Monday, May 29, 2006

Keeping Score: Hercules 1, WalMart Zero, Zip, Squat

The city of Hercules, faced with a new WalMart in their community, found a way to shut the door on the "high cost of low wage" by confiscating the land on which WalMart planned to build.

California town the latest to snub Wal-Mart - Yahoo! News: "The city council of the mixed-race bedroom community of 23,000 east of San Francisco voted this week to invoke eminent domain to block Wal-Mart Stores Inc. from building a 99,000 square foot (9,200 sq meter) store near the town's waterfront.

The area is the centerpiece of Hercules' redevelopment effort, which aims to create a destination on par with high-end Sausalito across the bay. That would complement Hercules' plan to market itself as an 'anti-suburb' with new neighborhoods appealing to home buyers nostalgic for old-fashioned residential areas within cities.

The unusual move stunned California's big-box retailers, who usually benefit from eminent domain, which allows government to take private property for its use or for use by third parties if their projects would benefit the public."

Hercules is not the first California city to refuse a WalMart store however WalMart's Republican / Libertarian friends are trying to spin this as class conflict:

Wal-Mart faces a different and more confounding source of anger in Hercules -- a "class war," according to Roger Pilon, a legal affairs specialist at the libertarian Cato Institute.

"The people in Hercules are coming across as looking down their noses on those who shop at Wal-Mart, as not wanting 'those people in our neighborhood,"' Pilon said.

Wal-Mart opponents in Hercules say its presence would blight their town, the first in California with planning codes guided by "New Urbanism," a school of urban design focused on pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods mixed with homes and shops and lacking big-box retailers.

"It's the quality of living in Hercules that we're dealing with," said Steve Kirby, a Hercules resident since 1988. "One thing that we don't want is a regional-type business in there that brings in a lot of traffic."