Wal-Mart won some kind of victory in California this week — but it’s hard to find much to celebrate. After three years of controversy, Wal-Mart will now be able to cannibalize another of its superstores 6 miles away. On September 11, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that citizens in Ontario, California were battling a Wal-Mart supercenter. There are 19 Wal-Marts within 20 miles of Ontario, including a supercenter 6 miles away in Chino. Ontario calls itself the “gateway to Southern California.” The city is located 35 miles east of Los Angeles, and has a population of roughly 173,000 people. A Wal-Mart supercenter was proposed for Mountain Avenue and Fifth Street. The project was approved by the Ontario Planning Commission on August 30, 2007, but a group called the Ontario Mountain Village Association filed an appeal to overturn the Planning Board vote at the city council. The group was represented by Attorney Cory Briggs of San Diego. Their appeal charged that Wal-Mart’s environmental impact report did not adequately describe the project and all of its environmental impacts, and was based on outdated or incorrect information and lacked sufficient evidence. The residents claimed that the city did not come up with sufficient “findings” to show that the positives outweigh the negatives of the project. The proposal was also inconsistent with the city’s General Plan for land use. The group challenged the development plan and the granting of a conditional use permit. The appeal also charged that the city had a financial interest in the project and the applicant, therefore any favorable decision would be a conflict of interest. “We think the severity of the traffic and air-quality impacts have been understated,” Briggs told the newspaper. “As bad as they were reported in the Environmental Impact Report, we think they’re even worse. They’re still trying to put lipstick on a pig.” This week, the Ontario City Council kissed the pig, giving Wal-Mart a unanimous 4-to-0 vote of support. The Daily Bulletin said the vote ended more than three years of controversy surrounding the proposed project. “No matter what I say tonight, pro or con on this project, I’m going to lose some friends and probably that hurts the most,” said Mayor Paul Leon before voting to support the plan.
The vote to support Wal-Mart was an anti-climax, because the residents who filed their appeal with the City Council expected what they got: nothing. They did not expect the City Council to override its Planning Commission. But the real news out of Ontario is that Wal-Mart had to spend three years — just to build a superstore 6 miles from an existing superstore. This is the kind of super-saturation that Wall Street analysts hate to see. Readers are urged to contact Ontario Mayor Paul Leon at (909) 395-2011. Tell the Mayor: “What hurts the most about your vote on Wal-Mart is not the friends you will lose. It’s the hurt it will do to your local businesses, to your crime rate, to your traffic congestion. Ontario is already choking on big box sprawl. Your vote just sets up a trade war with Chino — to see which superstore will cannibalize the other.” It’s not clear if the citizen’s group plans to take its appeal to court, or let the pig run free.