Unlike big boxes, citizen victories over big boxes come in all shapes and forms. In Northridge, California, about 20 miles from Los Angeles, residents are celebrating a victory today. A proposed Wal-Mart for their community didn’t have to be pushed out, it fell over of its own accord. According to the Los Angeles Times, Wal-Mart has announced that it is withdrawing plans for Northridge, saying that it did not want to do a lengthy environmental impact report that citizens and city officials demanded. Thus ends suddenly a battle that has been going on for most of a year. Wal-Mart wanted to open up a 150,000 s.f. store in an existing building on Nordhoff Street, in an area already surrounded by retail and traffic. “The time it took to do the environmental impact report added to the time it would take to start construction and the economics of maintaining the land while going through this process was a factor,” a Wal-Mart spokesman told the Times. The Northridge store was part of Wal-Mart’s saturation strategy, since two other Wal-Marts are located in close proximity to the proposed Northridge store. What Wal-Mart could not have predicted: their plans ran up against strong citizen opposition, and was opposed by the City Councilman who represents Northridge. “I’m not surprised that we won, I’m just surprised that Wal-Mart went this fast,” Jim Alger, the president of the Northridge West Neighborhood Council, told the newspaper. “This is what I think it came down to: The environment impact report had to include alternative uses for the property that have a less significant impact on the community.” The Councilman opposed to the project said Wal-Mart was “the wrong business in the wrong place.” The city’s own traffic report said the Wal-Mart store would have added 5,000 new car trips per day to the already congested traffic.
Another Wal-Mart gets slam-dunked. In this case, the time and expense of jumping through regulatory hoops, and the pressure of citizen opposition demanding all the hoops be in place, was enough to move Wal-Mart down the road. And down the road is where they will land next.