In Rosemead, California, a vote for Wal-Mart can be a political swan song. Last May, Sprawl-Buster’s reported that residents in the city of Rosemead had unseated two pro-Wal-Mart city councilors in an election, after the councilors voted to approve a Wal-Mart supercenter. Angry voters turned the two elected officials out of office. The anti-sprawl citizen’s group, Save Our Community, has filed the following update from the frontlines in Rosemead, showing that the effort to clean house of pro-big box politicians is still underway. Here’s their chronology of what has been happening in Rosemead: “During August/September, Rosemead’s Save Our Community collected 4,800 signatures, of which 4,100 were certified by the county, surpassing the required 3,500 to get a recall election to remove 2 more pro Wal-Mart city councilmen. The recall election date is Feb 7, 2006. The pro Wal-Mart city council had an emergency meeting on December 5th to cancel the recall election based on a court case in Santa Ana, California, which challenged the legality of a recall petition that was not translated into multiple languages. The council voted to cancel the recall election by a vote of 3 (pro- Wal-Mart) to 2 (anti-Wal-Mart council members). Our State Senator spoke and told the two sitting councilmen slated for recall to recuse themselves because of a conflict of interest. They voted anyway. On December 13th, the California Department of Justice notified the Rosemead City Council that proceeding with the recall election will not subject them to litigation. On December 13th, the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is approved by the City Council on a vote of 3 to 2 (after we filed an appeal). Over 500 people were in attendance. December 16th, the City Council by a 3 to 2 vote puts the recall election back, and we proceed with the February 7th date. The day before, on December 15th, the developer begins site preparation work, with trees cut down, and bulldozers on site. Work on the site continues as of this writing. On December 22nd, the Garvey School Board votes 3-0 to authorize an attorney to initiate a lawsuit alleging Rosemead and Wal-Mart violated the district’s rights under the California Environmental Quality Review Act. The Mayor of the city, who is slated for recall, filed a suit and a restraining order to stop the Feb 7th recall election. Our appeal of the first EIR is still in court. We are awaiting a court ruling on the city’s response to the first appeal, and now there is the new lawsuit from the Garvey School district.”
In between the roses, there are thorns in Rosemead for Wal-Mart, and city officials. This is not the smooth permitting process that Wal-Mart was probably guaranteed by local officials. Instead of taking only a few months, now the process is in the courts, and could drag on far longer. No wonder, then, that the developer has chosen just to start building — because the citizen’s group could not post the expensive bond the court required to halt the construction. The developer is proceeding, on the assumption that if they get the building practically built, no court will require them to tear it down — regardless of the legal outcome. This is what happened in Decorah, Iowa, where the courts ruled against a completed Wal-Mart, but the store did not have to come down. In Bakersfield, California, the court did halt a half-built Wal-Mart, which is sitting unfinished, while the city has to go back and do a proper environmental impact review. So the developer in Rosemead still could be at risk. If the court rules that the Rosemead EIR was not done correctly, and the February 7th. recall removes two more pro Wal-Mart officials, the case could get remanded back to a City Council with a decidedly different take on big box sprawl. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by Rosemead, Bakersfield, or Decorah.