LANCASTER – About 50 residents came out Monday for an Informational Rally at the intersection of 60th Street West and Avenue L.
Residents chanted “No more Walmart!” and flashed signs at passing motorists. They also handed out nearly 2,000 flyers, according to organizers. (See the flyer here).
The rally was organized by Quartz Hill Cares to raise awareness about plans for a Walmart Supercenter at 60th Street West and Avenue L and to encourage residents to attend a city council meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 11) to voice their opposition.
“We need all concerned business owners, parents, students, teachers and citizens to come to the city council meeting on Tuesday,” said Quartz Hill Cares co-founder Loretta Berry. “If you oppose this project, a Walmart Supercenter next to a high school, you need to come to the council meeting and speak out against it.”
Berry said she is one of hundreds of residents who have been battling for more than five years against the city’s plans to construct a 344,752 square-foot commercial shopping center that would include a 196,028 square-foot Walmart (excluding the garden center).
Berry said there are many reasons why residents oppose the project, but three main reasons usually top the list.
“Number one, it’s next to a California distinguished high school, one of the best schools in the Antelope Valley,” Berry said. “People move to the Quartz Hill area specifically to send their kids to Quartz Hill High School, and now they’re putting in a supercenter next to the high school, which is going to sell alcohol?”
“Statistics show that all small businesses die within two to five years of Walmart going in, it’s going to be a ghost town,” Berry said.
And finally, Berry said a Walmart Supercenter in Quartz Hill will drastically affect the quality of life for residents.
“Most people move to Quartz Hill and the westside for the quality of life, because we want to get away from the city, the traffic, the noise and garbage,” Berry said. “They put that four-lane road that they’re going to have to put in for the Walmart to be out there and traffic is going to increase, the noise is going to increase, the pollution is going to increase and it’s going to be horrible.”
Lancaster city officials disagree. They said the project will bring 865 construction jobs and 927 permanent jobs to the community, according to a city news release.
The two sides have battled since 2006, when the project was first conceived.
Berry and several local residents packed a pair of public meetings in 2009 and passionately opposed the project before both the Planning Commission and the City Council.
Still, an environment impact report (EIR), along with other actions, was approved by both the Planning Commission and the City Council, paving the way for the project to move forward.
Quartz Hill Cares obtained an attorney and challenged the EIR in court. The Los Angeles Superior Court denied the challenge in 2010, but the group scored a victory this year when California’s 2nd District Court of Appeals reversed the Superior Court’s decision.
“We won the lawsuit on a defective EIR,” Berry said.
In a news release issued shortly after the decision, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said, “Along with the developer and Wal-Mart, we are of course disappointed that the Court of Appeal would reverse the decision reached by the Superior Court on the basis of one aspect of a comprehensive and voluminous EIR.”
“The City Council, along with Wal-Mart, will now consider options to supplement the record in support of the EIR, which is compliant in all other aspects,” Parris continued. Read more here.
The Quartz Hill Walmart project is back, and appears on the agenda for Tuesday’s (Dec. 11) council meeting. The Council will decide whether to recertify the previously prepared EIR, along with a newly prepared addendum that addresses the issue identified in the appeals court ruling. Read the staff report here.
“We knew they’d try again. We’re ready,” said Berry, who is encouraging residents to show up in force at City Hall and oppose the Walmart plan.
“The city officials, the council and the mayor, they work for us, and we need to let them know what we think,” Berry said. “People need to come out and let their voices be heard.”
The Lancaster City Council meeting takes place at 5 p.m., Tuesday in the Council Chambers at City Hall, located at 44933 Fern Avenue in Lancaster.
UPDATED 12/11 @ 11:40 p.m.: After more than four hours of testimony Tuesday night – both for and against the Walmart project – the Lancaster City Council unanimously approved all resolutions necessary to allow the Quartz Hill Walmart project to move forward. We will have more on this story on 12/12.