Ruling leaves Wal-Mart more vulnerable to CEQA suits

November 16, 2012

Wal-Mart may now face lawsuits for using the initiative process to sidestep the California Environmental Quality Act due to a state appellate court ruling. [California Watch]

The retail giant, which currently faces a CEQA suit for its newly approved Atascadero location, had been avoiding such litigation in cities where it gathered signatures to pressure city councils into approving new superstores. When 15 percent of local voters sign a petition supporting a new Wal-Mart location, city councils must either approve the project or hold a special election. Wal-Mart then pressure councils for project approval on the grounds that special elections unnecessarily burden taxpayers.

If projects become ballot measures and gain voter approval, they are exempt from environmental review and CEQA lawsuits. Wal-Mart has also argued that projects initiated by petitions and approved by councils without elections are likewise protected from CEQA challenges.

But, a three-judge appellate panel ruled last month that CEQA still applies to petition initiated developments that gain approval from city councils. The Fresno-based 5th District Court of Appeal issued an opinion saying that sidestepping CEQA in such a manner threatened the democratic process in California.

“Developers’ strategy of obtaining project approvals without environmental review and without elections threatens both to defeat CEQA’s important statutory objectives and to subvert the constitutional goals of the initiative process.”

The appellate court added that a petition signed by 15 percent of voters does not hold the same weight as a ballot measure approved by a majority of voters.

“To hold otherwise would authorize rule by a few — the antithesis of democracy.”

The case, centering on a proposed Wal-Mart store in the small California foothill town of Sonora, may now reach the California Supreme Court. The Fresno court’s ruling reversed a 2004 decision by another appellate court.

Attorneys have also sued Wal-Mart on environmental grounds for its use of the initiative process in the San Bernardino County town of Apple Valley and the Silicon Valley suburb of Milpitas.

But, Sonora Mayor Hank Russell said the pattern of environmental lawsuits threatens free market competition.

“These people just want to delay a process that should be part of free market economy,” Russell said. “I don’t think it’s the city’s role to decide who can compete.”


18 Comments

  1. smiley says:

    Walmart and all the other greedy corporate bigbox stores are destroying our way of life and government. From thejunk they sell made in china to bribery and lobbying, heavy handed policies, loss of manufacturing, low paying jobs, they are the biggest problem we have in the USA.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

  2. NorthCountyDude says:

    I am not sure if I’d want to see a Wal-Mart in every town. Seems many small towns have Wal-Mart, but I don’t think it should be the standard.

    I prefer the town or city I live in to at least have a mall and if it doesn’t, then I live near a town with a mall. Anything I can get from Wal-Mart I can get elsewhere. Tech stuff from Radioshack and Gamestop. Clothes, furniture, kitchen ware, gifts, books, and more from a mall.

    Thank goodness this county still has one mall.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

    • r0y says:

      It’s not Walmart that retailers should worry about: it’s the intr0netz. Why get anything at a brick and mortar store for more money? The only reason is one of impulse or lack of time (waiting for something to ship).

      Only groceries do I get locally, and with as-local-as-I-can-get-it foodstuffs. Wave to the future.

      “You can pay the hospital or you can pay the farmer.”

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

      • mustangglp says:

        I hate say it but with the price of gas it saves a lot of money. But at the expense of local jobs.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • The Gimlet Eye says:

      The vanishing shopping mall

      Enclosed shopping centers, clobbered by the recession, are closing by the hundreds. Is our love affair with the mall over?

      posted on March 26, 2009

      http://theweek.com/article/index/94691/the-vanishing-shopping-mall

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. SLOBIRD says:

    Bring on the Wal Mart’s! Every community should have one. People compalin about them (actually, only the unions, union supporters, and elitist complain). Families, working class, seniors, and folks looking for the best deals support them. This is obvious just by their success which irrates the unions. Everyone complaining about them being open Thanksgiving Day don’t mention McDonald’s (been open for years on Thanksgiving Day), Rite Aid, Albertson’s, Target, Kmart, etc. They pay their staff double time so what is the big deal. When they took the job they knew they were getting one (1) holiday off a year. Quit if you don’t like it, maybe a hostess worker would like your job now!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 9

    • smiley says:

      Walmart epitomises evil corporate greed. They bully, bribe and coerse their way into town. What does the cosumer really get, cheap junk u notoooii that cheap when you figure the cost on relation to small business closure and lousy wages and benefits. I hate Walmart and most corporate stores, they are destroying our way of life and goverment.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  4. r0y says:

    Because it’s easier to paint success as a target than to examine what we’ve become; what we’ve elected and who runs things.

    It’s a time-honored tradition of all dictatorships: hate those guys over there, paying no mind to what we’re doing here. It’s all good, right? Hardly. Couple this with the newly-passed California Cap-and-Trade B.S. (seriously? Someone is selling air?)

