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Residents Discuss Ways to Protest Walmart in Altadena

Local resistance to the arrival of a Walmart grocery store in Altadena was being organized Friday night at a meeting of the Save Altadena group.

became the center of Altadena's anti-Walmart sentiment when about 50 people gathered there Friday night to figure out ways to speak out against the impending arrival of a

The members of the Save Altadena group assembled Friday night's meeting and others before it, with organizer and former Town Council member Steve Lamb emphasizing to the audience some of the group's missions, such as supporting local businesses and finding ways to put Altadena's positive qualities in the spotlight.

"People think Altadena is a poor place, full of people who can't expect or don't deserve quality retail," he said. "I've been told that a lot … but if you look at the demographics, Altadena is one of the wealthiest places in Southern California."

Talk quickly turned to Walmart and its reputation among residents in many neighborhoods -- including Altadena -- as a harbinger of doom for homegrown businesses, property values and the local economy. One resident called it a "mom-and-pop killer", while another mentioned Bernadette Giglio, an Altadena resident who works in the fashion industry, who passed along a Wall Street Journal article that notes rising crime rates within a six-block radius of Walmart stores. 

While Lamb acknowledged there is nothing legally anyone can do to stop the opening of this particular Walmart market, the intent of the group is to "organize like we can stop it" and perhaps make an impact on discussion regarding future Walmart project sites in SoCal. 

"Walmart is playing this game … they've figured out how to get around the zoning code so there's no public comment. They've found more than 200 sites in Southern California where they are trying to do this," he said, adding that he has also written to Edel Vizcarra, the land use deputy for Supervisor Mike Antonovich, about the possibility of modifying county code to require conditional use permits for grocery stores that are more than 15,000 square feet. Unlike their traditional megastore brethren, Walmart neighborhood markets focus on groceries instead of serving up a wide-ranging litany of items to its customers.

The pervading theme of Save Altadena's grassroots messaging about Walmart was education. Someone jokingly mentioned taking pictures of Altadenans who would be shopping at the Walmart market. While that idea was quickly shot down, some saw potential in getting across a different message.

"Instead of making the people who need to shop there uncomfortable, how do we make the people who made this possible uncomfortable?" asked Shawna Dawson, another of Save Altadena's organizers. "I imagine that there must be an element of organized pressure that can be put on these folks."

Another resident mentioned how the use of yard signs can lead others to educate themselves. 

"I think things like the yard signs … even if it's after the first part of the campaign, could say 'I won't shop at Walmart' and we can express to people why that's important, and where they should be going," said Ericka Lozano-Buhl. "What are the independent businesses? Instead of saying you shouldn't shop at Walmart, we need to say 'This is why we say no to Walmart'. That's what we need to do."

Another resident noted that while the group doesn't have the legal ammunition to combat Walmart, "we have the power to boycott, we can speak with our wallets." Someone else mentioned speaking through hand-written letters to Los Angeles County's supervisors and land-use deputies. Lamb and Dawson also plan on gathering thoughts from the audience and other residents and compile them into bullet-pointed educational flyers to distribute. Other methods tossed around were bilingual meetings, flyers and the screening of films such as Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price, the 2005 documentary that examines Walmart's impacts and business practices.

At its meeting next week, the group plans to flesh out more ideas, including language on lawn signs and flyers. There will also be a screening of the Walmart documentary. Several members of the group also plan to attend Saturday morning's protest march against Walmart in Chinatown.

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Ivan G July 01, 2012 at 06:17 PM
The "flavor" of Lincoln and Figueroa is "slum." I do not want to preserve that.
Lisa Hastings July 02, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Lots of people in Altadena want nicer more upscale businesses to move in, such as Trader Joes or Sprouts. The problem is these upscale businesses apparently have done their research and so they do not see Altadena as a profitable area, and all they see is a depressed unincorporated area of the county. Unfortunately, depressed areas are attractive to businesses such as Walmart, McDonalds and Jack in the Box and of course, nail salons, thrift stores, liquor stores, and payday loan businesses. There really is no answer to this dilemma because no upscale business wants to open up in an area that is economically depressed, whether it is real or just a perception.
Ivan G July 02, 2012 at 04:08 AM
I agree. Frankly, I am a bit surprised that Walmart is willing to open at that location. Perhaps it is trying to show that it can help improve the community, or perhaps it believes that La Vina residents will shop there, because it will be the least unattractive store on the way home. There are plenty of other vacant locations in more desirable areas of Altadena where higher-end businesses could locate. There is space along Lake, Fair Oaks, and Altadena Drive.
disturbed. July 06, 2012 at 05:35 AM
One thing sticks out like a sore thumb from this entire ridiculous meeting. Someone suggested taking pictures of the people who shop there??!!! If I dare see any elite snot trying to take a picture of my daughter and I or anyone else for that matter- I will smash their $1,000 camera to bits! Jokingly or not- these people seem like they're on a witch hunt and out to get anyone who has a different view. A bunch of selfish, narcissistic jerks if you ask me. We are all different in this world and have different values. I think it's cruel to keep a guinea pig in the tiny cages they sell at Pet Smart. I think it's important to recycle. I think it's nice to have one parent stay home to raise children (but OBVIOUSLY not everyone can do this). But oh my word I'm so amazing for my principles that I'm going to organize an army of fellow narcissists and force my ideals on EVERYONE. ugh I'm done. I hope none of you Save Altadenians shop at the Walmart.
bruintracks July 11, 2012 at 05:35 PM
I'm just curious which LA Times article classified Altadena as a food desert because on the USDA site Altadena is not characterized as a food desert. Can you post a link to the article?

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