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Judge: Construction can continue on Walmart neighborhood market in Chinatown

Walmart is building what it calls a "neighborhood market" at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues on the outskirts of Chinatown.
Walmart is building what it calls a "neighborhood market" at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues on the outskirts of Chinatown. Kylie Reynolds

Construction on a Walmart grocery store in the Chinatown area will continue for now, a Los Angeles judge ruled Friday.

Judge James C. Chalfant denied a request from the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance for a temporary restraining order to halt work on the store at Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues. The Alliance's request was related to a lawsuit it has filed, alleging the City of Los Angeles failed to adequately study and mitigate the impacts of the new store. At Friday's hearing, Judge Chalfant ruled that because Walmart is only altering the interior of the building, there would not be irreparable harm to the environment.

Attorneys for the APALA, Walmart and the city will be back in court on Nov. 13 for a trial on the lawsuit. If the Alliance is able to prove its allegations, the judge said he would order Walmart to stop construction and rip out the store.

The city's Building and Safety Department issued permits to Walmart in March and construction began in June. An attorney for Walmart told the court he expects work to be completed in December.

“Today’s decision is good news for the local construction team and the surrounding community who will soon have a new option for jobs and affordable groceries,” said Steven V. Restivo, senior director of Community Affairs for Walmart. The company is building what it calls a "neighborhood market," which is smaller than its warehouse stores.

Walmart’s general contractor and subcontractors held a press conference Thursday to say that 125 people would be out of work if construction were halted. However, labor advocates argue that Chinatown’s smaller businesses will suffer if the Walmart market is allowed to open.

Following the hearing, attorney Gideon Kracov told reporters that even though the space in Chinatown was designed to house a grocery store in 1992, Walmart would negatively impact the neighborhood. He cited traffic as one of the main concerns. 

“We believe that the city appeals hearing and this court should be able to examine this project under the light of day before it’s done – not after,” Kracov said. “If the city is going to rely on a 25-year-old environmental analysis for this project, it must follow the conditions of that environmental analysis.”

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance is also appealing the project with the Planning Department. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council is expected to consider an ordinance that would ban big-box retailers from opening in the Chinatown community. The proposed law would not impact this Walmart project because it was introduced after the company received its permits. 

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