At least four parties are locked in a legal dispute before the First District Court of Appeals in San Francisco over an embattled Wal-Mart superstore project in the city of American Canyon. The city is represented, Wal-Mart, and two citizens groups. All these parties are wasting enormous legal expenses because one large retailer hasn’t learned after forty-four years in business how to get along with local communities. Instead of finding a way to peacefully enter American Canyon, Wal-Mart is trying to crowbar its way past local residents with a phalanx of lawyers. During this legal fray, Wal-Mart has been busy building its store near Highway 29 anyway. The citizen’s groups have argued that the city did not conduct the required environmental reviews for this store. The groups, American Canyon Community United for Responsible Growth, and Citizens Against Poor Planning, are both trying to stop the project. These same groups filed their original appeal in the summer of 2005, after a lower court ruled that the city had not violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it approved the Wal-Mart supercenter in 2004. Attorney Brett Jolley of Stockton is representing American Canyon Community United for Responsible Growth, and attorney Jacqueline McDonald of Sacramento is arguing for Citizens Against Poor Planning and American Canyon resident Stacy Su. According to the Napa Valley Register, the justices asked whether the Wal-Mart was a substantially different project than what the city initially approved in 2003; and whether or not supercenters create “unique impacts” and “urban decay” that require further environmental studies. “Our concern is that no environmental review was done on this project,” Attorney Jolly noted. Similar to Bakersfield? Jolley’s firm won against Wal-Mart in Bakersfield, California, involving two proposed Wal-Mart Supercenters within a short distance of one other. The appellate court in that case determined that the two stores would have a negative impact on other retailers and might spur urban decay. Jolley said the court in the Bakersfield case found Supercenters are “unique” retail stores and the proposal required further environmental studies. The city’s attorney said Wal-Mart does not create “urban decay.” The Supercenter is in an undeveloped area in American Canyon, the city testified. The project, called “The Napa Junction” was originally proposed by a developer from Menlo Park in 2003, with a 176,000 s.f. Wal-Mart Supercenter, along with apartments and other retail space. But the developer then sold the land to Wal-Mart to build their store. The city approved a 196,000 s.f. store, but did not identify who owned the store. When it was revealed to be a 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenter a serious of acrimonious public hearings and legal fights began.
As in Bakersfield, Wal-Mart has gone ahead during the court case, and is building its store with an opening date of January. In Bakersfield, it was ordered by the courts to halt construction on it stores mid-way towards completion. For earlier stories going back to 2004, search Newsflash by “American Canyon.”