Patt Morrison for February 27, 2012

Walmart faces fight as it plans first store in downtown L.A.

Seth Anderson|Flickr|Creative Commons

A scaled-down Walmart neighborhood market.

Like it or not, Walmart is coming to Downtown Los Angeles.

The Arkansas-based big-box retailer recently announced plans to bring a scaled down version of its ubiquitous retail and grocery stores to the Chinatown area of Downtown L.A. in 2013. Dubbed a “Walmart Neighborhood Market,” the 33,000-square-foot grocery store will provide a scaled-down version of the retailer traditional products and services.

So is this good or bad news for Los Angeles?

Critics of this plan argue that Walmart’s presence will undermine living-wage jobs in the area and put small businesses in jeopardy.

“Statistically, the impact of a Walmart is pretty clear,” said Chris Tilly, director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UCLA. “It puts retail businesses out of business, there are fewer retail jobs in total after a Walmart has come in, and wages are lower both in retail and to some extent on the broader regional economy as well."

The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) also opposes Walmart’s plan to move into the area and is planning to fight the company’s newest plan to encroach on turf that is also defended by strong grocers’ unions.

Roxana Tynan is executive director of LAANE, and says that her group’s main concern is that new businesses are, “Meeting the standards that Angelenos want to see to lift people out of poverty, to ensure people have access to healthcare and aren't relying on the public healthcare system.”

Walmart has been criticized in the past for making it difficult for its employees to gain access to affordable health insurance. Walmart employees must meet a certain requirements, like working a certain number of hours a week, to be eligible to apply for health benefits. Even those who are eligible may then find it difficult to pay the high premiums to cover their families, according to Tynan.

“I’ve really got to question when a store tells its employees straight off the bat, go apply for public benefits,” said Tynan. “I don't feel that I should be subsidizing Walmart with my tax dollars."

From the phones:

Not everyone is against Walmart’s presence in Chinatown. Caller Joe from the Chinatown area says that Walmart is “exactly what we need in that part of the city. I've been living out here for 12 years and this part of LA and if we need anything we know we have to drive, we can't walk to anything local."

John from Boyle Heights says that he hopes Walmart will force businesses to lower their “exorbitant” prices. “Small business owners in Boyle Heights have been gouging people in Boyle Heights, Chinatown and other parts of Central Los Angeles for decades now,” said John. “If, unfortunately, they have to shut down because their prices are too much then it’s just the pressure that they have to deal with.”

Alexa from Silver Lake thinks that American consumers are too selective when it comes to demonizing certain big-box retailers because, “Shopping at Target and Costco are still putting out small businesses."

WEIGH IN:

Given the dearth of grocery stores in downtown Los Angeles, would you welcome a Walmart to your area? Can Walmart manage to open a location in the heart of Los Angeles? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Guests:

Roxana Tynan, executive director, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy LAANE

Chris Tilly, director, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UCLA, professor, Urban Planning Department


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