In 2006, at least 50 or more Wal-Mart superstore projects were defeated by citizens, or withdrawn by the retailer. Add another California town to the growing list. Wal-Mart has folded its tent in the city of Livermore, California. After wasting almost a year in the permitting process, a Wal-Mart supercenter won’t be darkening Livermore’s door. According to the Contra Costa Times, the city’s Planning Commission wants to go even further and make sure such stores never come back again. The Commission recommended last month that the city council review a zoning ordinance to limit the size of retail buildings, as many other communities nationwide have done. Residents in Livermore argued that the proposed supercenter would change the city’s small community feel, and set back progress on the downtown. Livermore residents realized that if a Wal-Mart supercenter were built, the already existing Wal-Mart discount store would be shut down, leaving them with an empty eyesore. If the city council adopts a new ordinance, Wal-Mart would have been affected, because its supercenter application was incomplete. The ordinance being considered would prohibit any superstore larger than 90,000 s.f. with at least 5% of the sales floor area devoted to nontaxable goods, such as groceries. A Wal-Mart spokesman told the Times that his company decided to withdraw its application after meeting with several community groups and listening to their vision for the site of the proposed supercenter. Rumors flying suggest that Wal-Mart may now look to the west of Livermore for a location, such as the city of Dublin. But the newspaper quoted the Mayor of Dublin as saying that she has not been approached by Wal-Mart, “but my opinion is that we would not be interested in having that conversation.”
The Livermore City Council will consider the supercenter ordinance at its meeting on March 26th. If Livermore votes to approve the ordinance, it will join a long list of other California communities that have already passed similar ordinances. Wal-Mart challenged one such ordinance in the city of Turlock, but lost its case in the courts. As an alternative attack, Wal-Mart now favors gathering signatures to challenge such ordinances at the polls, hoping that its superior spending power will outdistance Wal-Mart opponents. But for now, a Wal-Mart supercenter is nevermore in Livermore.