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Walmart Reps Face Fired-Up Crowd

In response to a Walmart Neighborhood Market moving to Altadena, residents are requesting the Town Council put a moratorium on chain retailers opening stores over 15,000 square feet in town.

Representatives from Walmart addressed a packed house of passionate Altadenans Tuesday night at the Altadena Town Council Meeting, presenting details of the proposed Walmart Neighborhood Market that is set to open on Lincoln Ave. and Figueroa Dr. in Altadena in early 2013. Over 120 citizens showed up by Altadena Patch’s count, mainly to voice their displeasure for the project.

“Wherever Walmart goes, stores close,” said resident James Knight.

Many expressed disdain for the chain retailer and claimed that it would cause small mom and pop shops in Altadena to close, pay low wages impossible to make a living on, plus bring increased traffic and unwanted noise to the neighborhood. Of the nearly 40 speakers, only one citizen spoke in favor of the retailer.

“I’m not seeing any local people opening new businesses [in Altadena],” said resident Colleen Bissner. “If Walmart wants to move in, let them. If you don’t want them, don’t shop there.”

A Moratorium on Chain Retailers Over 15,000 Square Feet?

A number of citizens requested that the Town Council take steps to enact a moratorium on chain businesses opening locations in Altadena that are over 15,000 square feet. After hearing numerous requests for this, the council said that it would discuss the possibility.

Council to Request Traffic Study of Walmart Location

Town Council members also decided to draft a letter to County Supervisor Michael Antonovich requesting a traffic study be conducted at the intersection of Lincoln Ave. and Figueroa Dr. Its purpose would be purely informational, said Council Member Brent Musson. Walmart was not required to do a traffic study prior to leasing the building at that intersection, and many residents claim its presence will clog roads and street parking.

Building Owner Faces Tough Questions

Also present at the meeting was Gene Detchemendy, a representative of the owner of the building that Walmart is leasing. Detchemendy was the target of angry and frustrated comments from residents as well as Town Council member Tecumseh Shackelford, who panned the building owner for not informing the council or citizens of Walmart’s interest in the space before the lease papers were signed.

“It was a disrespect to the community,” said Shackelford.

Detchemendy is not required by law to seek government or citizen approval before leasing out the building.

Council Member Musson also criticized Detchemendy and the developer for not hiring local contractors from Altadena to work on renovating the building. Detchemendy responded by saying that he hired a Pasadena landscape architecture firm to work on the project and contractors that are local to Los Angeles.

Detchemendy said his portion of the building renovation project is nearly complete and Walmart will soon take over renovation and interior redesign. Musson requested that Walmart representatives take a meeting with the Altadena Town Council to discuss how local contractors and hires could be used from here on out. Walmart rep Javier Angulo agreed to the meeting, which will be set for a future date.

How Many Jobs Would Walmart Create?

Walmart reps said Tuesday that 60 full and part-time positions would be created by the Altadena location, but not all of them would be filled by Altadenans. Jobs would first be open to Walmart employees at other locations.

Angulo said that the company could not commit to hiring a certain number of Altadena locals at the new location at this time. When the store first opens, it’s likely that the managerial positions would be filled by transfers and the hourly positions would be available to new hires.

Angulo did guarantee that Walmart’s partnership with West Los Angeles Community Development Corporation would create job opportunities for locals.

The group essentially trains people for Walmart jobs and then assists with job placement at various locations.

Council Member Musson said that it’s his desire for vacancies created by transfers at other locations be available to people in Altadena.

A Second Walmart Location in Altadena?

There has also been talk of a second Walmart location opening up in Altadena, at the corner of N Lake Ave and E Calaveras St. A rep from Walmart Public Relations has stated that the retailer is interested in the space, but no definite plans have been made to occupy it.

What Would the Walmart Look Like?

“At the end of the day, it’s a grocery store,” said Angulo. The 28,000 square foot business would be smaller than the average Walmart store, which runs about 58,000 square feet. The store would stock groceries like produce, deli meats, dairy, frozen foods, dry goods, household products and include a pharmacy. The “site-to-store” service would be available, which means that citizens could order products off of Walmart’s website and have them shipped to the Altadena location. The color scheme would be green and yellow, which is different from the usual blue used by traditional Walmarts.

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Mike Roberts September 13, 2012 at 04:36 AM
How much does it cost to become a city? Ongoing costs? Fees to fight LAFCO? Would our property tax support the newly incorporated city (I can hear the pleas to raise taxes)? Certainly the sales tax doesn't help much. Being a city adds measures of control, just don't know how to afford being a city. Anyone have budget estimates?
Mike Roberts September 13, 2012 at 04:39 AM
I was under the impression that the community standards district, not the community plan, was going to be reviewed. Has something changed?
Mike Roberts September 13, 2012 at 04:49 AM
I'll rhetorically ask what a landlord has to gain by forcing out tenants but never renting to anyone else? I thought the Linc/Fig bldg was vacant for more than 5 yrs (?). The Altadena nursery bldg owner was asking WAY too much. A church was supposed to use it as an outreach facility but never saw anything there. Assuming the outreach isn't there, what's that bldg owner's reward for keeping it empty? On another note, ENOUGH w/ the store front churches. They don't add (much) to the county's tax base, it's not known how many of the out of town parishoners (sp, sorry) shop in town, have good parking lots but rarely share them w/ shoppers. Not to mention they're not "open" but 2 or 3 days a week for minimal hours .... that adds to the "ghost town" look. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-religion. I just think we have way too many and concentrated tightly for a town this size. Not being a city hurts us in regulating this.
maryam hosseinzadeh September 13, 2012 at 06:12 AM
Mike and Ivan - The owner has a track record of this sort of behavior with vacancies. Buying it rented, then suddenly the building is vacant. The owner also owns the former bank location at Lake and Calaveras (aka the second prospective Walmart location) which has been vacant too, for so long. Why did Wamu move locations? We should ask. Also both these vacancies were right at the height of the real estate market, so - given this logic, but of course I don't have access to the owner's tax records and it is personal supposition - what you can do is appraise the new value of the building based on square footage for much more than you are able to actually rent it given the location and structure type, then write it off as a vacancy loss on your taxes to pad your business bank account. Or mortgage it to buy other properties. Who knows? It's a shell game. A normal owner, like you or I, would definitely want some income relative to none. But real estate players like these investment companies operate on a much larger scale than an average building owner. Here is some property in Las Vegas that this same owner owned, and the fate of its small business owners - it later foreclosed which amounts to another "loss" on the taxes: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/jun/13/turning-away-business/ Maybe the owner hoped redevelopment would head up Lincoln further and that CRA would buy him out at a square footage rate, but the market fell and the CRA is gone? Just guessing here.
Ivan G September 14, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Pure speculation that is also implausible. I recall people at Ralphs telling me that they were planning to move their store south to where the vacant lot now is, but canceled their plans after the strike. Maybe the owner anticipates that the market will improve, and does not want to enter into a long-term lease at a low rent. Maybe he has unrealistic expectations. It's his money and his land, not ours.

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