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Walmart Reps Face Fired-Up Crowd

In response to a Walmart Neighborhood Market moving to Altadena, residents are requesting the Town Council put a moratorium on chain retailers opening stores over 15,000 square feet in town.

Representatives from Walmart addressed a packed house of passionate Altadenans Tuesday night at the Altadena Town Council Meeting, presenting details of the proposed Walmart Neighborhood Market that is set to open on Lincoln Ave. and Figueroa Dr. in Altadena in early 2013. Over 120 citizens showed up by Altadena Patch’s count, mainly to voice their displeasure for the project.

“Wherever Walmart goes, stores close,” said resident James Knight.

Many expressed disdain for the chain retailer and claimed that it would cause small mom and pop shops in Altadena to close, pay low wages impossible to make a living on, plus bring increased traffic and unwanted noise to the neighborhood. Of the nearly 40 speakers, only one citizen spoke in favor of the retailer.

“I’m not seeing any local people opening new businesses [in Altadena],” said resident Colleen Bissner. “If Walmart wants to move in, let them. If you don’t want them, don’t shop there.”

A Moratorium on Chain Retailers Over 15,000 Square Feet?

A number of citizens requested that the Town Council take steps to enact a moratorium on chain businesses opening locations in Altadena that are over 15,000 square feet. After hearing numerous requests for this, the council said that it would discuss the possibility.

Council to Request Traffic Study of Walmart Location

Town Council members also decided to draft a letter to County Supervisor Michael Antonovich requesting a traffic study be conducted at the intersection of Lincoln Ave. and Figueroa Dr. Its purpose would be purely informational, said Council Member Brent Musson. Walmart was not required to do a traffic study prior to leasing the building at that intersection, and many residents claim its presence will clog roads and street parking.

Building Owner Faces Tough Questions

Also present at the meeting was Gene Detchemendy, a representative of the owner of the building that Walmart is leasing. Detchemendy was the target of angry and frustrated comments from residents as well as Town Council member Tecumseh Shackelford, who panned the building owner for not informing the council or citizens of Walmart’s interest in the space before the lease papers were signed.

“It was a disrespect to the community,” said Shackelford.

Detchemendy is not required by law to seek government or citizen approval before leasing out the building.

Council Member Musson also criticized Detchemendy and the developer for not hiring local contractors from Altadena to work on renovating the building. Detchemendy responded by saying that he hired a Pasadena landscape architecture firm to work on the project and contractors that are local to Los Angeles.

Detchemendy said his portion of the building renovation project is nearly complete and Walmart will soon take over renovation and interior redesign. Musson requested that Walmart representatives take a meeting with the Altadena Town Council to discuss how local contractors and hires could be used from here on out. Walmart rep Javier Angulo agreed to the meeting, which will be set for a future date.

How Many Jobs Would Walmart Create?

Walmart reps said Tuesday that 60 full and part-time positions would be created by the Altadena location, but not all of them would be filled by Altadenans. Jobs would first be open to Walmart employees at other locations.

Angulo said that the company could not commit to hiring a certain number of Altadena locals at the new location at this time. When the store first opens, it’s likely that the managerial positions would be filled by transfers and the hourly positions would be available to new hires.

Angulo did guarantee that Walmart’s partnership with West Los Angeles Community Development Corporation would create job opportunities for locals.

The group essentially trains people for Walmart jobs and then assists with job placement at various locations.

Council Member Musson said that it’s his desire for vacancies created by transfers at other locations be available to people in Altadena.

A Second Walmart Location in Altadena?

There has also been talk of a second Walmart location opening up in Altadena, at the corner of N Lake Ave and E Calaveras St. A rep from Walmart Public Relations has stated that the retailer is interested in the space, but no definite plans have been made to occupy it.

What Would the Walmart Look Like?

“At the end of the day, it’s a grocery store,” said Angulo. The 28,000 square foot business would be smaller than the average Walmart store, which runs about 58,000 square feet. The store would stock groceries like produce, deli meats, dairy, frozen foods, dry goods, household products and include a pharmacy. The “site-to-store” service would be available, which means that citizens could order products off of Walmart’s website and have them shipped to the Altadena location. The color scheme would be green and yellow, which is different from the usual blue used by traditional Walmarts.

