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Chinatown ban on big-box stores too late to stop Walmart

Kylie Reynolds

A ban on big-box stores in the Chinatown area is moving onto the L.A. City Council but even if it is ultimately approved, it wil be too late to stop Walmart from moving into the neighborhood.

A proposal to ban big box retailers in the Chinatown area will move forward over the objections of the Planning Commission. However, the ordinance comes too late to stop Walmart from moving into the neighborhood.

In a 2-1 vote Tuesday, members of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee sent the proposal—known as an interim control ordinance—on to the Los Angeles City Council. The ban, which could last from 45 days to two years, would block retailers that have 11 or more locations with standardized merchandise or facades from opening stores 20,000-square-feet or larger in the Chinatown neighborhood.

Councilman Ed Reyes introduced the ban when he learned that Walmart planned to open a neighborhood market at Grand and Cesar Chavez avenues. If the interim control ordinance is ultimately approved, it would not apply to the Walmart location because the company obtained a building permit prior to introduction of the proposal.

“Permits have been issued for a formula retail use larger than 20,000 square feet in Chinatown, and additional permits could be approved for similar uses,” said Reyes, who voted for the ban along with José Huizar. “If the city does not act, these large formula retail uses will endanger the viability of Chinatown’s small businesses and threaten the unique and historic character of the neighborhood.” 

Members of the Planning Commission voted against the ban earlier this summer, arguing that the neighborhood was not in danger of being taken over by major retailers.  Councilman Mitch Englander was the dissenting vote today. 

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