Residents in La Puente, California can relax — for now. The stories about a Wal-Mart supercenter coming to this community of 41,000 people are off the table. La Puente is located 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley. La Puente is predominantly residential. The city has freeway access from the 10 Interstate and 60 Freeway. The City’s name “La Puente” means the bridge in old Spanish and refers to an early bridge built across the San Jose Creek by members of the Portola-Serra expedition in 1769. European settlers arrived by wagon train from New Mexico and obtained title to the large 48,000 acre Rancho La Puente. In the 1930’s, the area was famous for its fruit and walnut groves. Today, the city is characterized as a suburban community, with roughly a 3.5 square mile land area. It was also an area targeted for a new Wal-Mart supercenter. But the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports this week that the giant retailer will not be submitting an application anytime soon. The retailer now says it has shifted its focus away from La Puente to possibly relocating its existing store in Industry, California, or another neighboring community. A Wal-Mart public relations spokesman said yesterday that the retailer had been looking seriously at La Puente, but was now looking at surrounding cities. Wal-Mart said no firm plans were decided upon yet, but that La Puente had been spared. Wal-Mart had considered becoming the anchor store on an 11.5 acre downtown parcel planned for Hacienda Boulevard in La Puente, according to the City Manager. In typical fashion, however, Wal-Mart left the back door open just a crack. The company told the Valley Tribune that they might still consider another La Puente site in the future.
The fact is, shoppers in La Puente are already saturated with Wal-Marts. The company has a total of 20 stores within 17 miles of La Puente, including a superstore 4 miles away in Baldwin Park. There is absolutely no market need for another store in the La Puente trade area. Wal-Mart had high hopes for its California supercenter invasion, largely because the company had ambitious plans to close down many of its discount stores in California. In 1996, Wal-Mart had 88 discount stores in California, and no supercenters. By 2007, the company had 145 discount stores, and 22 supercenters. But the number of discount stores will continue to drop as the company either expands such stores into supercentes, or shuts them down to build a supercenter down the road. But fierce opposition from superstores has held down the number of approvals statewide to roughly half of what the company projected. No one in La Puente has trouble finding a nearby Wal-Mart. A superstore in La Puente would be a bridge to nowhere. Let the Mayor of La Puente, Louis Perez, know how you feel about another superfluous supercenter in La Puente, by calling the city clerk’s number at 626-855-1500 and leaving this message: “I’m calling to let Mayor Perez know that I am against having a Wal-Mart supercenter in La Puente. We have 20 of them within 17 miles, and our community does not need more of these over-sized stores. Let’s pass a cap on the size of retail buildings, so we don’t have to constantly worry if they are eyeing our community or not.”