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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This is why I fully believe SLO is full of sh¡t when they claim to only need $8.3M for the LOVR interchange near the ARCO. Am I to believe that expanding a freeway overpass and adjacent roads is going to be cheaper than a few round-a-bouts in A-Town?


If one reads the recent “receive and file” report to the city council, construction on the interchange would not start until 2017 at the earliest … but typically 2020.

In the meantime analysts say Walmart should be closing stores rather than opening supercenters.

A key factor in the placement of the new smaller stores is closer to population centers. e.g. the new Santa Maria store. Would the Atascadero site still qualify?

With a smaller store Walmart would likely pay even less for the interchange.

Reality emerging.

Rich in MB

I can’t wait to shop at the New Walmart….yippee….


Don’t hold your breath. The over/under to open might be 2019.


I have left the area, then the country and coming back to the country. This is all over a

twenty year period….and this is STILL GOING ON?????? Are you people quite insane?


Bend over…..


LOL! Are you serious? The costs escalated because of lengthy delays in the approval process. Who caused those?


Maybe it is both?


Did you read the article? It explains he increases and the reasons are not from delays….


You really think they’d have built during the recession? Get some smarts.

Babak Naficy

The City should try to rectify this, but even if the City is not able to force Walmart to pay a

“fair” share, it still cannot dip into the sewer repair money to pay for roads. Under state law,

the city cannot tap into the sewer fund to pay for roads. I also think that if the City’s estimate was based on the calculations of a consultant, that consultant should be investigated and

ultimately held accountable for this horrible mistake. What I don’t think the city should do is just to roll over.


You get what you pay for.


You meant to say – you get what you VOTED for!