It’s important that every community in America have at least one discount store with double-wide aisles. That’s what Wal-Mart has promised the residents of Poway, California. On April 6, 2008, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart wanted to expand its discount store on Community Road in Poway. In September of 2007, Wal-Mart purchased the former Plowboys Market, a farmers market-style retailer. In December, the company submitted initial plans to add 49,177 s.f. to the existing Wal-Mart store, which opened in Poway in 1992. This city of roughly 51,000 people, located in the center of San Diego County, boasts of its “sunny climate, clean air, a pristine lake and ecological reserves.” Poway says it has carefully planned for “balancing growth with the good life.” In fact, the city says life in Poway is “the way California was meant to be.” The community likes to describe its way of life as “the City in the Country.” The Poway Chamber of Commerce and the City of Poway have launched a campaign to encourage residents and non-residents alike to shop locally. “Whether you’re interested in shopping, dining, entertainment, great schools, or a prime business location,” the city says, ” make ‘Poway -Your First Choice.’ When you purchase goods, professional services, and meals in Poway, a portion of your sales tax dollars go to help fund essential City services… In fact, sales tax revenue accounts for 34.5% of the City’s general fund. When you leave town to shop, your sales tax revenue benefits another community.” Many residents in Poway don’t want Wal-Mart as their “first choice,” and they are fighting the retailer’s plans to expand its Community Road store into a 200,000 s.f. supercenter. “Poway will not be the same ever again if we let this happen,” Connie Messina, chairwoman of the South Poway Residents Association, told the North County Times newspaper. To date, all Wal-Mart had confirmed was that it planned to submit a proposal to Poway in the next several months, and hoped to have it open by 2010. Wal-Mart has to get the approval of the Poway City Council. The South Poway Residents Association notes that two members of the City Council will be up for election this November. About six months ago, Wal-Mart bought land on Midland Road right behind the existing Wal-Mart, to expand their store. But opponents charge that a superstore would worsen the traffic congestion in the area, force other supermarkets to close, and bring low-wage jobs to the area. Wal-Mart says they will actually reduce traffic as shoppers go to one store, instead of several. “We’re going to have nowhere else to shop but Wal-Mart,” said a spokesman for the Resident’s Association. “We’re going to have no where else to work but Wal-Mart.” This week, three months after announcing its intentions, Wal-Mart filed its expansion plans. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the superstore plan checked in 197,000 s.f. The market in Poway is already saturated with regional grocery stores near the existing Wal-Mart — Vons, Statler Brothers, and Henry’s. But Wal-Mart has promised that the larger superstore will mean double-wide aisles and new signs. “Powegians will save time and money,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said. Before Wal-Mart can build those important double-wide aisles, the Poway City Council has to get the recommendation of the city’s planning commission, and conduct an environmental impact report. All this time and effort by public officials to get double-wide aisles.
There are already 11 Wal-Marts within 20 miles of Poway, including the discount store in Poway. All of these stores are discount stores, and Wal-Mart has plans to expand, or shut down all of them. There is no added value to the Poway economy for expanding this store, because the area already has plenty of grocery stores. A Wal-Mart supercenter would survive by capturing sales from those existing merchants, rather than creating new sales and new jobs. For a community that is trying to sell itself as the “city in the country,” a supercenter imposes a suburban sprawl pattern that is incompatible with the lifestyle image of Poway. Readers are urged to email Poway Mayor Mickey Cafagna at [email protected] with the following message: “Mayor Cafagna, the one Wal-Mart in Poway today is one more than enough. If you allow the existing store to expand, all you will get is other merchants shutting down. The retail pie will get sliced thinner. The supercenter is neither a revenue nor jobs project — it’s economic displacement. The image of Poway “balancing growth with the good life,” will tip the balance to leave the ‘good life’ on the short end. This expansion is what you would expect to find in suburban sprawl developments. A Wal-Mart that size also generates more traffic than their normal supercenters. Better to put a cap on the size of superstores than to let these huge box stores eat up your retail sector. A supercenter for Poway, no way!”