San Juan Capistrano Might Invite Wal-Mart to Town

There is talk that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, could locate a store in San Juan Capistrano.

There is talk that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, could locate a store in San Juan Capistrano.

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Friday, April 23, 2010|San Juan Capistrano’s City Council will discuss whether to try to entice Wal-Mart into buying a city-owned site in the south part of town. If such a deal would mean the arrival of the city’s first big-box retailer.

Mayor Londres Uso, who put the discussion on the agenda for an upcoming city council meeting, said the idea is to give a developer 120 days to pitch the Lower Rosan Ranch property, which council members say is about 15 acres, to the world’s largest retailer.

“It’s about giving these guys a fair chance to convince Wal-Mart that this is a property they should be interested in,” Uso said.

Having a big box in town would do a lot to help the city’s revenue woes. A recent midyear budget review showed that only 23 percent of projected revenue has been collected for the year.

But whenever a Wal-Mart comes to town – especially in coastal California – controversy usually follows. Critics often charge the chain with bringing down wages among store clerks in the cities it enters and forcing local merchants out of business.

David Suh, manager of San Juan Pharmacy off of Camino Capistrano, said it would be “game over” for his business if it had to compete with Wal-Mart. Suh runs the pharmacy for his parents, who have owned it for 15 years.

“The fact that they’re even willing to consider a Wal-Mart here infuriates me,” Suh said.

But city officials seem intent on selling the Lower Rosan Ranch property to a big retailer. Home Depot is another potential buyer, council members said. Councilman Sam Allevato said he’d consider giving a discount to any big project because they bring “ten times the revenue.”

“In the long run you make a lot more money,” Allevato said.

That thinking bothers citizen activist Jim Reardon who is worried that the city is so desperate for revenue that it would sell the property at under-market value, which would kill the value of what he said was a public investment.

Uso wouldn’t confirm or deny the possibility of a discount for Wal-Mart, but he said he wouldn’t rule it out. “If you had something that was worth a hundred dollars, and somebody came and said I’ll give you 80 dollars today, but I’ll give you 20 dollars a year forever, would you take it?” Uso said.

Currently, there are no big-box stores in San Juan Capistrano. There are three other Wal-Marts in South Orange County, including stores in Laguna Niguel, Foothill Ranch and San Clemente.

Suh said that he’s not usually into politics, but that he’ll be at city council when this issue comes up for discussion.

“This is one thing I would have to walk in and say something about,” Suh said.

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