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Ivan G July 20, 2012 at 07:35 PM
But would the planned Walmart neighborhood market on Lincoln cause Ralphs to close? I doubt it. And if it did, would that really be much of a loss? By the way, Ralphs is part of Kroger. According to CNNMoney, "Kroger is the largest traditional grocery chain in the country, and it has been able to use its size to keep prices low and snag market share from competitors like Supervalu and even the gargantuan Wal-Mart."
Ivan G July 20, 2012 at 07:39 PM
But this would not be a "big box store."
Ivan G July 20, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Exactly. Even if they have money, many people would rather pay $5 for Tide at Walmart rather than $8 at Ralphs. Similarly, a recent Consumer Reports article said that generic Excedrin costs $3 at Walmart and $20 at RiteAid. All the Walmart opposition seems indifferent to the welfare of consumers.
Ivan G July 20, 2012 at 07:49 PM
There are other solutions, but in 30 years none has been implemented. There are no current alternative uses being offered.
SteveB July 20, 2012 at 08:10 PM
It is an interesting study, but do note that it is hypothetical, not after the fact. As to how good it is, that depends on the underlying assumptions. A quick skim shows they assume that the market is saturated, and the addition of a new market will result in redistribution of existing $ to lower wage employees. As part of this argument, they dismiss the possibility that a new store will capture leakage out of the region. So to them, our family doing 80% of our grocery shopping outside of Altadena is irrelevant. That's not irrelevant to me. While my preferred option would be a renovated/expanded Ralphs, that doesn't appear likely any time soon - so I will settle for Walmart.
M.G. Rich September 09, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Most of these comments fail to address Altadenas main problem. I have lived here for 56 years and seen this community slowly waste away....building by building....business by business. What is wrong with you individuals? Not only is the Lincoln corridor in a sad state.....so is north Lake Ave. This community has failed to develop its existing infrastructure and I have personally seen the decay of the entire community.....and it's not getting any better. There is prime opportunity for business to thrive here but it doesn't. Why hasn't TJs or Starbucks moved into Altadena? Why hasn't a Whole Foods or Ralphs made use of this area? I hate to say this but when the Jack in the Box has done more to improve N. Lake Ave. than ANY other business that speaks volumes of where we stand. The north west corner of Lake and Altadena Drive is a prime location for a much needed Trader Joes and Starbucks or a bakery where people would frequent. You need to look at the big picture folks.....something that hasn't been dome in decades. Think "outside the box".
Steve Lamb September 09, 2012 at 08:59 PM
M.G.- the twom largest problems impacting this issue are : 1.The imposition by the County of Los Angeles of codes designed for a post WW2 world on Altadena, built pre WW2 and their thirty year refusal to correct the problem AND 2. Most of the commercial buildings now are owned by people who do not live in Altadena, anmd may have last seen them when they bought them, if then. And going for Starbucks or some other chain franchise isnt thinking outside the box, its the same non descript everywhere and nowhere box that has literally destroyed most communities, from long Beach to Montana to Boston to Amsterdam to mexico City even to Bejing. The whole world is turning into one awful bane endless strip mall.
JPearson September 10, 2012 at 08:18 AM
I would predict that Altadena will continue to lose business to other areas so long as it remains unincorporated.
Steve Lamb September 10, 2012 at 01:18 PM
J- Yep. The County is a huge part of the problem. In Sierra Madre the city there pays for rent in a shop on the main drag and the staff of the Chamber of Commerce. Pasadena is far more generous literally providing millions to their Chamber. In Altadena the chamber has a cubicle and only the money they can get from membership. In Pasadena, they have continous planning with massive citizen input. In Altadena the planning department is at least two decades behiend the times in conceptual thinking and hardly ever interfaces with any members of the public who actually live here...The County in its behavior is identical to franchise chains, they extract wealth out of Altadena and export it elsewhere, while only pretending interest in our community.
M.G. Rich September 10, 2012 at 03:12 PM
S.Lamb Unfortunately, very few private businesses prevail and have “self interest” in Altadena . You indicate that bringing franchises into Altadena isn’t thinking outside the box, but you fail to grasp that the current mindset is counterproductive to the community. There is “zero” redevelopment planning in Altadena. A franchise such as Starbucks/Trader Joes/etc. would employ and bring Altadena into the 21st century. This would create incentive for local business to come up to par and be competitive. The existing businesses don’t provide the necessary services that the residents of Altadena need...not for this day and age. Thus we are forced to spend our dollars in Pasadena/Arcadia/La Canada/South Pas./etc. Altadena has been stagnant since the 1960’s and I have been a resident since the early 50’s. So being stuck in the current state is not in anyone’s best interest….especially the residents of this beautiful community. The average cost of a home in Altadena is currently almost $500,000 and we don’t have the infrastructure to provide “basic” services to the residents? This is not right and needs to be corrected. Accepting the “status quo” is definitely not thinking outside the box.
