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Whoops! City Council Ordinance Meant to Block a Chinatown Walmart Actually Won't
Today the Los Angeles city council voted 13-0 for an ordinance that was widely viewed as an effort to block Walmart's effort to open a grocery store in Chinatown.The only problem? The ordinance won't actually stop the Chinatown location from opening at all. All the necessary permits for the location were already quietly approved at 4:30 pm yesterday, according to City News Service.
Robert “Bud” Ovrom, general manager of the city's Building and Safety Department, broke the news to the council: “This project is moving forward. This ordinance would not have any immediate impact on this project."
Councilman Ed Reyes came up with the idea to bar large chain stores from expanding into Chinatown, which is in his district. Earlier he claimed that the ordinance wasn't specifically targeting Walmart but was a general effort to preserve the character of Chinatown. But NBC noted that Reyes seemed to be caught off-guard when he learned that the ordinance wouldn't hurt Walmart's expansion into Chinatown at all.
Walmart's expansion into Chinatown has been opposed by labor groups, who complain that the corporation pays its non-unionized workers poorly. The Los Angeles Area and Chinatown chambers of commerce opposed the ordinance and support Walmart. The Chinatown Business Improvement District and other Chinatown residents have also oppose Walmart and said the new grocery store would destroy the neighborhood's character.
UPDATE 4:45pm: Steven Restivo, senior director of community affairs at Walmart, sent us a statement about the grocery store's approval: “Now that our Walmart Neighborhood Market has received all necessary approvals, we look forward to serving downtown customers soon. We appreciate all the community support to date and will continue to engage with residents and businesses in the area to talk about the jobs, economic development opportunities and new grocery options our store will deliver.”