About 30 people lined the street of Olive Avenue on Sept. 20 to protest outside Burbank City Hall, armed with anti-Walmart signs, chanting “be smart, no Walmart!”
In June, Walmart purchased the former Great Indoors building located at 1301 Victory Place adjacent to the Burbank Empire Center.
A few months after purchasing the building, Walmart announced plans for opening a new store at this location.
The protest drew attention from several large news stations, including CBS, ABC, KCET and NBC. Many passersby also took notice and joined in or honked their horns.
“I just don’t think anything good comes to a community when a Walmart comes in,” said 12-year resident Bob Clendenin.
At 6 p.m. a standing-room only crowd packed the city council meeting at city hall.
Many of the protesters waited for more than an hour to have their voices heard during the public comments portion of the
“At this point in time, there’s nothing specifically before the council to act on,” said council member David Gordon in response to why Walmart wasn’t on the meeting agenda.
Twelve people spoke out against Walmart, touching on similar topics, including preserving Burbank’s small businesses, healthcare for workers, store hours, alcohol sales and traffic.
Emotions were high as one woman fought back tears as she pleaded for the council to stop the Walmart. Several people also engaged in tense whispered arguments in the crowd.
After everyone had a chance to speak, the council answered many of the questions during the response to public comments portion of the meeting.
The council briefly eased the minds of those in attendance, letting them know that they intend to listen to the community. However, it was short lived as Mayor Jess Talamantes said that the council must “hold judgment,” in regards to Walmart.
“This is a business, coming into Burbank, bought a piece of property; they’re not constructing it new. I have to have an open mind when it comes to any decision making,” said Talamantes.
The city of Burbank has a unique council negotiated development agreement with the property in question. Due to this zoning agreement, Walmart would require permits acquired through discretionary approval to sell alcohol and to operate for 24 hours. Walmart representatives say they do not intend on doing either.
However, the council did express concern that Walmart may attempt to acquire these permits over time.
Traffic, one of the biggest concerns of the protesters was not largely addressed by the council. The intersection of Burbank Boulevard and Victory Boulevard is one of the most heavily congested in the city. The addition of a Walmart plus a Caltrans project set to demolish and reconstruct the existing bridge located at the intersection could prove disastrous.
As it is still in the early stage of the operation, Walmart has yet to release a date on when it will be open for business.