La Verne residents packed into the La Verne Community Center Monday to voice their opinions about a proposed Walmart coming to town.
Both city officials and Walmart representatives presented information about the possibility of a Walmart Neighborhood Market.
Walmart Neighborhood Markets are smaller versions of the traditional Walmarts and are essentially grocery stores.
The location Walmart is hoping to move into is 1375 Foothill Blvd, near Pick Up Stix and Frisella’s Roastery.
The space has been vacant for over a year since Steinmart closed.
Community members were invited to ask questions and share opinions.
That was when chaos erupted.
About 80 La Verne residents attended the meeting, causing the question and answer segment to last almost an hour and a half.
La Verne residents applauded and cheered as individuals expressed disapproval.
Groans could be heard as Walmart Director of Community Affairs Javier Angulo responded to concerns.
Hal Fredricksen, head of the community development department, had to step in to restore order as residents spoke out of turn.
Only one La Verne community member spoke out in support.
Hope Moreno said she welcomes a Walmart neighborhood because as a senior on a fixed income she appreciated the low prices at Walmart.
She already goes to Walmart once a month, and would prefer to do so closer to home. She said the store would also allow her daughter, who has a disability, to be more independent.
Other community members did not feel the same.
Three main issues arose: the type of consumers that shop at Walmart, the quality of goods and as to why more La Verne residents were not notified of the hearing.
“I don’t want La Verne to be known as discount city,” Rose Bobela, La Verne resident, said.
“I want to be known as a great little city in the Foothills.”
Residents voiced their opinion that they would prefer a health food store such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods to go into the spot instead.
Senior Vice President Nadia Gilmore from Leasing at Combined Properties, a company that places tenants in properties and Walmart, presented information at the meeting.
The company manages the La Verne Commons and Foothill Plaza shopping centers and says that Walmart is a good fit for the space and community.
“I’ve often heard Walmart is a category killer and hurts small businesses,” Gilmore said.
“We don’t want to bring in a tenant that would hurt others.”
Angulo said the Walmart Neighborhood would bring healthy food at competitive prices.
Walmart labels healthy food with “good for you” labels to help consumers pick the healthiest options.
Angulo also said the food at the proposed location would be locally sourced and purchased directly from farmers.
“We thought people would want to shop local, stay local and not expend resources to get to the closest Walmart,” Angulo said.
Additionally, a Walmart neighborhood would create 65 jobs.
Eric Scherer, project planner, presented next.
There are two existing grocery stores on Foothill Blvd: Stater Brothers and Vons.
The city notified neighborhoods within 1,400 feet of the property to see the resident’s thoughts on adding a third.
Two private studies are being conducted independent from the one another. One focuses on parking and the other involves a fiscal analysis.
When the studies are complete, residents will be notified of the next public hearing on the future of a Walmart Neighborhood Market.
Tyler Harrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.