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Judge again refuses to block Wal-Mart construction in L.A. Chinatown

November 20, 2012 |  6:24 pm

Wal-Mart was granted another victory Tuesday when a judge refused to issue an injunction to stop construction of a planned supermarket at Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues in Los Angeles' Chinatown.

The judge said union opponents of the project had not exhausted all other options and would have to wait for the outcome of an administrative appeal they had filed with the city protesting Wal-Mart’s building permits. The discount retailer, long a target of organized labor, received its construction permits in March.

"You have a remedy, it’s just a different remedy," Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant told attorney Gideon Kracov, representing the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770. A decision from the city’s zoning administrator, who could revoke the permits, is expected in the next two weeks, but can be appealed to the City Council.

The ruling means Wal-Mart’s 30,000-square-foot grocery, which has been the subject of months of heated protest, will likely open before opponents exhaust the appeals process, which they estimate could end April or June of next year.

“Let’s hope this marks the end of their effort to stir up controversy where there is none,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo, who called the attempts to block the store “a waste of time and resources.”

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and the United Food and Commercial Workers sued the city and Wal-Mart, alleging that negative traffic impacts on the area had not been fully studied. Chalfant previously denied a restraining order sought by both groups while the lawsuit was pending, saying fixes to the interior were not causing irreparable harm to the environment.

Since then, construction has neared completion, hiring is well underway, and the store expects to open in early January. Efforts to otherwise ban big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart in Chinatown have stalled.

Chalfant said the labor groups failed to show any irreparable environmental harm or that negative traffic impacts would result if construction continued. 

Kracov said Wal-Mart had “set a trap,” claiming the company had repeatedly delayed the administrative appeal process as the lawsuit moved forward, all while construction crews continued to work. “In my opinion, this is a strategy by Wal-Mart to ensure that nothing can stop them,” Kracov said afterward. “By the time the public has a real say, the project will already be built.”

But Judge Chalfant echoed his past ruling, saying Wal-Mart continues to build at its own risk pending the zoning administrator’s decision, and leaving open the possibility that the union groups could appeal to the judge once the decision comes down.

“If the law says they have to tear it out, they have to tear it out,” said Chalfant. “The fact that they are pretty far along doesn’t amount to much.”

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-- Christine Mai-Duc at Los Angeles City Hall
twitter.com/cmaiduc

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