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Big-box ban targeting Chinatown Wal-Mart fails to get enough votes

October 23, 2012 |  4:20 pm

Photo: Aiman Hwang assists Wendy Li with her application for a job at the downtown Los Angeles Walmart Neighborhood Market. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

A temporary ban on big-box retail stores in Chinatown fell short Tuesday, when Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes failed to get enough colleagues to add their support. The measure needed at least 12 votes, but got 10, with four members opposed.

The council is expected to reconsider the issue again at its meeting Wednesday, but could delay a re-vote until next week.

The proposed law was drafted to target efforts by Wal-Mart Inc. to open a 33,000-square-foot grocery store in the area. The project has been the subject of months of protests from community groups and labor unions, who say the project would endanger the cultural history of the neighborhood.

Even if the measure had passed, it would not have immediately blocked the Chinatown Wal-Mart, which obtained city permits before a ban was proposed. Construction is ongoing and hiring has begun. But activists had hoped the ordinance would come into play if they won an administrative appeal over the way Wal-Mart obtained its permits in March. That decision could be made within a month.

“Chinatown is special,” said Reyes, who represents the community. “I’d hate for Broadway to turn into Main Street suburbia.”

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who voted against the measure, said his district has a dearth of grocery stores because of various efforts to discourage large, non-union retailers such as Wal-Mart. “We are being held hostage over these philosophical views,” Parks said, adding that the Chinatown storefront that Wal-Mart is using has been vacant for decades.

Union members wearing bright yellow T-shirts were undaunted, chanting, “We will be back! We will be back!” as they exited City Hall.

“We have another bite of the apple, so I’m hoping some of the council members will reconsider their vote,” said Maria Elena Durazo, head of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, a regional umbrella organization for unions.

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-- Christine Mai-Duc at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Aiman Hwang assists Wendy Li with her application for a job at the downtown Los Angeles Walmart Neighborhood Market. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

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