WalMart to cost Atascadero more than $11 million

September 29, 2014


While it may come as a shock to some, those of us in Save Atascadero and other citizens who warned Atascadero’s staff, council, and planning commission that WalMart traffic mitigation costs could skyrocket and leave the city and taxpayers on the hook, were not at all surprised by the recent revelation that what was touted as a $4.5 million dollar city/taxpayer project is now estimated to be closer to $12 million.

How could professional city planners and council members, the stewards of taxpayers’ monies, have approved a project without knowing the true costs and liabilities? Why the discrepancy between the original traffic mitigation costs and the current estimates for the 101 Del Rio interchange roundabouts?
The answers can be found in WalMart’s business model and modus operandi, and the city staff and council wanting only to see and hear what was financially feasible for the city.

WalMart is notorious for working city governments for subsidies to off-set the costs of their development.

Initially, WalMart agreed, as reported first by the former city manager in a 2005 email to then Councilman George Luna, that they would cover all the expenses of traffic mitigation identified in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The Annex developers at that time, the Rottman Group, were under the same impression.

When WalMart reneged on this promise, and stated they would only pay their “fair share,” Steven Rottman wrote about it angrily in a Tribune Viewpoint dated Nov. 15, 2011.

Knowing that their share would be a percentage of the total cost, WalMart’s engineering firm, EDA, who supplied the costs for the EIR, low-balled the cost of these traffic mitigations. As the recent staff report points out, EDA’s estimate “did not include the costs for design, inspection, environmental document preparation, permitting, materials testing and other ‘soft costs.’”

Moreover, the original estimate ignored the wildly expensive costs of widening the Del Rio overpass to include sidewalks and a third traffic lane, requirements of Cal Trans, that were pointed out in the EIR hearings and citizen written concerns.
In fact, Community Development Director Warren Frace told the chamber of commerce that if the cost of the traffic mitigation and the city’s responsibility to construct these two roundabouts approached anywhere near $11 million, then the project was dead. Routine traffic fees and borrowing from the taxpayers’ generated sewer fund would not be enough to cover these costs.
Then, the EIR was recirculated and it was determined that lo and behold, WalMart could build their supercenter first (before any annex stores) and without having to construct the two roundabouts on each side of the Del Rio 101overpass, simultaneously with the third roundabout at El Camino and Del Rio as recommended by Cal Trans.

But, if there were a cost “overrun” on this part of the project, WalMart would be capped at paying up to a measly $200,000 extra. This was placed in the EIR as a condition only after Save Atascadero met with the city staff and engineer and raised the question, what if the costs of mitigation were much higher?

Now, not surprisingly, the city is looking for a sales tax increase without dedicating what the funds will be used for. Ostensively, the staff and council are verbally promising that it is to repair our shabby roads. But don’t be surprised again if these funds, were the measures E-14 and F-14 on November’s ballot to pass, are used to subsidize WalMart, the richest retailer in the world.

Tom Comar is the spokesperson for Save Atascadero.

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And how much less would eveything have cost if done back when this first came up and before all the delays due to NIMBY’s. The Prado road overpass in SLO would have cost less if done when it was first proposed the way it is now the cost keeps sky rocketing because of delays caused by types like the SLO mayor, Copeland Bros, and others with hidden interests. The Los Osos sewer is another example. One camps goes for all the delays, forcing costs up and when they run out of chances start complaining about the cost of the proposed project, Well duh….it didn’t cost that much inthe begining.


You start with a good question and then immediately jump to a negative answer. There probably is a cost associated with the delays but you provide no evidence that it is the primary cost involved in the huge cost overrun. I am not saying you are wrong but I won’t make the automatic assumption that you are right either.


This happens ALL the time. Happened in Paso on the Niblick bridge expansion. It got held up here, delayed there and costs went up. You know, concrete, steel, labor, overhead etc. Better to always do asap. More time=more money..


Costs always go up. Estimates are just that, and when they’re done years in advance, all bets are off. Your politics blind you to the facts.

B Spencer

I used to have the nicest chats with the gals at the water department when I made my payment each month…good small town stuff!

During our time in Atascadero we were fortunate to have the support of many local organizations, as well as loyal customers. We miss that too!

We wish the residents and remaining locally owned businesses all the best moving forward,

John & Beatrice Spencer

Jorge Estrada

How much of the very limited COG Dollars will be spent on this new proposal for WalMart while ignoring the existing need for COG Dollars on that stretch of 101 between Santa Margarita and San Luis Obispo. Hit any cross traffic or a bicyclist peddling along the (zoooom) open highway lately? There are new laws so don’t get caught being under insured and remember the risk continues to shift more on you who have.


Anyone with half a brain could have seen this train wreck coming.

The city gets stuck with the reponsibility of the two roundabouts on both side of Hwy 101 and Wal Mart only has to do the roundabout on El Camino because they claim that is their “fair share” I swear Atascadero folks come off as sharp as a box of rocks.

Watch them vote for the slaes tax increase and then complain when the only improvements to roadways go to benefit Wal mart.

Wait till the city diverts sewer funds to help pay for the roundabouts and then come at the citizens with a bond issue when the sewer infrastructure needs repair.

Great thinking Atascadero …”I’ll pay 11 million for Wal marts roundabouts so I can save 15 cents on a roll of toiletpaper ” BRILLIANT absolutely BRILLIANT !!!


Dont forget that Atascadero picked the Wallace Group to do the engineering on the roundabouts. Considering the Wallace Group’s track record what could possibly go wrong?


Good point. I wondered if anyone else noticed that.


If it’s anything like how it goes down here, UNLESS you choose Wallace, the project never moves forward. Gotta play the game, AND pay the piper!


