The Pleasanton Planning Commission late Friday stripped a controversial public hearing on a proposed Walmart Neighborhood Market coming to Pleasanton off its Wednesday night agenda and moved the hearing to next Monday, March 19, at the Firehouse Arts Center.
Brian Dolan, Pleasanton's Community Development director who handles planning, made the decision after reports that union members opposed to Walmart are planning to "bus in" large numbers of people to object to the Walmart plan.
Walmart has already received approval from the Pleasanton City Council to open one of its Neighborhood Markets in the former Nob Hill supermarket in the Meadow Plaza Shopping Center. The shopping center is located on Santa Rita Road just south of West Las Positas Boulevard.
The council acted on a recommendation of the city's zoning administrator, who after reviewing plans by Walmart for taking over the vacant Nob Hill store that was closed in 2010, determined that the Walmart Neighborhood Market would fit the same footprint and would be no different than if Nob Hill, owned by Raley's, Inc., would have reopened its market at the site.
Given those considerations, the zoning administrator ruled the new market could replace the old one with no significant changes that would trigger a public hearing.
Councilman Matt Sullivan voted against approving the zoning administrator's recommendation. The 4-1 favorable vote also came after City Attorney Jonathan Lowell told the council that however they voted, their decision could be appealed
A few days after the council's vote an appeal of that decision was filed by Linda Martin and Angela Willmes, both Pleasanton residents, asking the commission to overturn the zoning administrator's recommendation, which would allow Walmart to move into the former Nob Hill store in the Meadow Plaza Shopping Center. The shopping center is located on Santa Rita Road just south of West Las Positas Boulevard.
Shortly after, union leaders called on members and others at a Democratic Party rally to protest at upcoming meetings throughout the East Bay where operating permits for Walmart grocery stores will be considered.
The union spokesmen made their pitch for support in battling proposed Walmart Neighborhood Markets in Pleasanton, San Ramon and other East Bay cities. Their pleas received loud applause at a Democratic Party rally in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall in Dublin where 350 were waiting to hear comments from Congressman Pete Stark, who is seeking re-election in the new 15th Congressional District, and his challenger, fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell, an Alameda County deputy district attorney and Dublin City Councilman.
Union representatives urged the crowd, and especially union members, to attend the March 14 meeting (now rescheduled for March 19) in Pleasanton to show their unified objections to allowing Walmart to open one of its Neighborhood Markets at the Nob Hill site. Union leaders said Walmart pays its employees below-union scale wages, denies part-timers health insurance and then sells groceries at lower prices than the larger supermarkets can afford, threatening smaller grocers,
At its Feb. 7 meeting, more than 150 filled the City Council chambers to its limit, with many standing in the hallway outside, to comment on the Walmart issue. About a third were wearing bright yellow "No on Walmart" badges, although more of the public speakers favored the store instead of opposing it.
It's that large number of meeting participants, plus the reported plan by unions to encourage more objectors to attend the planning commission hearing, that cause Dolan and the Planning Commission to move the issue to next Monday and into a larger facility.
Given the zoning administrator's recommendation and the City Council's approval, the Planning Commission meeting next Monday is viewed by city officials as more of a public meeting, not a hearing on overturning the administrator's report.
According to a story in the San Francisco Business Times, the Pleasanton Neighborhood Market would be the first of four East Bay markets currently planned by Walmart. The others would be at a former Circuit City site in Hayward, a site in San Ramon and at former Safeway store in San Jose.
Walmart Neighborhood Markets offer a full range of
groceries, and each store would employ about 75 people.
In all, Wal-Mart is looking to open 13 Neighborhood Markets in California.
The Planning Commission meeting at the Pleasanton Firehouse Arts Center will start at 7 p.m. next Monday, March 19.