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Merchants, City Council Divided Over Plans For Walmart Store In Chinatown

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(credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

(credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A campaign led by City Council members to limit the number of chain stores in Chinatown could be at odds with residents and business owners.

Councilman Ed Reyes will propose an ordinance on Friday that would temporarily prohibit the approval of building permits for retail chain stores and other businesses with standardized designs and uniform.

The proposal comes as box store giant Walmart has signaled plans to open a store in Chinatown — a plan that Reyes said would threaten small business as well as the neighborhood’s unique flavor of architecture.

The retail giant has proposed building a 33,000-square-foot facility on a vacant lot at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues.

Democrats Rep. Judy Chu and Assemblyman Mike Eng of El Monte will stand on Friday with a community group called Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy to speak out over concerns about negative community and local economic impacts from Walmart’s planned Chinatown grocery store.

But despite the political uproar, at least some local merchants said they would welcome the presence of a major retailer such as Walmart.

“We’re asking for a choice to not have our residents drive out to the San Gabriel Valley to shop, to Pasadena, spending their time, money at restaurants and bakeries and other services out in the San Gabriel Valley,” said George Yu with the Chinatown Business Improvement District. “We need to keep the money here in Chinatown.”

Gary Toebben with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce said the city can hardly afford to turn away any retailers in the current economic climate.

“There are vacant buildings all over this city that are waiting for a new tenant, and we should celebrate when a new tenant steps forward,” said Toebben. “There are unemployed residents all over Los Angeles who are waiting for the opportunity to apply for a job, and we should celebrate when companies want to hire our residents.”

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