On April 20, 2006, Sprawl- Busters reported that citizens in Pajaro,California were celebrating the announcement by Wal-Mart that they won’t be building a proposed superstore in Pajaro. The opposition group, called Pajaro Primero (Pajaro First) had vowed to fight the store to the bitter end. A Wal-Mart spokesman told a gathering at the Rotary Club that the giant retailer was folding its tent. Wal-Mart said they planned to build a store in nearby Marina and said “we have no plans for this area.” The spokesman said Wal-Mart prefers to establish “regional stores,” and that Pajaro was off the map now. That was a little over a year ago. But this week, the citizen’s group has contacted Sprawl-Busters. “Pajaro Primero is getting organized again,” they write. “Wal-Mart and the property owners (The Miller Family Trust) are going forward on an Environmental Impact Report for a 178,000 s.f. retail site on San Juan Road in Pajaro. We will be again reaching out to the community to try to stop this supercenter from coming in and destroying our local businesses.” According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Wal-Mart is denying any interest in Pajaro. “We do not have an application for a project there. We do not have a contract for land use,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said. “We’re always looking for the best way to serve our customers, but we don’t have any pending project.” Wal-Mart’s denial is pretty much standard operating protocol — but the owners of the land have admitted to the newspaper that they have a project on the front burner. Karen and Clint Miller and Monterey County officials are working on an environmental review for a proposed 178,000 s.f. store on 17 acres along San Juan Road. “The Millers keep saying Wal-Mart isn’t in the picture, but they won’t disclose the tenant,” said John Rowe, president of Pajaro Primero! One developer working with the Millers said the couple wants to get its project approved before looking for tenants. Translation: they don’t want to use the “W” word and get the community up in arms again. The developer implied that announcing a Wal-Mart would be “politically incorrect.” When the first Wal-Mart project reared its head on a larger, 90 acre parcel, Monterey County supervisors would not allow building past the town’s existing redevelopment boundary, which meant most of the acreage was off limits, and the project had to be reduced, which forced Wal-Mart to move on.
As I have often said, all it takes is the shadow of a Wal-Mart to prompt citizens to get organized. In this case, the Millers have learned to keep quiet about who their tenants are. A store this size could be a Wal-Mart, it could also be a Target, it could also be a Lowe’s. There really is very little difference based on what the logo says, except a Wal-Mart generates the most traffic, and would want to stay open all night. Wal-Mart typically denies interest in a land deal, because they don’t want to telegraph to their competition where they are going, and they don’t want to bid up the price of acquiring the land. So they say they “have no plans” whenever asked. As long as the developer is mum about who the tenant is, Pajaro Primero has to assume the worst. No matter which name gets attached to the building, Pajaro residents don’t want a big box — but the Millers are going to try again, this time just squeezing the big box onto a much smaller parcel. The same negative impacts on traffic, local retail, and property values, will take place. These kinds of win-lose confrontations take place as long as people like these landowners smell big money. The landowners know they will face opposition, but the lure of big money propels them onward. Pajaro Primero is right to get alarmed. The prospect of a 178,000 s.f. store should be alarming to a small community. Readers are encouraged to contact Louis R. Calcagno, member of the County Supervisors who represents Pajaro. He can be reached at 831-755-5022, or emailed at [email protected] Let Supervisor Calcagno know you oppose the idea of any big box store coming to Pajaro. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by “Pajaro.”