Call it pilot error. Call it a bad corporate flight plan. Either way, the world’s largest retailer crashed and burned this week in a small California community. On June 15, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart was headed for a collision with the Travis Airforce base in Suisun City, California. A citizen’s group called The Suisun Alliance organized early to shoot down the supercenter project. “Suisun City was built on the beauty of its environment, and the reason many of us live here,” the group said, “don’t let an Arkansas company destroy it for a few bucks!” Suisun City promotes itself as the embodiment of “the endlessly attractive California lifestyle.” But many residents in this city of 28,000 people are concerned about the endless over-development now threatening the city. “Our residents enjoy a small-town lifestyle and sensibility,” the city boasts — but projects like a Wal-Mart supercenter could change all that. A proposed Wal-Mart supercenter located along a section of Highway 12 known locally as “Blood Alley” has residents’ blood boiling. The proposed site is only 3 miles away from a Wal-Mart supercenter in Fairfield, California that has been approved, but which is under litigation. The Suisun Alliance and the Suisun Citizens League, which both have organized to stop the supercenter, have argued that Wal-Mart would have a major impact on Travis Air Force Base, and even result in its closure. According to documents written by Travis AFB and Solano County officials, the Wal-Mart location may threaten the air force base, which employs over 14,000 residents and contributes more than $1 billion to the local economy. The Solano County Airport Land Use Commission has charged that the Wal-Mart project violates the airport’s Land Use Plan, because the store would allow too many people per acre to the base. The Suisun Citizens League released an email written by the chairman of the Airport Land Use Commission, charging that the Wal-Mart will be in the flight path to Travis Air Force Base, and could lead to a disaster if a plane approaching the field ever hit the crowded superstore. The airport’s Land Use Plan only allows a maximum of 300 people per acre in the so-called “Zone C” where the Wal-Mart would be built. “It would seem clear that a Wal-Mart at this location would easily exceed this limit,” the Chairman of the Land Use Commission wrote. The citizens’ groups also warn that serious traffic problems already exist along Highway 12. “Blood Alley” got its name because the road has had nearly 800 collisions with 492 injuries and 18 deaths in four years, according to the Daily Blaze. This week, the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission ruled that the supercenter would pose a safety threat to shoppers. By a 5-2 vote in front of an overflow crowd of more than 100 residents, the commission agreed with superstore opponents that the 230,000 s.f. Wal-Mart, with gas station, was “inconsistent” with the Travis AFB Land Use Compatibility Plan for “safety” reasons. Suisun resident Sally Green, a pilot and Vietnam veteran — along with several other former military pilots — testified that the weather, and increased flights due to the Iraq War, would create a serious risk to shoppers if the Wal-Mart was built as proposed. Commission chair John Foster said the county’s assertion that the Wal-Mart project would be within the safety limits allowed by the air base plan was wrong, and said the “risk” to residents was too great to approve the project inside the air base’s “safety buffer zone.”
Residents opposed to Wal-Mart celebrated the vote, and castigated Solano county staff for endorsing the project. “The county has used a low-ball figure to try to justify this project, risking the safety of residents. This is the wrong development at the wrong location,” Phil Tucker, director of California Healthy Communities, a project of the Tides Center, was quoted as saying by the Blaze. The supercenter is not a total wreck, however. Wal-Mart will try to climb back into the cockpit and attempt another fly-over before the Suisun City Council. The Suisun Alliance is urging the public to call or email city council members to shoot down this project once and for all. Readers should contact Suisun Mayor Pete Sanchez at 707-421-7356, or email the Mayor at [email protected] Tell the Mayor “A Wal-Mart supercenter has nothing to do with Suisun’s small town character. In fact, it will kill your New Urbanist dreams. The Airport Land Use Commission was right: there is no need to compromise public safety for another Wal-Mart. Take Wal-Mart plans off the runway!” For more background, go to www.suisunalliance.com.