Last week a Superior Court judge dismissed a final attempt by community groups to score a victory against the Walmart grocery market that opened in Chinatown last year. The groups’ complaint against Walmart brings up a number of factors that undermine the validity of the Chinatown store’s permits. These include zoning and redevelopment requirements that have not been met, poor record keeping by the City, the lack of current California Environmental Quality Act information about the neighborhood, and the fact that the permits were issued the day before a City Council hearing that could have halted the project.
Walmart has long occupied center stage in the national debate about income inequality because of its low wage jobs and ruthless ability to undercut small local businesses. How, then, did the retail giant plant a 33,000-square-foot flag in the middle of Los Angeles’ urban core, despite long-established safeguards designed to protect the unique neighborhood character of places like Chinatown?
California’s relationship with redevelopment just got more complicated, now that state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has temporarily withdrawn SB 1.
Steinberg had fought hard for his personally authored bill, which would have replaced California’s old system of community redevelopment agencies (CRAs), which were dissolved in 2011, with Sustainable Community Investment Authorities. Yet as the legislature’s fall session began, he calculated there was a strong possibility of Governor Jerry Brown vetoing the measure. (Last year Brown vetoed SB 1156, an earlier incarnation of Steinberg’s legislation.)
Steinberg withdrew the bill September 12, just as SB 1 was headed back to the Assembly for further discussion.
SB 1’s tactical withdrawal puts on hold the hopes of cities to build healthy, sustainable economies. Despite occasional planning mistakes made by some CRAs in the past, there is still an urgent need for rational urban planning that benefits all communities,