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Walmart has snuck in through the back door of Encinitas, almost unnoticed. The giant retailer has already pulled permits to start construction at a vacant 105,000-square-foot store on the corner of Leucadia Boulevard and Calle Barcelona.

To the chagrin of many Encinitas residents, Walmart avoided the public review process by negotiating directly with the building's leaseholder, Home Depot. Even though it closed its Expo store over three years ago, Home Depot still maintained the lease on the building. By not proposing a new building (the site is in the already heavily commercialized Encinitas Ranch Specific Plan area), Walmart was able to abide by zoning regulations.

On Wednesday, September 28, the city council informed the 20 residents who showed up at the meeting that there was nothing the city could do to stop Walmart. After the lease arrangement between Home Depot and Walmart was a done deal, Walmart approached the city and was able to meet all zoning and building codes by not proposing a change to the exterior of the building. The only change required is the walling off of 8000 square feet of floor space, making it an unusable “dead zone”; the reduction of the store's area will bring Walmart into compliance with the required five parking spaces for every 1000 square feet.

The six speakers that addressed the council, including former mayor Sheila Cameron, demanded that the city take action. One said that Home Depot ignored the 150 letters opposing the lease deal. A representative from the Leucadia Town Council said she had never received as many emails as she had about the Walmart issue. Another speaker said the UltraStar Cinemas chain expressed an interest in the Expo building, but Home Depot did not negotiate with them.

The city's attorney said that since Walmart has met all zoning requirements and the 15-day window for a citizen-filed appeal expired last week, there was nothing the city could do. Two councilpersons advised the residents opposed to Walmart to not shop there.

My February 27, 2010, article followed up on a rumor that Walmart was coming to Encinitas. At that time, Encinitas head planner Tom Curriden denied anyone in his department had formally talked to Walmart — contrary to an item written by a well-connected columnist for the Coast News.

In recent years, residents in San Marcos and Inglewood have succeeded in stopping Walmart with citizen-backed ballot initiatives. Last year, San Diego backed off on its proposed legislation against “big box” retailers after Walmart announced a legal challenge to the ordinance.

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Visduh Sept. 29, 2011 @ 9:54 a.m.

This is a tough one. That huge structure sitting empty was a real waste. The city is very hungry for sales tax, and a Wally's World is typically a big generator of revenue for the host city. Yep, Walmart pulled a fast one, totally legally, on that one. They had been coveting Encinitas or almost-Encinitas (the Rancho Santa Fe road location just over in San Marcos) for a long time. With the added traffic that a WM will pull into that area, many other retailers will probably benefit. Nothing was mentioned in this piece as to whether it will be a Walmart Supercenter (the type with the full offering of food) or a regular store (which now offers quite a bit of food.)

There may be hell to pay about this with the locals, but I have a hunch it will happen.

As far as Ultra-Star Cinemas being interested in the site, keep in mind that they just recently closed up three theater multiplexes in coastal north county. If they were really "interested" they would have acted, and this Walmart deal would have never been made.


notreadonme Sept. 29, 2011 @ 2:09 p.m.

What's sad is that it will drive away the current customers of the other established shops there (REI, Pei Wei, Islands) because of the chaotic traffic and slummy standards that Wal-Mart is famous for.

I, personally, will never go to that center again. I used to go at least once a week. I also will not go to the Home Depot in Encinitas ever again.

In the end, it will turn the entire area there into a completely different feel. If I lived in La Costa Valley across the street, I would be livid and boycott Encinitas altogether.

Shame on you, Encinitas City Council. You should have gone above and beyond to make citizens aware of the filing instead of allowing these bullies to sneak in without any real notice.


Visduh Sept. 29, 2011 @ 4:52 p.m.

You are entitled to your opinion and you can refuse to shop anywhere and everywhere. The "slummy standards" to which you refer tend to vary from Walmart to Walmart. In truth, the landlord has plenty to do with the conditions in the parking lot, and if it wants to do so, can insist that Walmart keep the lot very clean. There is a world of difference between two Walmarts in highway 78. The newer one off of College Blvd seems much cleaner and more inviting than the one off Sycamore in Vista.

There is a vast amount of parking in front of that former Expo Design building, and the danger of patrons of REI and the eateries you mention having no place to park is most unlikely. In fact, I predict that REI will see an increase in sales due to all the additional traffic into and out of the center.

You are right that the city council should have publicized this far more than it did, and allowed more public comment. That city government secretly welcomes this because of all the sales tax revenue it will bring. The council members can talk out of both sides of their mouths on this one. But those who vocally favored it may have to kiss their council seats goodbye come next election.


Ken Harrison Sept. 29, 2011 @ 8:52 p.m.

Hey Visduh, The store is too small for a full sized WM grocery store. But WM has been opening some smaller stores recently, realizing they are losing business from people that can't just run in for a few items anymore becuase of the large size. I think they are understanding that they can't be all things to all people, like the remodeled Oceanside store took out its paint and yardage departments. You can't mix and sell paint as well as HD or Lowes, so use the space for something others can't sell, like $5.00 tennis shoes.


Visduh Sept. 30, 2011 @ 8:57 p.m.

I've heard that that elimination of the yardage and a few other steps were a Wal-Mart attempt to go upscale, and those changes backfired, and that they've reinstated them. Who actually sews nowadays? Someone does for sure. What store was it that WM remodeled? The oldest in north county is the store in Vista that was recently expanded into a Supercenter. They're remodeling stores that have scarcely had the paint dry?

I have noted that the newest store in Oceanside, the one off College Blvd, has no auto center. No tires, no batteries, and no oil changes. Was that an attempt to go upscale for the Carlsbad folks, the ones that store was really intended to serve?


oliver81 Sept. 19, 2019 @ 12:15 a.m.

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