M.G. Rich September 10, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Mark G. Rich Resident since 1954
Steve Lamb September 10, 2012 at 06:24 PM
As I always say- you want a Starbucks so bad, buy a franchise or form a group to buy a franchise. If you really want it, go WORK on it.
Steve Lamb September 10, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Myself, I'm working on helping peopl,e find space to set up non chain locally owned businesses, but since you all keep telling me how much smarter than I you are- hey show us.
Steve Lamb September 10, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Of course a Starbucks will cost the franchisee or group about $1.2 Million to open...and if you form a group there is the whole SEC filing process first, BUT if you so a small local coffee shop (Even with the insane $30,000 in permits the County is going to take from you) you can do it for a tenth of that......Another reason that franchise business just makes no sense at all for a town like Altadena without flow through traffic or tourist business. Actually, tourism is really the way to go, but building a partnership with the USFS has proven over time to be impossible for almost everyone who has tried it in 120 years.......
JPearson September 11, 2012 at 08:10 AM
Simply having a Starbucks/Walmart/McDonald's/etc will not magically spur economic development in an area such as Altadena. From what I remember, the town's comprehensive plan I think was last updated in the early 80's, there are no Tax Increment Finance districts, no Business Improvement Districts, no access to redevelopment authorities, or any other modern day solutions to spur growth. Many people like Altadena just the way it is and wish for it to retain a certain rustic feel to it. While that is certainly a valid concern, there is no reason the community's charm and unique appeal could not be preserved if it were to become an incorporated municipality. I will admit that I am quite biased as an urban planner, but I really do not see the area benefiting from the current arrangement with the county.
Steve Lamb September 11, 2012 at 12:54 PM
So are you volunteering to help Altadena through the process of incorporation? The community plan is supposed to be updated this year. They had three poorly attended visioning sessions. Again no ongoing citizen involvement as they have in Pasadena. We did have a redevelopment disttrict. What a fiasco that became. Mercifully the State killed those. Actually had the development plan written by the citizens been followd instead of actively destroyed by the Planners in LA County, Lincoln would be developed by now, there would be no space for Walmart and hopefully it would have worked and we would have a vital shopping district. Sadly we will never know .
M.G. Rich September 11, 2012 at 04:39 PM
JPearson It’s not a matter of “simply” having a franchise of some sort….it’s a matter of a comprehensive plan for growing the business sector of Altadena. 95% of all attempts have “failed” to produce any semblance of real growth AND basic services in this town….you know that…I know that….we both know that. You are correct…the community has not and is not benefiting from any type of “urban planning”. It is a failure. Coming to the sad terms that this is the current state is the first step in moving forward. Retaining a “rustic feel” is something that Sierra Madre (incorporated in 1907) has managed to retain and still provides that rustic foothill atmosphere. I cannot see any reason that Altadena would lose any of its charm by coming up to the 21st century by providing for its residents who need and deserve. In fact, it would increase its charm and the community would obviously be in a better place. To really grasp the magnitude of the current state of the community….take a walk from Altadena’s south boundary north to Altadena Dr. (On Fair Oaks/Raymond/Lake/Lincoln). Then we can talk further then about the “rustic feel”. Regards, Mark G. Rich
M.G. Rich September 11, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Steve Lamb There's no need for that Steve. Please don't insult people for expressing their views. No one has told you that they are "smarter" than you. Just because not everyone agrees with your opionion.....no need to act like a not nice person. Act like the responsible adult you purport to be. Thanks in advance!
M.G. Rich September 11, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Steven Lamb - You tell us when the next "visioning session" is being held. Thanks in advance!
JDM September 12, 2012 at 05:03 PM
I wonder how many people adamantly against this live in east Altadena? I live in west Altadena and most of the "stores" I see around are liquor stores. I'd much rather have a Walmart. Plus this is only a grocery store and not a massive store. Thirdly, did you see how disgusting the building was before they repaired it. It's not like there was nothing there before, but an old, run-down, building.