    This state is beyond salvage, I’m just waiting for the collapse and burn (prob. before 2014). Bah, I just need some re-education to realize that it is my employer’s responsibility to take care of all my needs… or is it the government’s responsibility? Anyway, it’s apparently not mine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 10

    • Russ J says:

      Arnold is still flying his Falcon jet around, shtupping every honney pot he can, and still believing that he is saving you and me from extinction.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  5. BeenThereDoneThat says:

    O.k. I throw out the first rock. I figure before this story above dies out, the Wal-Mart and big business haters will be telling us the evils of them. So I say lets get another side first. Did Wal-Mart overstep there bounds here? Yes. BUT they were pushed into it. This state and it’s enviromental laws, make you run a gauntlet of time and MONEY getting through the process and even then you aren’t assured you will be green lighted. There needs to be a balance somewhere in the middle to make both sides happy.

    The WORST abuse (for those that will be pointing out Wal-Marts abuses) by the Gov. was in S.L.O. back about eight or ten years ago. Madonna had finished building Home Depot. The shell of the building then sat for a YEAR waiting to open. WHY? The Army Corp of engineers. Again WHY? For the eventual wetlands that are fenced off a good mile east of it!!!! Empty buildings someone is still paying on. The Gov. in my opinin has NO RIGHT to tie you up for that length of time. Review and other things fine BUT in a reasonable time table. A year is rediculas and I don’t care who comes here and tries to defend. It is indefencable.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 23 Thumb down 23

    • MaryMalone says:

      It doesn’t matter WHY Wal-Mart “overstepped its boundaries.” To try to excuse Wal-Mart’s actions by saying they were “pushed into it” is like saying “my dog ate my homework.”

      If Wal-Mart, with all of its power and all of its resources, cannot get permission to do what it wants to do, then, for the love of god, they should not be doing it!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 27 Thumb down 26

      • BeenThereDoneThat says:

        In your hyperactivity to get to your Wal-Mart point, you missed ENTIRELY the fact that I said we need middle ground. BOTH sides need to give some. Relax Mary.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 8

      • pasoman says:

        With all do respect. It’s the Atascadero citizens that want a WM, they vote with their feet. If the citizens, including those who live in the area of influence didn’t want one, WM would not be looking to build there. You can be sure, before a company like WM invests that much time and energy, they have a pretty good idea of the market.

        Why is it progressives are so afraid of progress?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

    • catdude says:

      You forgot to mention that Madonna thumbed his nose at the Army Corps of Engineers (he was mega-rich & could do whatever the hell he wanted, remember?) and built without necessary permits, it was his risk; by rights they should have made him tear it down. ” Wetlands? We don’t need no stinkin’ wetlands; can’t you see we’re movin’ dirt here?” I’m afraid I don’t agree that if you have the money, why, you can just do what you want and screw he environment, screw laws everybody else follows. Madonna hated the City because they tried to make him follow the law; and everybody knows, rich people are above the laws the rest of us live under…And they named a freeway after him because he made a pile of money building it, as if he did it as a public service?!? Oh, that’s right, he did for the good of the public, not to make money. (Nothing wrong with making money, but geeze, make a saint out of a self-serving capitalist?)

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 18

      • BeenThereDoneThat says:

        Um CHILL. Where did I make a saint out of him? I used him as a generalization of the problem. If YOU don’t like Madonna then fine.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

        • catdude says:

          Um, please read the context again; by ‘saint” I was referring to naming the highway after Madonna. Yes, I did not like Mr. Madonna; I got real tired of hearing about him throwing his weight around; he seemed to think the rules were not for him, and by the power of his big money, he was largely correct. I certainly can respect the man for being a self-made rich guy, I just can’t respect his behavior enabled by his money.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 9

          • hotdog says:

            Since Alex has been brought up here is some history on our local fat cat.

            I watched, from my porch in the early seventies, Alex bulldoze his illegal road on SLO Mountain one early morning. That mountain is our Matterhorn, a revered symbol of our Seven Sisters. He desecrated it for profit, wanting to build his little Swiss Chalet on top of it with a cable car running to the base. The community outrage was instant and severe yet he just thumbed his nose at us.

            A good friend of mine in the trucking business, often trucking road base and other materials around has often told me Alex had a reputation among those in the biz of being a ‘rip off’ and taking advantage of cozy contracts with the city, county and state.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

      • obispan says:

        Madonna always did whatever he wanted. Rumor is he paid to have the 50 acre fire set, supposedly by two teenagers, that served as his justification for constructing a road to the top of San Luis Mountain the next day, a Sunday, which had been denied by the County for years. His work on CalTrans (freeway named after him after he got caught shorting on asphalt) and City of SLO projects (if you did his work on the curb/gutter/sidewalk in front of your house the City inspector would tell you to tear it out and hire a professional next time) was substandard and suspect but none dared say anything. Froom Ranch was for sale for decades, people passed because it was a swamp, not Madonna, he had Romero et al in his pocket. And guess what, SLO has not changed or reformed, it has gotten worse (Lichtig, paid big $$$ to manage corruption more effectively).

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

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