The site of a controversial Walmart in Burbank will remain vacant for a while longer, despite the ruling last week of a state appeals court saying the city can issue building permits to the giant retailer. A lawsuit to block the proposed Walmart megastore was filed by Burbank residents Shanna Ingalsbee, Katherine Olson, and Yvette Ziraldo back in spring of 2012.
Then in September of 2013, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge, Allan J. Goodman, ordered the city of Burbank to rescind building permits issued to Walmart for the site of the old Great Indoors at 1301 North Victory Place in the Empire Center. Judge Goodman ruled the city erred for not completing an environmental study and complying with a city ordinance requiring street improvements around the Empire Center, before issuing the permits. Walmart appealed that judgment to the Second District Court of Appeal, which issued a 40-page opinion last Tuesday.
“The interests of the property owners and tenants at the Empire Center in obtaining routine building permits should not be dependent on actions over which they have no control, namely, the City’s failure to perform a mandatory, statutorily-imposed duty to implement traffic mitigation measures. The fact that the property owner involved in this case is Walmart should not change this dynamic,” the appeals court said.
The panel sent the case back to the Los Angeles County Superior Court ordering a new ruling, which includes the following provisions: (1) declaring that Walmart’s proposed store is a permitted use, (2) that a parking variance is not required for Walmart’s proposed store, (3) that the City has failed and is failing to perform its mandatory, statutorily-imposed obligation to implement mitigation measures, and (4) commanding the City to implement mitigation measures or to otherwise act in accord with the law by commencing appropriate CEQA, California Environmental Quality Act, review processes to rescind or modify the subject traffic mitigation measures.
Walmart’s spokesperson, Delia Garcia, said in an email: “We are working to determine next steps.” Also, Garcia issued this statement:”We’re pleased with the Appeal Court’s ruling validating that the permits initially granted for the Burbank store were done so properly. Our Burbank customers have been looking forward to more convenient options for affordable groceries, merchandise, and pharmacy services and we’re excited to move one step closer to eventually opening a new store to serve our customers in Burbank and the surrounding communities.”
Meanwhile, the city of Burbank is apparently leaving this case on hold. When I asked for a reaction to the state appeals court’s opinion, Amanda Okafor, in Burbank’s Public Information Office told me, “… the City will comply with the terms of new judgment when issued.”