Atascadero Wal-Mart bail-out on the table

June 13, 2011


Just as Atascadero’s new Wal-Mart/Annex enters the final phase of approval, the first taxpayer gouge appears.

Due to a reported dispute between the developers (Wal-Mart & Rottman Group) over financing road/freeway improvements, city staff is asking the council for the power to negotiate taxpayer funding, changing current arrangements, i.e., developers pay for all traffic mitigations.

The city council will be asked to cede this authority to staff at its meeting Tuesday, June 14 at 6:00 PM.  They will receive strenuous opposition to doing so, especially to moving public information behind closed doors.

This dispute is over $3 million to $4.5 million to build two roundabouts at the U.S. Highway 101/Del Rio Road interchange, but the staff report states “Potential cost to the city is unknown”.  The city official requesting the negotiating power (Community Development Director Warren Frace) says that, although his staff report only mentions entering into “discussions”, the plan is to “negotiate” taxpayer subsidies and “compromise” on current arrangements for funding and timing of traffic improvements.

Behold the Trojan horse!

While his staff report states, about all the other traffic mitigations, “The costs… are not known at this time”, Mr. Frace says the developers know those costs, but haven’t informed the city.

According to the draft EIR, numerous and significant unresolved uncertainties complicate traffic mitigation, including failure to develop an “actual plan for mitigation”, acquire rights-of-way and ascertain other agencies’ roles.

So, while the practicality and financing of traffic modifications necessary to accommodate the Wal-Mart/Annex project remain in doubt, in dispute and unknown, the city council will consider letting staff open the door to taking Atascadero taxpayers to the cleaners.

Staff asserts the Wal-Mart/Rottman dispute has stalled the permitting process and necessitates staff involvement.

Doing so would:  break a six-year arrangement that Wal-Mart would pay for the interchange improvements, as explained by City Manager Wade McKinney in a 2005 email to then Councilmember George Luna, Walmart is expecting to deal with the Del Rio interchange and pay impact fees; violate current traffic mitigation financing arrangements, as described in the Draft EIR (developers pay); remove relevant information from public view; and reduce citizens’ ability to participate in decisions affecting them.

Lay down a marker!

The city council should stake out a firm position:

Reject Staff request for negotiating power.

Conduct discussions regarding funding for all traffic mitigations involving City Staff and potential taxpayer costs in public and on the record at City Council and Planning Commission meetings.

Summon Wal-Mart & Rottman to publicly explain the status of all traffic mitigation financing arrangements and any hindrances to finalizing them.
Declare the project applicants responsible for financing all traffic mitigations, prohibiting taxpayer subsidy of any.

Declare that all traffic improvements must be completed prior to any Wal-Mart/Annex business opening.

Stand up or get taken for a ride!

Atascadero taxpayers will either stand up now for public accountability and against subsidies for Wal-Mart, or discover later they’re footing the bill to bail-out Wal-Mart for the problems its store causes.  The council will either deny staff the power to sell out those it represents, or set them up for more corporate robbery down the road.  Citizens will either demand the council advocate for their interests, or hand the purse strings to Wal-Mart.

The city is running a deficit now, and digging into reserves to keep operating.  Can we afford to go broke picking up the tab for Wal-Mart’s responsibilities?

Stand up and speak out at Tuesday’s city council meeting, or be prepared to lose your shirt in back room deals.

Don’t let history repeat!

After receiving a series of inquiries and public records requests about contacts between city officials and developers and potential site retailers, City Manager Wade McKinney issued a memo to the council on May 18, 2006, denying any contacts with Wal-Mart.  By May 30, McKinney was forced to retract that falsehood and admit those contacts had occurred.

The city manager and attorney produced a chronology on June 24, 2006 showing city officials knew about and had been discussing an Atascadero Wal-Mart a year before it was publicly revealed (

Don’t let them hide the ball again!  The same people who kept citizens in the dark then are still running city hall.

David Broadwater is a long time Atascadero resident and a local activist.



  1. Randy Sheila says:

    No taxpayer $$ for mitigating impacts caused by big corps!!! This would be perceived as a pinnacle of public dishonesty and SO MUCH TRUST would be lost in a single decision – POLITICAL SUICIDE, whether you do or don’t want the mart.

    (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  2. justme says:

    Visit Kauai, explore the island and it’s natural beauty, I’ve been doing that for a couple decades. I like to study the locals wherever I am if not in the U.S. Hawaiians (natives) look, move and generally put out a vibe that they belong to all things natural more than we Haoles (whites). On my last visit there was an addition to the island, a fricken Wal-Mart! I went in, not to buy but to study what a local Hawaiian looks like under the intense articial lights, the mass advertising and general stench of Chinese crap stacked to the rafters. Not to overstate, but what I absorbed in that hideous craphole was a feeling of the end of reality, the death of all things natural, the “White Devil’s” perpetuation of evil upon all natural life. The loss of jobs and businesses that good Hawaiian people started and were making a living from, gone.
    Wal-Mart is nothing but a soul destroying, culture poisoning promise to save a dollar.
    So now on Kauai instead of buying some guavas from a Hawaiian lady at a rural roadside stand so that she may support her family locals get to save a dollar by dragging ass into Wal-mart to buy that guava from “it” because it was imported from who knows where.

