After four hours of debate on August 24th, the Planning Commission in Long Beach, California voted to approved an Environmental Impact Report for a proposed Home Depot Design Center store — over the objections of dozens of local residents. Taxpayers in Long Beach charged that the EIR ignored important traffic problems that will arrive with the Home Depot. The world’s largest building supply chain builds very few of these Design Center, and in fact has closed down a number of them in recent years. Proponents of the project used a standard fear tactic to push the store: if you don’t build this, something worse will happen. In this case, the worst scenario was the threat that a “container yard” would be placed there. But critics said the site, which is on a former landfill, lies along a dangerous road. Residents of nearby University Park Estates pointed out that a recent lawsuit against the city stemming from a traffic accident on Loynes street cost the city $750,000. “One lawsuit could wipe out one year’s contribution by Home Depot,” a resident told the Long Beach Press Telegram. Another resident said that bright lights from the new design center, which includes a restaurant and two retail stores could damage the sensitive ecosystem of the adjacent Los Cerritos Wetlands. “You can build a Home Depot anywhere,” the neighbor said. “You can restore a wetland only in one spot.” But one Planning Commissioner who voted for the project did so believing that Home Depot was a form of economic development. “I think creating jobs is important,” he told the newspaper. A citizen’s appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision in Long Beach is expected.
It is not clear it resident’s were represented by a land use attorney, or if they submitted expert traffic testimony. When fighting big box developers, citizens have to hire expert witnesses to help make their case — especially if they appeal the case. In this case, a local university professor testified that Home Depot would create several hundred jobs. This is a gross figure, and not a net number that minuses out jobs lost at other, smaller hardware and home improvement stores in the area.