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About 60 protesters gathered early Wednesday morning in front of the Farmers Market Building, a historic Sherman Heights structure, dating to the 1920s, whose tower and grain silo are visible to drivers on Interstate 5.

At issue was the apparent demolition of the building begun without notice yesterday afternoon on behalf of Walmart, which has announced plans to open a store on the site. Community leaders said the company had previously promised to preserve the “historical integrity” of the building, which they took to mean that the building’s exterior would not be altered.

Last week, a coalition of community and labor groups published an open letter to the retail giant, following up on a meeting at which local residents voiced their concerns regarding the new store’s impact on the neighborhood. At that time, the community was expecting a response by April 12, but those gathered this morning said all communication had been cut off by Walmart.

Protesters questioned whether Walmart had obtained permits for the level of demolition that was being performed. A worker from Steve Julius Construction of San Clemente, when asked to provide proof that proper permits had been obtained, told police that “Walmart has directed us not to [release information].”

At some point during the night, an individual or group gained access to the top of the pink tower and hung a banner reading “Occupy Sherman.”

San Diego city councilman David Alvarez arrived around 7 a.m. By then, protesters had locked arms in front of the entrance to the construction site and began chanting, “Show us the permits!”

“We don’t know yet,” said Alvarez when questioned as to whether the proper demolition permits were in place. “It was a little surprising when we got the call [from citizens reporting the demolition] yesterday.”

Alvarez said it would take several hours for the city to conduct a review of what Walmart and its contractors were allowed to do to the property, and if they had moved to demolish the historic site without permission, punitive actions would be taken.

“My understanding is that the city attorney’s office will be involved . . . they may assess some penalties and corrective action may be taken,” Alvarez explained.

As of 8:00 this morning, protesters remained in place while construction workers milled about in front of a fenced parking lot across the street, with no sign that work was set to begin.

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TaxiManSteve April 19, 2012 @ 5:31 a.m.

Seriously?  This should be a PR nightmare for Walmart during any other time.  Guess this is symbolic of this Age of Diminished Expectations.



Javajoe25 April 19, 2012 @ 9:36 a.m.

It's more than symbolic of diminished expectations, Taximan;

It's a trend that has been going on for quite some time in this country: the big box replacing the local retailers, mom & pops, etc.. I instinctively react in the negative to this kind of development, but I do wonder sometimes which option really helps or hurts the community.

Consider; the farmers market provided opportunities for merchants from far and near to sell their produce, foodstuff, and merchandise, but the fact is, there are not many farms in Sherman Heights, so the primary benefit was to the consumers. I imagine some local folks managed to get jobs assisting with the process; helping set up; loading and unloading, sales, etc. Not sure what I would guess they made pay-wise, and I doubt there was much in the way of benefits such as medical insurance and the like.

Then when I consider what Walmart will bring to the community: quite a few retail jobs, shipping & receiving positions; stocking, maintenance, security, cashiers, managers, supervisors, etc., I have to wonder whether this is a gain or loss for the community.

Yes, the landscape will be different; and yes, the jobs will not pay very well and I'm not sure what the benefits story is with Walmart although their rep is that it stinks. But, consider all the local people who will be going in there and buying their food and merchandise at considerably lower prices. That's got to be worth something too.

Like I said, I'm not thrilled with this trend of big boxes replacing local retailers. I realize what is lost is the more personal relationships that we have with the butcher, the baker, etc., and those people lose their chance to sell to us. But I also see that an army of people go to work at Walmart every day. They may not make much money individually, but it is more than they were making the day before they got hired. And there is a lot more of them than there were butchers, bakers, and what have you.

I think rather than try to stop these changes, which seem inevitable and popular once they are established, we ought to be fighting for higher wages and better benefits for Walmart employees. That's what would really benefit the community the most. Rather than fight to keep the neighborhood the way it has been for many years, we ought to be fighting to modernize things, and if that means Walmarts, then so be it, but at least we will have more money coming into the community and an alternative to paying the outrageous prices charged by Ralph's, Vons, and Trader Joe's.


Dave Rice April 19, 2012 @ 12:24 p.m.

Thanks for the balanced and well thought-out commentary, Javajoe.

Many of the protesters present yesterday say they did attempt what you're suggesting - asking Wal-Mart for local hiring, better wages/benefits, and other things that would make them welcome in the community. They also claim that Wal-Mart allowed a deadline for a response from the company to pass and then cut off all communication. Click here for that story.


Javajoe25 April 20, 2012 @ 12:09 a.m.


Yes, I've read of the community's efforts to get Walmart to agree to certain standards. Not surprised they were ignored, but I think Walmart is in for a surprise because this particular community is one of the strongest and most cohesive in all of San Diego. If community and labor leaders were to throw up picket lines when the store opens, I seriously doubt those lines will be crossed by any local people, and would discourage others from coming back to the store a second time.

Walmart seems to think its executives can live like kings while the rest of us can live like refugees. For the fiscal year ending January 31, 2011, Wal-Mart reported a net income of $15.4 billion on $422 billion of revenue with a 24.7% gross profit margin. I think they can afford to do a little better when it comes to paying their employees. I would love nothing more than to see this location be the one that convinces them it is time they did.


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