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Group sues to stop Walmart Supercenter plan in Antioch
By Paul Burgarino, Contra Costa Times
November 1, 2010

ANTIOCH -- Wal-Mart's bid to expand its store here into a Supercenter is headed to court after an environmental group sued to block the plan last week.

Antioch's approval of a 33,575-square-foot expansion of the Lone Tree Way store in September violates its own municipal code and state environmental law, representatives from a coalition of environmental and labor groups said in a suit filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court.

The suit, filed by California Healthy Communities Network, will delay the company's plan to bring its first Supercenter store featuring a full-service grocery to the East Bay. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is responsible for all city legal costs in the suit.

City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland could not be reached for comment Monday.

Council members said they were not surprised by the suit.

Angie Stoner, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said the company is frustrated.

"At a time when the city is facing potential bankruptcy and record unemployment rates, it is troubling to see, yet again, out-of-town special interest groups abusing the (environmental) process," she said.

The area surrounding the store has undergone substantial change since the environmental documents for Williamson Ranch Plaza were approved in 1998, according to the lawsuit.

As a result, Antioch should have prepared a subsequent environmental study that addresses new issues and changes to the severity of other issues, mainly the

proposed expansion's effect on local grocers in the trade area, said Phil Tucker, the group's project director.

Antioch's general plan also requires leaders to consider imposing reasonable conditions on approvals to protect public health and safety.

City leaders ignored substantial evidence from three months of public meetings showing that the approval of the expansion would harm public health and welfare, according to the suit.

The City Council's approval Sept. 28 was a reversal of its initial decision to deny the project on the grounds that an environmental study for the project underestimated the potential effects on the area's economy.

The council based the approval in part on a state appellate court decision this year involving a San Diego redevelopment project that raised questions about a city's ability to consider possible environmental effects when looking at a design review application.

Attorneys for Wal-Mart and an attorney retained by the city argued that an environmental study was not required to approve the expansion.

The council did what was legally required, Councilwoman Martha Parsons said Monday.

Tucker disagrees.

"The process to approve this project was legally defective," he said. "We believe the original decision of the council, before city staff intervened, was appropriate and correct."

Wal-Mart has been trying for six years to expand its Antioch store to include a bakery, produce section and full-service deli.

The City Council narrowly defeated a larger expansion plan in 2007.

No scheduled court date for the lawsuit has been set.

Antioch Citizens for Smart Growth

Please Mark Your Calendar - City Council Public Hearing Tuesday, July 27th at 7 pm.

Please mark your calendar and plan to attend the city council public hearing on Tuesday, July 27th at 7:00 pm. the meeting is located at Antioch city Hall on Third and "H" Street.

We need to show the city council our opposition to Wal-Mart's proposed expansion. A Wal-Mart Supercenter will drastically increase crime in the area, harm local businesses, and impact our existing grocery stores to the point that some will close.

KPFA Morning Show Wednesday, July 7th: Bay Area anti-Wal-Mart Superstore campaigns

Living Wage Coalition Co-Chair Paul Kaplan and California Healthy Communities Network Executive Director Phil Tucker were interviewed by labor journalist David Bacon on the KPFA Morning Show today, Wednesday, July 7th. The segment focused on Bay Area anti-Wal-Mart superstore campaigns in the cities of Rohnert Park, Milpitas, and Antioch.

To hear the program click on the link below and scroll about one-half hour into the KPFA Morning Show.

Antioch Walmart Expansion Challenged
By Paul Burgarino
Contra Costa Times

ANTIOCH - Don't add lettuce, onions and fresh meat to that Walmart shopping list just yet.

Opponents of the company's plan to expand its Lone Tree Way store into the East Bay's first Walmart Supercenter want the City Council to stop it.

The council, which narrowly rejected a Walmart Supercenter plan three years ago, is expected to hear the appeal sometime next month, officials said.

The plan to add a full grocery store would put several supermarkets out of business, leave people without jobs, and burden police and traffic, opponents said. The Planning Commission approved the environmental report for the 33,575-square-foot expansion last month.

That report used flawed data in predicting the expansion's effect on the local economy, said Phil Tucker, project director for California Healthy Communities Network. It did not consider new grocers and stalled home construction in the region, he said.

