Keep one, unsupersized Wal-Mart

Heather Schlaff, a Chico resident since 1992, has been involved in coordinating opposition to Wal-Mart’s proposed expansion for three years.

For the past three years, Wal-Mart has been seeking city approval for two proposals: to expand its existing store into a Supercenter at the south end of town, and to build a second Supercenter just 7.5 miles north at the intersection of Garner Lane and Highway 99. Draft environmental-impact reports (EIRs) for each proposal are expected to be complete and ready for public comment during the summer.

Chico Advocates for a Responsible Economy (C.A.R.E.) opposes both the expansion of the existing store and the construction of a new Wal-Mart Supercenter in north Chico. We believe two Supercenters are unnecessary and inconsistent with responsible growth. We do not oppose nor wish to close the existing Forest Avenue Wal-Mart. We believe it should remain as it is, providing a choice to people who want to shop there.

Why do we believe they’re unnecessary? A Supercenter is being built in Willows, and Oroville’s Wal-Mart is set to become a Supercenter. If the proposals for Chico are approved, there will be two Supercenters in Chico, another one 23 miles away in Oroville, and another 31 miles away in Willows. That’s not counting the planned Red Bluff Supercenter and the Anderson Supercenter.

Fifty percent of the space in Wal-Mart Supercenters is devoted to discount grocery. Chico doesn’t need more discount grocers! We already have three. WinCo, FoodMaxx and Costco each offer discount prices, consumer choice and decent wages and benefits. A Wal-Mart Supercenter will close at least one of these stores, which will reduce both consumer choice and the number of well-paying jobs that support a viable local economy.

Both stores will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The store proposed for the north end of town is a quarter-mile from Shasta Elementary School. I can’t imagine that parents of the children attending Shasta will be pleased by increased traffic, noise and pollution introduced to what is now a quiet, child-safe, semi-rural area.

This is a call to action. Chico is at a crossroads. We can insist that Chico retain its unique character, continuing to grow but growing thoughtfully and responsibly. Or, we can succumb to the high cost of Wal-Mart’s low prices and become another “Anytown, U.S.A.” Wal-Mart is not about competition as we know it. It’s about becoming the only business in town.

Get involved. Go to the C.A.R.E. Web site at, or write to P.O. Box 7647, Chico, CA 95927. No decision has been made; hearings on each of these proposals will not occur until the fall. Make your voice heard.