And that Madonna Enterprises is mixed up in the Annex cost over-runs. Guess who’s running the Yes on G campaign in SLO? Madonna’s head man. Do you suppose he’d like to use G’s funds for his “fair share” dealings?


Mr. COLMAR, i thoroughly enjoyed your opinion piece and how you “mysteriously” left out one huge piece of the puzzle. SLOCOG funding. Now why should we care? Well, SLOCOG, our regional transportation agency, is in charge of giving out funds. Well, improving this interchange really begins to move up the list because it does one of two things: 1) reduce the amount of vehicle miles traveled and 2) reduce GHG emissions from extra trips folks from Atascadero do every single day and week to buy basic goods from walmart and other places in San Luis and Paso. This is consistent with the region’s sustainable communities strategy, thus a greater amount of funding can be committed to the project, but again, you always have an agenda.

For someone that sued the City claiming that the project violated CEQA and all the other bugs and bunnies, you sure are hell bent to not see the good in cleaning up air emissions, but then again, it was never about the environment, right Tom? It was about the grocery unions using you as patsy to stop free market choice. Did the union money run out Tom? Why don’t you exercise that choice by not shopping there when it gets built and stop telling others how to spend their money. We want to keep our dollars local.


If you wanted to keep your dollars local you would’t set foot in a Wallyworld ever! The only bucks returned to local from them are the low wages and Tax subsidies their employees qualify for because their wages are so low. Wallyworlds suck the money out of communities and send it to China and shareholder pockets.


just remember; the older you get the better you like Wal*Mart


WalMart and Atascadero seem to go together. Ever see the photo spins on the shoppers at Wal Mart circulating the internet?


Walmart offers yet another reason to stay the hell out of Atascadero. The city should never have incorporated until it had leaders intelligent enough to make rational decisions.Trader Joe’s recognized this and opted instead for Templeton. Meanwhile, Atascadero remains the armpit of the county. A place where travelers can pull over and empty out their ashtrays.


Trader Joe’s opted for Templeton because of demographics and market. They can serve both Atascadero and Paso Robles from Templeton. They don’t have the market to put a store in both town, like WalMart is doing.

Mr. Holly

Trader Joe’s didn’t come to Atascadero because they did not trust then Mayor Tom O’Malley and the City of Atascadero. O’Malley had $2 million to put on the table from developers and they still didn’t trust him.

Maybe O’Malley is why no one else will come to Atascadero.

Atascadero will have a chance to change that on Nov. 4th. since he running again.


unlisted, and we all know all the granola eating, birkenstock, razor deprived shopping at Trader Joes believe they are a home grown outfit….right?


Trader Joe’s is really good at one thing: making folks believe they’re shopping at a small hometown market full of fresh, unique, wonderfully trendy items. In fact, these items are merely packaged for them with their label, they’re also sold elsewhere with other labels.


Regardless, if you think a big box store should go in or not, I still don’t understand why Walmart didn’t put in a Sam’s Club? From Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz, there not a single one on the Central Coast.


They go for the smaller grocery spaces so they don’t have to fight the grocery unions. Once they get in, they expand the grocery floor space, come look in AG to see.


Give it up, Colmar. You and Perkins lost after denying jobs and shopping opportunities and sales tax base for about a tenth of a century, an admittedly impressive accomplishment in municipal “our-nutjob group-knows-best” lore.

Get on some other boondoggle bandwagon like banning cardboard pizza boxes or something. Governor Moonbeam will sign that one for you. The town has had enough of your meddling.


Well, L.C., I gotta say you are aptly named… I note that your entire rant is dissing the messenger…nothing to say about the content? I guess you therefore agree, Walmart is screwing the citizens of Atascadero out of 11+ million bucks.

What is it with these people that just can’t stand the idea of driving 10 minutes to the nearest Walmart? You figure A-Town isn’t trashy enough with miles of strip mall? You just gotta have the lowest common denominator in town? Kill off a few more local businesses?

I’m not suggesting Walmart should be illegal, I just think it insane that the city would PAY to have those vultures move in. Millions of dollars for the privilege of shopping for the cheapest imported consumer crap…. mind boggling….


My posting focused on the messenger because he’s a lawsuit happy looney whipping the dusty bones of a long dead horse.

Extremism in delay against a publicly popular project is costly and harmful, and since Comar and Perkins were the center and were the willing public faces of the opposition, my remarks are appropriate. Others posting here have filled in their take on the details of infrastructure financing and I elected to not belabor their points, nor to address the fantasyland of CEQA.

Cat, your wish to impose your idealistic view of merchants and stores on all of us others is the same problem as Comar. You appear to know “best” beyond the free spending public who will vote with their dollars.

Sorry your vision for A town isn’t followed. I remember the county in the 50’s and no amount of obstructionism or sentimentality will bring back Orcutts little market, the Ocean House, Hope and Larry’s, 10 cent used magazines at the second hand store on ECR, or $ 300 an acre rangeland.

You will be proud to know, Cat, that your brand of obstructionism IS working in other jurisdictions. According to a franchisee partner I spoke to, the ridiculous Los Osos requirement of 600 retrofitted homes to offset the proposed McDonald’s water use JUST MAY end the viability of that project. 600 homes, 1200 toilets, 1200+ showerheads and faucets for a needed fast food, breakfast and coffee restaurant.


OK, I get it; anyone that disagrees with YOUR vision is an obstructionist. I don’t have a vision for A-town; I just think it totally ridiculous for the city to PAY for walmart’s freight. I guess this is your idea of free-market capitalism? Aptly named, LC, indeed.


LC, you are the BEST!


LC, you are the BEST! You must have property in Morro Bay and aware of our nut job mayor and city council members Schmuckler and Christine, I drive my car with wesson oil Johnson. LMBO!

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