On November 11, 2007, Sprawl- Busters reported that a Wal-Mart supercenter project near Travis Air Force Base in Suisun City, California had crashed and burned. A citizen’s group called The Suisun Alliance organized early to shoot down the supercenter project. Many residents in this city of 28,000 people were concerned about the endless over-development now threatening the city. “Suisun City has embraced the promise of the future by not forgetting the distinctive small-town qualities that makes the City one of Northern California’s most distinctive communities,” the Mayor boasts — but projects like a Wal-Mart supercenter could change all that. A proposed Wal-Mart supercenter located along a section of Highway 12 known locally as “Blood Alley” has residents’ blood boiling. The Suisun Alliance and the Suisun Citizens League, which both have organized to stop the supercenter, have argued that Wal-Mart would have a major impact on Travis Air Force Base, and even result in its closure. According to documents written by Travis AFB and Solano County officials, the Wal-Mart location may threaten the air force base, which employs over 14,000 residents and contributes more than $1 billion to the local economy. The Solano County Airport Land Use Commission voted that the Wal-Mart project violates the airport’s Land Use Plan, because the store would allow too many people per acre to the base. The Suisun Citizens League released an email written by the chairman of the Airport Land Use Commission, charging that the Wal-Mart will be in the flight path to Travis Air Force Base, and could lead to a disaster if a plane approaching the field ever hit the crowded superstore. The airport’s Land Use Plan only allows a maximum of 300 people per acre in the so-called “Zone C” where the Wal-Mart would be built. “It would seem clear that a Wal-Mart at this location would easily exceed this limit,” the Chairman of the Land Use Commission wrote. In November, the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission ruled that the supercenter would pose a safety threat to shoppers. By a 5-2 vote in front of an overflow crowd of more than 100 residents, the commission agreed with superstore opponents that the 230,000 s.f. Wal-Mart, with gas station, was “inconsistent” with the Travis AFB Land Use Compatibility Plan for “safety” reasons. Commission chair John Foster said the county’s assertion that the Wal-Mart project would be within the safety limits allowed by the air base plan was wrong, and said the “risk” to residents was too great to approve the project inside the air base’s “safety buffer zone.” But this week, Wal-Mart got another chance to fly. In a unanimous decision, the Suisun City Council voted to overturn the Solano Airport Land Use Commission, and approve the Wal-Mart Supercenter. That controversial vote, was clearly worked out before the meeting, because on the Council’s agenda was Resolution 2008-13 to override the Airport Commission. Opponents of the plan told the media that they are considering litigation against the City Commission, and a recall effort against the five individual members of the Council. The City Council attached a number of conditions on their project. Wal-Mart agreed to add at least 2 feet to soundwalls designed to cut down on excess noise. The retailer also agreed to work with city staff to provide Travis Air Force Base advance notice before any work is done that could affect the base’s jet fuel pipeline. Because of concerns about Wal-Mart building stores, and then leaving them, the Council got Wal-Mart to agree to pay the city at least $300,000 to cover the costs of demolishing the building, although the city might find other uses for the structure. The demolition agreement says that if the store closes and goes dark for 36 months, Wal-Mart will demolish the building or give the city payment for demolishing it. “That agreement is designed to ease fears about future blight,” a city official noted.
Opponents issued a press release after the vote vowing to fight on and blasting the council for what they said was its decision to build in an unsafe area. What had been a victory over Wal-Mart in November, now was a defeat for the community. “This is the wrong development at the wrong location,” Phil Tucker, director of California Healthy Communities, a project of the Tides Center, was quoted as saying in November. Sprawl-Busters noted in November that Wal-Mart would try to climb back into the cockpit and attempt another fly-over before the Suisun City Council. The Suisun Alliance is urging the public to call or email city council members to shoot down this project once and for all. Readers should contact Suisun Mayor Pete Sanchez at 707-421-7356, or email the Mayor at [email protected] Tell the Mayor “Your vote to overturn the decision on Wal-Mart is appalling. A Wal-Mart supercenter has nothing to do with Suisun’s small town character. In fact, it will kill your New Urbanist dreams. The Airport Land Use Commission was right: there is no need to compromise public safety for another Wal-Mart. Take Wal-Mart plans off the runway!” For more updates, go to www.suisunalliance.com.