maryam hosseinzadeh September 12, 2012 at 05:42 PM
@JDM - It was an old run down building because the landlord basically forced out the tenants who were there when he purchased the building, kept it vacant for over 5 years, and then brought Walmart in after that length of time. Multiple individuals were interested in renting it, but since the landlord also tore the roof off and was asking for exorbitantly high rent, it wasn't in the scope of a non-corporate investment -- again, intentionally. It wasn't really vacant by its own accord and I wonder how many other vacant Altadena storefronts are in the same situation -- I am speculating here, but could Altadena Nursury be another such situation? Are small businesses being forced out of Altadena through this means?
Ivan G September 13, 2012 at 02:27 AM
I find this rather farfetched. A landlord would rather have income at a low rate than no income at all. Five years is a long time to leave a building vacant. And tearing off the roof would harm the value of the building.
Ivan G September 13, 2012 at 02:29 AM
I think most of the opponents live in East Altadena, which is wealthier and is closer to decent shopping. I wonder what La Vina residents think of the Walmart. They can use it as a convenience store on the way home from work.
Mike Roberts September 13, 2012 at 04:30 AM
Wasn't aware Starbucks was awarding franchises. Licensed stores (in banks, supermarkets, food courts) yes. Thought Magic Johnson was one of the very few who actually has a franchise.
Mike Roberts September 13, 2012 at 04:31 AM
What about a franchise that's locally owned? Where the owner lives here and hires from Altadena? Would that pass the smell test?
Mike Roberts September 13, 2012 at 04:36 AM
How much does it cost to become a city? Ongoing costs? Fees to fight LAFCO? Would our property tax support the newly incorporated city (I can hear the pleas to raise taxes)? Certainly the sales tax doesn't help much. Being a city adds measures of control, just don't know how to afford being a city. Anyone have budget estimates?
Mike Roberts September 13, 2012 at 04:39 AM
I was under the impression that the community standards district, not the community plan, was going to be reviewed. Has something changed?
Mike Roberts September 13, 2012 at 04:49 AM
I'll rhetorically ask what a landlord has to gain by forcing out tenants but never renting to anyone else? I thought the Linc/Fig bldg was vacant for more than 5 yrs (?). The Altadena nursery bldg owner was asking WAY too much. A church was supposed to use it as an outreach facility but never saw anything there. Assuming the outreach isn't there, what's that bldg owner's reward for keeping it empty? On another note, ENOUGH w/ the store front churches. They don't add (much) to the county's tax base, it's not known how many of the out of town parishoners (sp, sorry) shop in town, have good parking lots but rarely share them w/ shoppers. Not to mention they're not "open" but 2 or 3 days a week for minimal hours .... that adds to the "ghost town" look. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-religion. I just think we have way too many and concentrated tightly for a town this size. Not being a city hurts us in regulating this.
maryam hosseinzadeh September 13, 2012 at 06:12 AM
Mike and Ivan - The owner has a track record of this sort of behavior with vacancies. Buying it rented, then suddenly the building is vacant. The owner also owns the former bank location at Lake and Calaveras (aka the second prospective Walmart location) which has been vacant too, for so long. Why did Wamu move locations? We should ask. Also both these vacancies were right at the height of the real estate market, so - given this logic, but of course I don't have access to the owner's tax records and it is personal supposition - what you can do is appraise the new value of the building based on square footage for much more than you are able to actually rent it given the location and structure type, then write it off as a vacancy loss on your taxes to pad your business bank account. Or mortgage it to buy other properties. Who knows? It's a shell game. A normal owner, like you or I, would definitely want some income relative to none. But real estate players like these investment companies operate on a much larger scale than an average building owner. Here is some property in Las Vegas that this same owner owned, and the fate of its small business owners - it later foreclosed which amounts to another "loss" on the taxes: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/jun/13/turning-away-business/ Maybe the owner hoped redevelopment would head up Lincoln further and that CRA would buy him out at a square footage rate, but the market fell and the CRA is gone? Just guessing here.
Ivan G September 14, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Pure speculation that is also implausible. I recall people at Ralphs telling me that they were planning to move their store south to where the vacant lot now is, but canceled their plans after the strike. Maybe the owner anticipates that the market will improve, and does not want to enter into a long-term lease at a low rent. Maybe he has unrealistic expectations. It's his money and his land, not ours.

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