On October 3rd, the Long Beach, California City Council will hear an appeal in a Home Depot Design Center case. Residents in East Long Beach plan to be there in force, expressing their outrage over the potential environmental impacts of the project. The City had been working on a Master Plan for the Los Cerritos wetlands near the site, and residents charge that officials put the plan on hold so that it would not hurt Home Depot’s chances. Critics say that three environmental impact reports indicate there are problems with air pollution, and that the project will degrade the wetlands.” “To put a Home Depot that close to the wetlands is wrong,” one resident told the Long Beach Press Telegram. She complained that the store will increase trash and pollution in the area. “Have you ever noticed the trash that blows from Home Depots, how messy they are?” Home Depot tried to mollify critics by pointing out the project is a “Design Center,” serving only residential customers, and not contractors. “What difference does it make what’s inside the building? It’s what goes on outside, the trash and pollution, that bothers me,” one neighbor responded. To show their displeasure, neighbors gathered 2,700 signatures on a petition to the Planning Commission. “We are all trying to be human beings, living in the human race,” another resident told the newspaper. “Instead, the overgrowth of corporate big-box buildings creates rats living in the rat race. Stand up and do what is right. Make the east side beautiful. Make the east side inviting… If our city had enough self-esteem, we would have shooed the Home Depot away long ago.” On August 17th, the Long Beach Planning Commission certified Home Depot’s Environmental Impact Report, over the objections of the South Coast Air Quality Management District.” The project is estimated to bring in 8,599 car trips per day on a typical Saturday. The fact remains that the Los Cerritos Wetlands study group recommended a temporary moratorium on all development until a master plan could be implemented that takes into consideration all proposed development in that area. The Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project reportedly recommended that the wetland were among the highest priority for acquisition.
Home Depot, or wetlands: that should not be the choice. These large retail projects do not have to locate in or near environmentally sensitive areas. But residents of East Long Beach are likely going to take legal action to turn Home Depot away.