Wal-Mart proposal doesn’t follow Marina’s general plan.
Thursday, April 6, 2006
According to the City of Marina’s general plan, all regional retail sales stores must be built at the University Villages development site. By all accounts, Wal-Mart is a regional retail store, and the Marina Landing Shopping Center is not in University Villages.
The General Plan is intended to guide land use decisions. This plan was amended and adopted by the current City Council just last year.
What’s more, the document states that the Marina Landing Shopping Center be set aside for “the majority of future local-serving retail and personal-serving uses.”
According to Amy Minteer, a land-use attorney in Los Angeles, city leaders are legally bound to follow a city’s general plan.
“If the City knew that this area used to be a regional shopping center, and amended the general plan to say all regional centers must go at another site, an argument could be made that they were thinking about that.” In other words, the Council stated its intention to prohibit regional retail, like Wal-Mart, at the Marina Landing Shopping Center.
When asked how the City can OK a plan to build a Wal-Mart in the shopping center in light of the 2005 general plan, Marina Councilman Gary Wilmot says the answer is simple.
Wilmot explains that the permit for a big-box store located at the shopping center stems back to a 1992 decision based on an earlier version of the general plan, which allowed Kmart to be built on the property. Since Wal-Mart is moving into the old Kmart site, based on an existing zoning permit that predates 2005, it doesn’t have to abide by rules in the most-recent general plan.
“In the future, we’re not going to put another regional shopping center anywhere [that the general plan prohibits it],” Wilmot says. For now, however, “you can’t un-ring a bell.”
To Quinton Roland, a former employee with Marina’s planning department and now an independent planning consultant, the wording in the general plan and other City planning documents nonetheless creates a dilemma for the City Council.
“The Downtown Committee report, the general plan, the City’s Economic Development Strategic Plan, all discourage big-box development at the site,” Roland says. “If they think there’s nothing they can do, they’re clearly out of touch with their sworn duty to uphold and implement their own adopted policies, which are the result of countless hours of work.”
Steve and Tina Zmak, organizers of Citizens Against Wal-Mart in Marina, are attempting to derail the Wal-Mart deal via another route. Last week, they asked the Planning Commission to consider if the developers who acquired a zoning permit on Oct. 13 (which enabled Wal-Mart to move into Marina) made false promises to the commission to get the permit.
Developers Terence Tallen and Anne Keshen of Tallen and Keshen Holdings, however, vehemently deny that they misled the commission.
“We were speaking conceptually about the plans,” says Keshen, referring to promises made to the Planning Commission about improvements to the shopping center.
At the Oct. 13 meeting, Tallen told commissioners that his company would complete a series of fixes to the old K-Mart building—like repaving the parking lot—before approaching potential retailers.
Instead, about a month after Tallen closed on the property, Wal-Mart approached Tallen and Keshen about possibly buying the property—an encounter that came to a fruitful conclusion for both parties, which signed a lease on Feb. 23.
“We didn’t do anything wrong,” says Tallen, adding that the company paid for work at old K-Mart site, like replacing windows and restarting the electricity. “What we said is being spun and stretched to try to create a way to get at Wal-Mart. We ask that people back off the transparent tactic against us and deal with Wal-Mart.”
Nevertheless, the Zmaks believe that the Planning Commission was misled, and ought to reverse its decision to let the lease to move forward. That, they believe, would allow the City to follow the requirements of its general plan.