An overflow crowd of angry residents made their feelings about Wal-Mart known this week in Bakersfield, California. According to the Californian newspaper, a hearing on October 3rd before the Bakersfield Planning Commission got rowdy, as residents protested a Wal-Mart supercenter planned for a shopping center on Panama Lane east off Highway 99.The hearing was held to solicit comments on an environmental report, but the newpaper said “a flood of public speakers used the venue to assault Wal-Mart.” “I’d rather have a (strip)-bar there than a Wal-Mart,” said a longtime resident of the area. “Go over to the Wal-Mart on White Lane and pray your stereo is still there when you leave.”
One person was holding a sign that labeled Wal-Mart the “al-Qaida of retail.” “Bakersfield needs another Wal-Mart like it needs more pollution,” she said. Residents have quickly formed Bakersfield Citizens for Local Control.
The group distributed fliers last weekend asking city residents to “stop the Bakersfield City Council from shoving another Wal-Mart in your neighborhood.” Residents claimed that the city’s own environmental report shows the Wal-Mart will have a significant impact on the area’s traffic, air quality and noise. The newspaper said a large number of audience members, some wearing uniforms from national grocery chains like Vons and Foods Co., were part of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
Wal-Mart representative Peter Kanelo said the unions are attacking Wal-Mart because they’re scared. The environmental review, a zone change and approval of the project are scheduled to come before the Planning Commission Dec. 19.
I helped stop a Wal Mart in Bakersfield around 1995 — and it looks like very little has changed since then. Residents complained that this Wal-Mart location sits right on top of their homes. The land is not zoned correctly, and residents have their best argument that rezoning is not a right, but a discretionary act of the city, and that such a decision would hurt the value they have invested in their homes. For more details on Bakersfield, contact [email protected]