L.A. to Consider Chain-Store Moratorium

LOS ANGELES — The City Council here is scheduled to discuss an emergency moratorium Friday dealing with the entry of chain stores in the Chinatown section of downtown Los Angeles.

The proposal comes in the wake of the announcement a month ago that Wal-Mart Stores [4] intends to open a Neighborhood Market in the area. The temporary ordinance would reportedly prohibit building permits from being issued for new "formula retail" stores — stores that have standardized facades, color schemes, decor, employee uniforms and merchandise.

Proponents of the ordinance said it is aimed at preserving Chinatown's small businesses. The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy said it will urge the council to adopt the measure.

"The prospect of a Walmart grocery store in Chinatown has sparked a particularly intense controversy," the alliance said in a statement. "Beyond the low wages and displacement of local business generally associated with Walmart is the probable impact of Walmart on the character of a historic neighborhood.

"For generations, Chinatown has thrived as a hub of small specialty markets and shops. But the arrival of Walmart threatens to alter the economy and the fabric of Chinatown while bringing the retail giant's notoriously stingy wages and benefits to a city in desperate need of good jobs."

Wal-Mart could not be reached for comment. However, a spokesman for the company told the Los Angeles Times the proposed ordinance "has nothing to do with the needs of the district and everything to do with serving outside interests. It speaks volumes that the community was not consulted in the writing of the motion."