A proposal to ban major retailers in the Chinatown area was rejected today by members of the Planning Commission, who found city council members were trying to fix a problem that doesn’t yet exist.
Four months ago, Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes requested an interim control ordinance on big-box retailers, which would temporarily ban those businesses from opening up in a small part of his district. The move was prompted by news that Walmart planned to open a neighborhood store in a vacant building at Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues. The company received its final permit from Building and Safety one day before the ordinance was proposed.
Under the proposed ordinance, companies defined as “formula retail uses” would be prevented from opening up a store greater than 20,000 square feet in the area between the Harbor (110) Freeway, Alameda Street, Cesar Chavez Avenue and Cottage Home Street. Formula retailers are defined as having 11 or more stores and two of the following:
- standardized merchandise
- a standardized façade
- standardize signage
- standardized decor and color scheme
- a trademark
- a servicemark
In rejecting the ban, commissioners followed the recommendation of the Planning Department. A staff report found there was no urgency for the emergency action.
“Staff has not observed a proliferation of new formula retail uses in the area, and limited staff research has indicated this issue does not appear to have the urgency that would call for such a temporary suspension of new permits. Furthermore, the imposition of an ICO may have potential unintended positive and negative land use and economic consequences that are unknown at this time,” according to the staff report.
It would take a four-fifths vote of the Los Angeles City Council to eventually approve the ban.
The Walmart development has prompted litigation from the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 770. The two groups are suing the city of Los Angeles, alleging officials did not properly notify the public that they were exempting Walmart from an environmental review. The lawsuit is seeking a temporary stop to construction. An attorney for the UFCW said a date for that hearing has not yet been set.
A representative for Reyes was not immediately available to comment on today’s vote.