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Judge refuses to block Wal-Mart project in Chinatown

September 7, 2012 | 11:41 am

Walmart Chinatown  Brian van der Brug--Los Angeles Tim4es
A judge on Friday declined to issue an order halting construction on a Wal-Mart grocery store in Chinatown, but left open the possibility of stopping the controversial project in the future.

Superior Court Judge James Chalfant said he did not see any immediate harm from allowing the retail giant to continue work on tenant improvements inside an existing ground-floor retail space at Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues. But he also signaled a willingness to force Wal-Mart to rip out its work if he ultimately issues a ruling  against the company -- which, like the city of Los Angeles, is a defendant in the case.

“I don’t see any irreparable harm in allowing the construction to proceed because it can all be undone,” Chalfant said.

Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo hailed the decision, saying it was “good news for the local construction team and the surrounding community who will soon have a new option for jobs and affordable groceries.”

Gideon Kracov, the lawyer for Wal-Mart’s opponents, said that his clients would continue to push for an order halting the work before December, when the store is expected to open.

“They’re building at their own risk,” said Kracov, who represents the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770.

The next hearing in the Wal-Mart case is set for Nov. 13. In a separate case, foes of the retail giant persuaded a judge to block work on a Wal-Mart planned in Burbank.

Labor unions and community groups have spent months fighting the new Chinatown Wal-Mart, seeking to block the company from getting building permits and pushing for passage of a law barring large retail companies from opening in that neighborhood.

The project, which would be one-fifth the size of a typical Wal-Mart discount store, is planned inside an apartment building completed two decades ago. That building was designed with the expectation that a supermarket would move into the ground floor.

Opponents of the Chinatown Wal-Mart say it will have a negative impact on traffic and business activity nearby. They also contend that traffic improvements promised by the developer of the building more than 20 years ago were not completed.

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--David Zahniser

twitter.com/davidzahniser

Photo: The building in Los Angeles' Chinatown where Wal-Mart plans to open a grocery store.  Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times 

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