On Friday morning, January 31, 2009, roughly 30 parents and students rallied near the Quartz Hill, California High School to demonstrate their opposition to plans to build a Wal-Mart supercenter across the street from the school. The residents held signs and handed out fliers for two hours in the early morning. “It’s an informational rally to get the information out to the public about what they can do to stop the rezoning of these areas,” Loretta Berry told the Antelope Valley News. Berry is a member of the group Quartz Hill Cares, which was founded in December 2006 to oppose the proposed developments. “It’s a grass-roots effort at its finest, just citizens from all walks of life coming together,” Berry said. Developers have super-sized plans for the intersection: a Wal-Mart Supercenter on the northwest corner of the intersection, plus a Super Target and a Home Depot on the southeast corner. A Lowe’s home improvement store is also proposed about one mile away. “If they put in these supercenters, the kids are going to be truant, not to mention the close access to cigarettes and alcohol,” Berry noted. “We need to get this information out to the public that they can stop it if they write a letter to the city of Lancaster.” The land slated for a Wal-Mart is zoned residential and must be rezoned as commercial before the shopping centers can be constructed. “If this were already zoned commercial, yeah, you know, we could fight it and we might have a voice, but the fact that they have to rezone it to commercial … we have a chance. We can stop the rezoning,” Berry explained. She told the Valley News that the Wal-Mart/Target/Home Depot plan was “just madness… the wonderful community of Quartz Hill will get all the crime, the trash, the pollution – all the garbage that goes with supercenters.” Sprawl-Busters first heard from Quartz Hill residents two years ago. On December 22, 2006, residents contacted Sprawl-Busters about their superstore battles. There are two Wal-Mart discount stores in Lancaster, California. The superstore in Palmdale is roughly 6 miles away. Quartz Hill residents, whose town borders Lancaster, wrote: “Our rural community in Southern California has just found out the Lancaster is planning on building super centers right on our boundary lines. For years Lancaster and Palmdale have been encroaching upon us and annexing as much of our rural land as possible. It has been left undeveloped for quite some time with the exception of many housing tracts. Lancaster currently has two Wal-Marts, and a supercenter in Palmdale. The hubs of their cities are 8-10 miles away from our small community of 10,000 residents, where they want to build new super centers. The only thing currently bordering the planned site is Quartz Hill High School (which Lancaster actually annexed from us years ago). This whole plan is ludicrous, will destroy Quartz Hill, and we need help.” This week, the Quartz Hill neighbors updated their story: “We are a rural, unicorporated town in Los Angeles County, situated in the Mojave Desert between the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, both of whom have been annexing as much land around Quartz Hill as possible, leaving the small town a virtual rural island amidst the ugly urban sprawl being forced upon them from the two much larger cities (approx. total pop 300,000). Like alot of places, new housing tracts began springing up at an alarming rate. Now Lancaster wants to bring commercial centers in to this area as well. Lancaster currently has two Super Walmarts, one less than 5 miles from the new proposed site. Within a 10 mile radius of the site are a Costco, 2 Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers, 2 Home Depots, a K-mart, 2 Target stores, and dozens of shopping centers. Downtown Quartz Hill is the home to over 70 small mom-and-pop businesses, including a florist, a hardware store, salons, garages/ tire centers, liquor stores, restaurants, etc. The residents of Quartz Hill found out about the City of Lancaster’s plans to build 2 supercenters in December of 2006. The desert land that they want to build on is currently zoned for residential, with one lot small office zoned. The opposition quickly formed a grassroots organization, Quartz Hill Cares, and began spreading the word and seeking help in putting a stop to these supercenters. In 2008, R. Rex Parris, our new mayor, immediately dismissed the entire Planning Commission (most of whom opposed the supercenters) and appointed his own commission — 3 of which are and/or have ties to local developers. The plans to build went full steam ahead. The Draft Environmental impact Reports were released on January 9, 2009, giving the public until February 23rd to respond to them. The deadline to comment on a 3rd draft EIR, for a site one mile away from the other two, which includes a Lowe’s, is February 9.”
Lancaster has literally been eating up Quartz Hill, which does not want to become a retail annex to Lancaster. Lancaster is already inundated with big box stores. The “old” Wal-Mart discount stores will surely close as they are replaced by the larger, more profitable supercenters. Yet a Wal-Mart spokesman described the supercenter proposal as a jobs initiative: “These are different economic times and people are desperate to hold onto their jobs and are worried about being laid off.” He claimed that a Wal-Mart Supercenter would stimulate the local economy by adding almost 400 jobs — which does not subtract the jobs lost elsewhere in the trade area due to this project. The Wal-Mart spokesman, John Medez, even tried to suggest that Wal-Mart would help small businesses. “It’s a misnomer [sic] about what happens to small businesses when a supercenter is built,” Medez said Wal-Mart would attract more customers for small businesses and stimulate downtown business shopping. Neither of those claims have been shown to be true. Quartz Hill Cares points out that this battle spans at least two communities. “This is NOT just Quartz Hill residents fighting this fight. The homeowners of all the new housing tracts mentioned above actually live in Lancaster City limits. When they bought their 1/2 million dollar homes, no one told them about the proposed zone changes, bringing in commercial centers next door. They feel duped by the City and are outraged. Ask anyone who lives on the west side of the Valley WHY they moved there. The answers you’ll get is… because it’s rural, it’s quiet, it’s peaceful. They want to get away from the noise, pollution, crime, traffic etc. that living in the City provides, and many of them will tell you they moved here to enroll their kids into Quartz Hill High School. Also, many of the business owners in downtown Quartz Hill do not live in Quartz Hill. They actually live in Lancaster or Palmdale but choose to have their business located here because of the small town, ruralness of it. Other businesses have been here since this area was homesteaded.” For information on comments to the City of Lancaster regarding the draft EIR’s or to sign up to help in this fight or for just general information, please go to www.quartzhillcares.info or call Loretta Berry at 661-943-7650 or 661-816-5069. “We want to inform teachers and parents at Quartz Hill High School about the plans for developing the area around the school and to show our strong opposition to that development,” Berry concluded. “Parents and teachers should be very concerned about a store that can sell ammunition, tobacco and alcohol located directly across the street from children.” The city’s Planning Commission will hold a hearing on the environmental impact reports for the supercenter on February 18th.