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L.A. gives Wal-Mart permits for Chinatown store despite concerns

March 23, 2012 | 12:53 pm

Despite efforts by Los Angeles City Council members to throw up roadblocks, retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has secured the construction permits needed to open a 33,000-square-foot grocery in Chinatown, city officials said Friday.

That development undermines efforts by Councilman Ed Reyes to impose a moratorium on larger retail chains in Chinatown.

MAP: Site of proposed Wal-Mart in Chinatown

Robert “Bud” Ovrom, general manager of the city's Building and Safety Department, told the council that Wal-Mart obtained the construction permits to renovate the ground floor of the building at the northwest corner of Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues on Thursday. The council’s vote on a moratorium had been planned for Friday.

“This project is moving forward. This ordinance would not have any immediate impact on this project,” Ovrom told the council.

Reyes had argued that a moratorium on new retail chains would protect Chinatown’s character and allow the city to address traffic concerns at the intersection where Wal-Mart wants to open. “I am not anti-business. I am pro-business. But these are fundamental issues,” Reyes told his colleagues.

Despite Ovrom’s news, the council voted 13 to 0 to instruct City Atty. Carmen Trutanich to draw up the temporary ban on chain stores. Although Reyes’ original proposal would have affected nearly every chain store, it was rewritten to cover stores that are larger than 20,000 square feet.

Planning officials said the ordinance will come back to the council for final approval in coming months.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

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