Uploaded: Mon, May 7, 2012, 7:01 am
Walmart Market goes to Pleasanton Council for final vote tonight
Public meeting at Firehouse Arts Center will hear appeal to ban store by Councilman Matt Sullivan
The Pleasanton City Council will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. tonight to make a final decision on whether Walmart can open one of its Neighborhood Markets in the long-vacant Nob Hill supermarket building on Santa Rita Road.
The meeting will be held at the Firehouse Arts Center on Railroad Avenue.
So far, both the council and the Planning Commission have endorsed a decision by the city's zoning administrator, who ruled that Walmart could open its market at the site since its proposed market matches the footprint of the Nob Hill store, which the city approved in 1982.
But Councilman Matt Sullivan, a long-time and outspoken foe of the business and employment policies of national retailer Walmart Corp., filed an appeal against that decision by the Planning Commission, which voted 5-0 on March 19 to approve for a second time Walmart's bid. The commission's decision actually was to deny an appeal by two Pleasanton residents, Angela Joe-Willmes and Linda Martin, who has contested the zoning administrator's ruling.
In February, the City Council voted 4-1 to accept the zoning administrator's decision, with Sullivan casting the one vote against the measure.
More than 150 attended the Planning Commission meeting, which was held in the Firehouse Arts Center because a large crowd was expected.
City Manager Nelson Fialho said the council meeting also is being held in the Firehouse Theater, which has seats for 227 people, about 100 more than in the City Council chambers at the Pleasanton Civic Center.
If the council votes to deny Sullivan's appeal, Walmart could file for operating permits at the old Nob Hill store as early as tomorrow.
Improvements to the interior of the store that Walmart is proposing could take another two-to-three months, with the store likely to open in mid- to late summer.
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 8, 2012 at 8:16 am
I do not support placing another Walmart in town. There is already a Walmart in town, a few blocks away on Owens drive. From my perspective, one Walmart is enough. If Walmart wants to sell groceries then they should do so out of their existing location and should not spread into the neighborhoods. I do not oppose placing new retail at the location. That makes perfect sense and will indeed fill a need and be a benefit to all of us. However, allowing Walmart to spread into our neighborhoods is not actually beneficial for the neighborhood.
I reject the appeals from the property management company to 'Embrace Walmart', with 'Do it for the Neighborhood', and 'It's good for Everybody', as simply self-serving. It has nothing to do with helping the neighborhood at all. And I fully understand why the Union feels it must involve itself in this matter, but I do not embrace their base rational either, as it too is self-serving and has nothing to do with the neighborhood.
The problem here is the power of Walmart to kill its competition. If you have small business in your area now, and you like it, and want it to remain, then Walmart is not going to be the answer. When Walmart moves in, small competing businesses are forced out. Its just a matter of time. And the reason is that the playing field is not level. Walmart has become so large that it is able to purchase products for less cost than the other retailers. Even large retailers pay a higher cost than Walmart for the exact same products. The small business can not compete with the deep purchasing discounts demanded by Walmart. Therefore Walmart has a cost advantage over small business and uses it to undercut surrounding business retail pricing until they simply fail and close.
As consumers, we all look for the lowest price for our purchases. Naturally when a Walmart offers a product for 5 cents less than the sounding businesses, you go to Walmart. This is an upside for us. However it is a down side for the small business. A downturn for small business means that operating costs like rent, utilities and employee wages and benefits must now be paid from a smaller amount of income. When Walmart moves into the neighborhood, the first thing that happens is that the small business does nothing. Not wanting to raise prices they hope their loyal customers will continue with them. Then in a couple of months of barely paying the bills, they try and bring in more business through advertising discounts. Eventually they raise their prices (feeling forced into it). You look at their prices and say, "Well, I'll just keep going to Walmart where it's cheaper." And so it goes until the smaller business reduces benefits (if any) or eliminates them, followed by other things like reducing the air conditioning, and lighting, then laying off employees, and finally, after circling the drain for awhile, they close. And all that's left is the anchor store, with multiple empty shells of former local small businesses in the neighborhood.
Walmart due to its size, is able to go directly to the manufacture for its products, purchase the production run at cents per unit, and retail them through their distribution chain at a price that is less than the wholesale cost for others. Small business can not do that. I know. I used to own a small retail business. Then Walmart came to town. After a while I would purchase my products at Walmart and resell them in the store because Walmart sold them at a price below the products wholesale cost. Even with the sales tax added, I could still purchase at Walmart for less cost that purchasing through the wholesale distributor the state business code said I had to use. As a small business I didn't have the license nor the $$$ required to enter into a direct purchase contract with a manufacturer. I was required to purchase at a higher cost than Walmart.
I'm not bemoaning Walmart or Costco or Safeway or any other big retailer for that matter. We congratulate them for their success every time we shop there. But I do recognize, as we have with large businesses operations of the past, that when they grow too large they can monopolize the business segment. And when that happens, we all eventually loose. This is what has happened with the Oil companies today and we allowed it. In fact we helped them get there by taking advantage of the 5 cents off. Today we no longer see small business independent gas stations. Only corporate owned businesses. Today we pay their price, at their station, on every corner. I feel Walmart, even though I benefit from saving 5 cents off today, has reached this size. And Walmart now wants to grow, in small increments, into the neighborhood, to have a larger market share.
Today Walmart wants to just sell groceries. Later they can change the content of their sales to be more in line with what is selling in the surrounding area. That sounds alright doesn't it? After all they just want to sell the same things that others are already selling, so that would be fair, right? And besides, the existing zoning already allows this. So later on they open up a little "Food Service Court" inside the Walmart Neighborhood Market, selling sandwiches, or Polish dogs, or Pizza. Only items that the existing food businesses in the area already sell, so need to make a big fuss about this small change. That probably wouldn't have an impact on ToGos. And then perhaps a small section dedicated to small, overstocked, discounted items, maybe like a Tuesday Morning. Just another small change that is no different than the existing surrounding business.
But there are benefactors of increased traffic in the neighborhood such as a Dentist office or Bank or an Accounting firm. Unless Walmart wants to have a small discount dentistry business. After all, they already have a small pharmacy in store. It would only be a small change.
Once a Walmart moves in, everything changes. The home town sense of community will be lost.