parking. "There is nothing we can not do to help ourselves" Breathe, government fix, is not on the way! Kiss the opportunity for new infastructure, don’t do as Boise did!

  5. Swami bruce says:

    Let us not forget, in the discussion of Walmart’s presence here in our fair city, that they sell weapons and ammunition. In fact, it was at a Walmart that the Columbine and Arizona massacre shooter bought their ammo. Food for thought, indeed.

  6. Toomuchtraffic says:

    "The Planning Director, Patrick Murphy left something out of the staff report. Walmart sells beer and wine and will need an alcohol license from the ABC to sell from this store. The city would have to approve a city use permit and Coastal Development Permit which would involve a public hearing. Murphy shouldn’t have approved a building permit until all issues, the liquor license permits, were aired at a public hearing. Currently, there are two restaurants that sell on-site and the service station that has off-site sales. How many is too many businesses selling beer and wine in a shopping center? Residents should have the opportunity to give their opinions before the city approved a building permit."
    The city government knows that Walmart will need a public hearing. Instead, the Planning Director and staff hide this information from the residents. Mayor Bond and Deputy Mayor Stocks have participated in hearings over liquor licenses. They knew or should have known the public was being denied the hearing that could also include traffic studies and a vetted parking analysis.
    No welcoming a corporation that isn’t going to play fair with the residents.

  7. Why Encinitas? says:

    It is telling that Carlsbad did not want the Walmart. San Marcos rejected this deal; La Jolla, Rancho Santa Fe, Solana Beach, Del Mar, and Fairbanks Ranch don’t want Walmart. It is not being a snob to not want the traffic, parking, and economically destructive impacts of a Walmart. Nobody who opposes it is saying anything bad about the people who shop there. We are concerned about costs to our community.

    The Planning Department claims that they want to place high density-mixed use housing on El Camino to encourage walkability and bike friendly transportation, yet they place a Walmart in a location that will bring in cars from Rancho Santa Fe Road from San Marcos, both sides of I 5, and El Camino Real.

    Despite what he claims, Pat Murphy can’t do anything based on his ineptitude, and inability to follow the law that requires the city to have a public hearing for the liquor license 1st! You are ANYTHING but fair because you are giving Walmart special favors!

    Get rid of Pat Murphy before it is too late!

  8. Daniel Stein-Kubin says:

    And what about IKEA ? It would be a great choice for that location.

  9. encinitasyouneedus says:

    Encinitas is targeted for new expansion approach by Walmart.
    "For Walmart, urban expansion is not about ending food deserts — it’s about getting in on the ground floor of the future — affluent — retail market in America’s cities.
    Community groups and labor unions have long opposed Walmart’s urban ambitions. With growing strength on the national scene, the community food movement is poised to become a player by expanding new local stores. If Walmart can sail through local city council votes for the conditional use permits and zoning adjustments they often need, the company may be able to avoid the infamous site fights that have accompanied new stores nationwide — and it will undoubtedly crowd out any and all local retail alternatives. Rather than having their food dollar spirited off to the retail monopoly’s corporate coffers, these alternatives could potential keep in the community where it can recirculate as much as five times.
    [ . . . ] And while Walmart’s new stores will bring jobs, they are not living-wage jobs and are unlikely to bring prosperity. The company’s labor practices are notorious: wage theft, poverty line jobs, and aggressive anti-union behavior. A study of an urban Walmart that opened on Chicago’s South Side in 2006 also indicated that the new store cost the local economy as many jobs as it created, without increasing local sales tax revenue. In other words, Walmart drives local food retail alternatives out of the market."
    These realities have been available for more than a decade. Our city staff (directed by the council marjority of Stocks, Bond & Gaspar) misdirect the public and fail to server our best interests.

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