"There is a serious understatement of the situation. It's misleading," Tucker said.
A larger Walmart could cause area grocery sales to drop 3 to 6 percent, but they would return to normal within three to five years, according to the report.

But a study commissioned for the healthy communities network paints a different picture. Jim Watt of consultant Retail Strategies estimates that the expansion would cause grocery sales to fall by 11 percent and stay in decline through 2015.

At least two of the four Antioch Save Mart stores, including the Lucky on Lone Tree Way, likely would close because of the Supercenter, said Save Mart's vice president of real estate, Jim Cipolla, in Watt's report. About 167 jobs at those stores could be lost, Tucker said.

The Walmart expansion would create 85 jobs, most of them full-time and all with health and retirement benefits, said Angie Stoner, a company spokeswoman.

Antioch Citizens for Smart Growth, a coalition of residents opposed to the store's expansion, fear that crime and traffic would increase.

"Crime there has doubled since the last time they tried to expand, and more people will mean more crime. There are too many things wrong in that situation," said group member Bob Caughron.

Planning commissioners said the proposal satisfied environmental and design guidelines.
Stoner is disappointed about the appeal but confident it will fail.

"We feel the environmental analysis is sound and the council will uphold the decision. Now more than ever, the city needs the new jobs and sales tax revenue," she said. Though most grocery items aren't taxable, the company thinks shoppers will buy more taxable products while in the store.

Walmart's expansion and remodel would include a bakery, produce section and full-service deli, bringing the store's total floor area to 175,073 square feet.

That plan is about half the size of the company's expansion proposal three years ago. The company wanted to stay open 24 hours then, but its current plan would not change operating hours, which are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Walmart  Expansion Plan Advances in Antioch

By Hilary Costa
Contra Costa Times

ANTIOCH - Wal-Mart Stores is a step closer to expanding its store here into the company's first Supercenter in the East Bay.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the project's environmental documents this week. The City Council will take up the matter only if the Planning Commission's decision is appealed.
The seven-member commission appeared before an unusually packed house Wednesday, with dozens debating the giant retailer's business practices and role in the community.
In the end, however, the decision dealt only with whether the proposal met environmental and design guidelines.

"We're not up here today to speak to (whether) Walmart's a good operator," Commissioner Stanley Travers said. "We're just here to speak to whether the environmental impact report is still valid."
The 33,575-square-foot expansion and remodeling would include a bakery, produce section, full-service deli and enhanced outdoor living department, bringing the Lone Tree Way store's total floor area to 175,073 square feet.

The expansion would create 85 jobs, most of them full-time and all with health and retirement benefits, company spokeswoman Angie Stoner said.

More than 30 people spoke in favor of the retailer's plan to add a supermarket.
Fewer than a dozen spoke against.

Those who said they want Walmart to expand included several current employees, as well as residents who said they want to buy cheaper groceries without crossing into neighboring Brentwood to shop at WinCo.

"These are dire economic times," Antioch resident Hans Ho said. "Free us from the grasp of greedy organized labor."

Opponents included employees of other nearby grocery stores, who said they fear that a Walmart expansion would put their employers out of business and cost them their jobs.
"The pie has been split too many ways," said Steven Burke, who has worked for Lucky stores for 33 years.

The City Council narrowly denied a request three years ago to expand the store by about 65,000 square feet. The Planning Commission had initially approved that plan, but its decision was appealed.

In the years since, Walmart scaled back the plan and withdrew its request to operate 24 hours a day. The new plan would keep current business hours of 8 a.m.- 10 p.m.

Commissioner Mike Langford said he approved the environmental documents the first time around, and his opinion hadn't changed.

"I feel confident the EIR has been done in the way it should be, and I have an obligation at this point to endorse it and have this project move on," he said.

Several commissioners and members of the public pointed out that the city's Target store recently expanded its sales to include groceries without attracting similar attention. Similarly, the Planning Commission approved a 2008 expansion at the Antioch Costco without encountering widespread opposition.

"I don't think America was built on exclusionary practices," Travers said.

Opponents of the approval of the expansion have until 5 p.m. Thursday to file an appeal at City Hall.

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