According to the citizen’s group, Crest View United, Wal-Mart has asked for demolition permits from the city of Huntington Beach to tear down the Crest View school and build a 150,000 s.f. supercenter. This has been described by local residents as an “11th hour” maneuver by Wal-Mart to beat out a Special Election Initiative measure that is now underway in the city. “We had hoped that Wal-Mart would have waited to pull these permits until they could see whether public support for their project was demonstrated in a soon to be held Special Electioni on the propriety of building a Wal-Mart on a school site in a residential neighborhood,” said Crest View United. Citizens managed to gather 22,378 signatures and submit them for verification to the Registrar of Voters on August 4th. A total of 15,100 signatures were needed to require a special election in the city. But state law also allows the City Council to simply adopt the initiative and dispense with the need for a costly citywide election. The initiative petition would change the zoning of the Crest View school property back to low-density, single-family residential. The parcel Wal-Mart wants to build on is bordered by single-fammly homes, and across the road is a cemetery. The Huntington Beach City Council voted to rezone the land for Wal-Mart’s use, but also placed conditions on the store with a Conditional Use Permit: they cannot operate a 24 hour store, they cannot sell more than 10% non-taxable items (e.g. food), they have limited ingress and egress roadways to their store, loading docks must be enclosed,etc. “While Crest View United would prefer to eliminate a Wal-Mart entirely from a residential neighborhood,” the group says, “we continue resolute in our belief that in the worst case scenario, Wal-Mart will never be able to expand its hours, change its footprint, or make any other modifications to those approved by the City Council, and thus intrude further into our quality of life.” The zoning vote to make the property “commercial regional” took place in December of 1998 on a close 4-3 vote. The city’s Planning Commission had recommended unanimously that the property remain residential. In April of 1999, the City Council then approved the Wal-Mart site plan, but attached a series of conditions limiting operation of the store. “Paving over a school, losing valuable community open space and sports fields, and forcing a big box retail store upon a single family neighborhood is not democracy for the citizens of Huntington Beach,” says Crest View United, “and does not illustrate common sense planning.”
Residents explain that Wal-Mart’s attempts to get a demolition permit is “nothing more than a transparent effort on Wal-Mart’s part to vest themselves with whatever rights the City Council gave them when the Council approved the project.” For more information on Wal-Mart’s effort to insert itself into the residential life of Huntington Beach, contact Marvin Josephson, Chair of Crest View United at 714-841-9730.