    (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
    • Spirit Filled says:

      Sorry to hear Walmart has ruined Kuai. (My favorite island). Maybe they are buying from the locals. If not they should be boycotted. Next trip I am going to picket them maybe I will just move over there and retire. I could always get a job as a greeter. God Bless, instead I am going to move to Avalon, they will never get a Walmart. Hope the island is the same as when I graduated from HS there in 62. I love that place.

      (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  3. asthecrowphlies says:

    It’s a tried and true formula from Wally Mart . They act like they are coming to buy your eggs but what they are going to do is steal your chickens . Wally Mart has more lawyers than sin . They will poke , push , pull , threaten and put some greed on a # 2 razor sharp hook to troll for people , specially government people to make a deal . The road work and who pays for it is crap , that’s the eggs . There is no reason for that stuff to be worked out behind closed doors . They are eyeing the big prize , they want to steal ALL your chickens . It could be so many bad things for the community like keeping all the sales tax they collect for themselves over a given time . When that time is up Wally Mart will shut the store down , the city will realize they have received no sales tax money , they are broke , they have no money for lawyers to fight the store shut down , they have no money to bring other business in . This could be the for-shadowing of real ruin for Atascadero , I do not apologize for saying this , Atascadero officials … and people have proven they are foolish , gullible , and greedy .

    P.S. I am waiting for those fake posters from the Wally Mart mother ship that leave comments here like
    – I for one hate unions , they are so un-American

    – I for one can’t wait for the low prices

    – I for one know people that live in a magical land SOMEWHERE that work at a Wally Mart making $19.00 /hr .

    (7) 17 Total Votes - 12 up - 5 down
  4. Spirit Filled says:

    I am soooo excited about having a Walmart close or at least within 5 or 8 miles. Maybe I can become a greeter rather than trying to become the Atrashcadero’s new city manager. I can sing and dance right in front of every new customer that walks through the door. I will learn where every product is so I can tell the customers where to go to find what they want.
    Just think people, we get to spend a lot of time in the parking lot looking for an empty space to park in, we get to stand in line for the better part of the day, and we will have all the cheap item’s from China that we can ever use.
    I am very much for getting the Walmart in. I hear their prices on med’s are cheaper and not from China. Oh now, I’m really getting excited.
    The most fun part is going to be watching the City Council spending all the new tax money we are going to get from this huge new store. More payoffs, higher pay, and an even nicer down town area. Actually I think the Walmart makes us a destination, too bad it is outside the downtown area. We are going to be screwed if Templeton puts in a Walmart, and a movie theater. There goes the neighborhood. God Bless you all.

    (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
  5. SewerHeightsRez says:

    Wal-Mart has thrown down the gauntlet and threatened the workshy, inbred citizines of Atrashcabama with employment so naturally they are rising up in opposition.

    (-4) 16 Total Votes - 6 up - 10 down
  6. LittleAcorn says:

    Oh great. It looks to me that the city is courting Wal-Mart because they feel that a big company is guaranteed sales tax income. But how far should a community go to bring in a company that in my opinion will kill off many of the local businesses?

    I’m also not fond of traffic circles. Cities like them because they are cheap to maintain. I don’t think that a traffic circle is appropriate for a development that is supposed to be a major traffic producer.

    (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down
    • r0y says:

      To wal-mart or not to wal-mart: that is always the big question for little town, America.

      As for roundabouts, they are not only economical, but do have less accidents and are better for overall traffic flow. Personal preferences aside, most here do not like them, as we’ve not really been trained to use them (think back to driver’s ed, or your kid’s driver’s ed… no mention that I recall).

      However, there are some problems with roundabouts if they are sized incorrectly: too large, and cars get too fast to allow people in/out safely (higher rate of accidents); too small, and it just clutters under heavy traffic.

      So far, the few in use in SLO and SB counties seem sized right for their flow, but that still leaves public training. How many times have I seen someone in the right lane continue around and not exit? That’s just poor driving or an uninformed driver. Left lane is for circulation, right lane is for exiting (think turn lane only).

      Either way, Wal Mart needs to pay for these, and the Council should not cede their legal duties to unelected bureaucrats. Accountability and Transparency need to be paramount, especially in these times.

      (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
    • my2cents says:

      What local businesses will be affected? Paso Robles thrives and they have a Wal-Mart! Come on Atrashcadero people, stop whining and let Wal-Mart in. I live in Templeton so it doesnt matter to me, but it would be nice to have Wal-Mart on the way home from work to get my groceries and neccessities. Atrashcadero needs the sales tax that Wal-Mart will bring in to help make Atrashcadero look like a beautiful Atascadero!

      (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down

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