Los Angeles Business Journal

Burbank Sued to Stop Wal-Mart

By Deborah Crowe Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is facing a new roadblock in its effort to open a store in Burbank, with three residents filing a lawsuit to force the city to conduct an environmental impact report.

The store is proposed to go into the site of a closed Great Indoors home furnishings store at Burbank Empire Center, which is home to several large retailers. The suit filed on Friday in L.A. County Superior Court argues the City Council broke the law when it allowed the issuance of building permits to renovate the structure.

The lawsuit contends the Walmart will draw many more customers than had been expected at the Great Indoors store when it was approved last decade. “There are many significant traffic impacts and additional trips associated with the Wal-Mart … over and above those previously analyzed,” the lawsuit said.

In addition to an EIR, plaintiffs Shanna Ingalsbee, Katherine Olson and Yvette Ziraldo want the city to require additional parking on site and street improvements at two nearby intersections. The Bentonville, Ark retailer is named as an interested party.

The City Council voted 4 to 1 at its Feb. 21 meeting to accept a staff recommendation that Wal-Mart only needed ministerial building permits for tenant improvements prior to opening the store.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Gideon Kracov, who represented the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770 and a group called Burbank Residents Allied for a Vibrant Economy at earlier City Council hearings on the issue. Kracov also has represented opponents of Walmart stores proposed for downtown Los Angeles and Torrance. Labor groups oppose the stores because the chain’s low-priced groceries take away business from traditional supermarkets with union workers.

A statement issued by the retailer on Tuesday called the lawsuit a stall tactic.

“This lawsuit is another attempt by a small number of individuals associated with special interest groups that want to stall access to affordable prices and economic opportunities including new jobs and additional tax revenue," said Rachel Wall, senior manager of Community Affairs, in a statement.