Northridge residents concerned over proposed Wal-Mart

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Members of the Northridge Neighborhood Council, as well as area residents, are opposing a proposal that would allow the construction of a new Wal-Mart at the corner of Nordhoff Street and Tampa Avenue, due to concerns over an influx of excessive traffic.

In February, three Wal-Mart representatives attended a Northridge Neighborhood Council meeting to make a presentation about their proposal to build what would be the fourth Wal-Mart in the San Fernando Valley, said Northridge resident Sherry Ramstead.

“Everyone, as far as I know, is going to fight (this),” Ramstead said.

According to Ramstead, at that time, there was only an interim Board of Directors of 13 members on the council, and at least three of them opposed the proposal.

Terry Hatkoff, CSUN sociology professor, said the building of the Wal-Mart is not only going to affect Northridge residents, but CSUN students, faculty, and staff.

Hatkoff said she is talking to her students about this issue, just to make them aware of how it might impact them.

Wal-Mart customers and truck deliveries to the store may cause noise pollution, car pollution, and traffic congestion in the area around CSUN, Hatkoff said.

“I told students to think about that,” Hatkoff said. “They should have a say in the community.”

Some students have signed a petition, sponsored by the Northridge Neighborhood Council, declaring they are against the proposal to build the Wal-Mart, Hatkoff said.

Wal-Mart representatives did not respond to multiple calls prior to press time.

Wal-Mart representatives presented plans and market studies to the council that reportedly show the neighborhood could support another Wal-Mart, despite the fact that there is another store location almost three miles away in Porter Ranch, Ramstead said.

“Our big issue is the traffic,” Ramstead said. “It’s terrible, especially at peak hours.”

According to Ramstead, Wal-Mart representatives stated that somewhere between 9,000 and 10,000 people are expected to visit the proposed Wal-Mart every day.

“They didn’t know they were going to have any opposition,” Ramstead said.

If this proposal goes through, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation might change the traffic light signals in the neighborhood in order to ease the congestion. But that will not solve the problem, Ramstead said.

Ramstead said she is not a Wal-Mart consumer for her own ethical and moral reasons, which she declined to state. She said her arguments against building the new Wal-Mart are going to center on a legal angle: the traffic issue.

“The only thing we can fight them on is the traffic mitigation,” Ramstead said.

Jim Alger, an elected member on the Northridge Neighborhood Council, also opposes the proposal.

Alger is a Porter Ranch resident who will not be directly affected by the new Wal-Mart. But since he is an elected community leader, he said he is still supporting the fight.

“For me personally, it’s not an issue,” Alger said. “But it is for the community.”

Alger said he believes the proposed Wal-Mart would cause excessive traffic in an already congested area, especially due to the fact that the Northridge Fashion Center is adjacent to the proposed location.

“The community is 100 percent against it,” Alger said. “(Traffic) was the pivotal issue (discussed at) the council meeting(s).”

When the Wal-Mart representatives first made their presentation, they gave a wide range of estimates as to the expected daily visits to the store, Alger said.

“They’re using very fuzzy math to get to where they are,” Alger said.

According to Alger, the only way those who oppose the construction of the new Wal-Mart will succeed is with an opposition vote from the Los Angeles City Council, and by winning a Los Angeles County legal battle.

“(Wal-Mart is) going to ignore the community,” Alger said. “(They) are hell-bent to put this store in, no matter what.”

Alger said he is not a Wal-Mart shopper for various reasons.

“All they care about is their bottom line and greed,” Alger said. “If they cared about the community, they wouldn’t be here.”

Alger said he also does not agree with their hiring and labor practices, but, like Ramstead, is going to stick to the traffic issue as the reason for opposing the construction.

“This is one of the largest companies in the entire world,” Alger said. “They (have) an infinite amount of money, and they don’t care what local people think.”

Northridge resident Beverley Adler said a lot of neighborhoods both want and could accommodate Wal-Marts, but her neighborhood “absolutely” does not want another Wal-Mart.

“It’s a death trap,” said Adler. “It’s going to tie up traffic for blocks and blocks.”