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Thursday, Oct 6, 2022
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Planned Burbank Walmart Jumps Legal Obstacle

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has earned a small legal victory in its effort to build a large Superstore in Burbank. An appellate court has lifted an injunction issued last August that halted work on the project at the city’s Empire Center. Opponents claim the 1301 North Victory Place store violates the California Environmental Quality Act. But the court’s action guarantees little for the Bentonville, Ark. retailer. Before any construction or remodeling of the site can take place, the company must still await the underlying litigation, which was filed against the city. That lawsuit would force the city to conduct street improvements around the Empire Center, which is near a busy Costco, before the 143,000-square-foot store could open. Rachel Wall, a senior manager of community affairs for Wal-Mart, said the retailer has no plans to proceed until the litigation is finalized. “We look forward to the final trial court decision so that we can move forward with our plans to support this community and open the store that the majority of the community clearly wants,” said Wall, in an email. A bench trial on the lawsuit, which is being heard in Santa Monica Superior Court before Judge Allan J. Goodman, concluded last week. However, both sides are filing final briefs and a decision could be several months away. If the city were to lose the case, it is not clear who would pay for the enhancements, Burbank or Walmart. The proposed Superstore, employing about 300 people, would occupy the space of a Great Indoors home furnishing store that closed several years ago. Wal-Mart contends Burbank residents are currently spending close to $7 million at other Walmarts in the area, with the nearest in Panorama City about 10 miles away. “We think a Walmart store in Burbank can be part of the solution for residents who want more convenient access to affordable merchandise, fresh food or more job opportunities close to home,” Wall said. The lawsuit brought by residents Shanna Ingalsbee, Katherine Olson and Yvette Ziraldo is being handled by attorney Gideon Kracov who previously handled cases that delayed the opening of a Walmart in Torrance last year and delayed one Chinatown that is finally set to open this year. Kracov is counsel for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770, which has fought the opening of the non-union Walmarts, which carry groceries. City spokesman Drew Sugars said he expects Burbank to prevail in the case, and the lifting of the injunction only shows where the matter is heading. “The city has always believed that we followed all the rules and could not deny Walmart from coming in,” he said.

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