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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 April, 2004, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
LA voters send Wal-Mart packing
Wal-Mart Supercenter
Wal-Mart wanted 40 new megastores across California
Voters in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood have delivered a decisive snub to supermarket giant Wal-Mart.

By a two-to-one majority, they vetoed a proposal to build a megastore on a 60-acre site, the size of 17 football fields.

Wal-Mart won the right to a public vote after Inglewood authorities denied it permission to build.

"This was a major victory," said state assemblyman Jerome Horton, who together with officials, religious leaders and unions has bitterly opposed Wal-Mart.

'A no-brainer'

This is not the first time that Wal-Mart has turned to a ballot on its "big-box" stores, which require exceptional planning permission in most areas.

But Inglewood was to spearhead a wave of 40 proposed Supercenter stores across California.

Wal-Mart store
This was a much bigger issue than just jobs
Jerome Horton
The plan was supported by Inglewood's mayor, Roosevelt Dorn.

Mr Dorn argued that the Supercenter would create 1,000 new jobs in the low-income suburb, as well as adding up to $5m to his administration's annual tax revenues.

"We're talking about a new police station, a new community and cultural centre... upgrades for every park and recreation area in Inglewood," Mr Dorn said before the vote.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a no-brainer."

Wal-Mart launched an aggressive campaign in favour of its proposal, including broadcast advertising, flyers and telephone marketing.

City within a city

Mr Dorn was the only local official on Wal-Mart's side, however.

Part of the opposition to the plan stemmed from the threat to smaller retailers; unions, meanwhile, were concerned that Wal-Mart would drive down wages and discourage organised labour.

But most opponents were swayed by the draconian terms of the proposed development, which would effectively have exempted Wal-Mart from all local planning, zoning and environmental regulations.

In effect, they argued, the retail complex would become an autonomous city-within-a-city.

"This would have set a national precedent and developers all over the nation were watching to see whether or not a developer could exempt themselves from complying with local laws," Mr Horton argued.

"This was a much bigger issue than just jobs."

On the defensive

The vote is the biggest defeat so far for Wal-Mart's Californian campaign.

Last year, voters in Oakland turned down a proposed Supercenter.

But since then, it has scored victories in Contra Costa and Calexico, where voters have overturned restrictions on planning.

Since the Inglewood proposal contained such liberal terms for the retailer, it was seen as the most important case so far.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is not currently popular in California.

Its relatively low wages and employee benefits have forced local retailers to follow suit, something which sparked a bitter strike by Californian supermarket workers earlier this year.


SEE ALSO:
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19 Feb 04  |  Business
Wal-Mart moves into online music
19 Dec 03  |  Entertainment
Wal-Mart profits miss forecasts
13 Nov 03  |  Business
Wonderful world of Wal-Mart
21 Feb 03  |  Americas
Wal-Mart: A retail titan
14 Jan 03  |  Business


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