Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Walmart Rebuffed By Hayward For A Second Time As Blame Is Heaped On Henson

May 23, 2012 | For the second time in as many months, Hayward city leaders have denied an out-of-state property owner a conditional use permit to lease the vacant Circuit City building on Whipple Road for a scaled-down Walmart grocery store. The Hayward City Council voted narrowly, 4-3, in favor of upholding the planning commission's, 4-3, decision last April 5.

Although the decision at hand focused on whether the proposed grocery store constituted a "regional or sub-regional" use. The appellant before the planning commission last month also questioned whether the increased traffic and pollution at the proposed site also warranted a environmental review. However, the tenor of the over five-hour council meeting centered directly on the hot-button issue of Walmart, even though it was revealed during the hearing that the retail behemoth no longer had interest in the property.

Daniel Temkin, part of the family that owns the 5.14-acre site at 2480 Whipple Road, told the council Walmart had recently rescinded interest in moving into the old Circuit City building. "Why are we here?" asked Councilman Marvin Peixoto. Temkin said he was confident Walmart could be lured back to the site, if he was granted the conditional use permit Tuesday night.

Similar to the April 5 planning hearing, some council members continued to be hamstrung by the exact definition of regional and sub-regional use. Councilman Olden Henson, in particular, voiced displeasure over handing down a decision without a clear city definition on both terms. Several planning commissioners made the same assertion last month, yet city staff did not produce a new definition.

Councilman Bill Quirk, who is also a front runner for 20th Assembly District seat, said despite city staff's recommendation to overturn the planning commission's determination, he told the city's developmental services director, "I think you're wrong on this" and the commission got it right.

Along with Quirk, Mayor Michael Sweeney voted with the majority as did Peixoto and Henson. "Regional, to me, was Circuit City," said Peixoto, "People came to the city to buy things. A grocery store is a neighborhood business. Why then would people in Southgate be complaining about not having a supermarket?" he said.

The issue of Walmart has become one of the biggest campaign issues of this year's City Council race. Three sitting members are up for re-election this June. Another council candidate, Planning Commissioner Al Mendall, has also faced scrutiny from the local Chamber of Commerce for his vote against Temkin and Walmart last month.

Councilwoman Barbara Halliday, also up for re-election, called the ruling, "the hardest decision we have faced in quite awhile." Nevertheless, she voted in favor of overturning the decision based upon land-use regulations, but said you won't catch her shopping at Walmart anytime soon. "I don't particularly like a Walmart in our city," she said. "I will not be shopping there my myself. However, this is not about the store, but about land-use." Instead, Halliday said the city does not have the right to dictate other's choice and must begin luring more businesses to Hayward. "What we need to do is fill empty buildings."

Councilman Francisco Zermeno, another on the ballot June 5, agreed. "I would rather we fill a spot at a time," he said. Despite brandishing deep union ties, Councilman Mark Salinas ascribed to a similar rationale for the need to start attracting new business. In an impassioned speech, Salinas, the 42-year-old Hayward born and raised council member said, many buildings in the city have been vacant as long as he's been alive.

The vote Tuesday night may have had no bigger ramification for the June election, than the decision to uphold by Henson. According to onlookers with ties to the Hayward business community, Henson's vote appeared unknown going into the meeting. A few members of the Chamber of Commerce in the audience were visibly livid as Henson's remarks began to give clues he would vote to uphold the decision. A former president of the chamber, within earshot, jumped from his seat and muttered, "You're done," as Henson spoke from the dais.

The pressure to allow Walmart to set up shop in Hayward has been steadily rising in recent weeks concurrently with the final days of the City Council campaign. Henson seemed to allude to the arm-twisting in remarks late Tuesday night. "I think it's absurd for anybody to say we're anti-business," said Henson. "Some of the people who say that have made a lot of money from the decisions I have made."

In an email, Wednesday morning, Temkin also pegged the denial of Walmart and a previously proposed Sam's Club on Henson. "In fact, Henson cast the deciding vote in both instances. The site of the proposed Sam's Club was soon after approved for a Target Store. It sits across Whipple Road from our shopping center. So, now the legacy of Mr. Henson will be that he killed two Walmart deals for his city," wrote Temkin.

As the conclusion of the meeting inched into the early morning hours, a still visibly agitated Henson, maintained his vote to uphold the planning commission's decision was not anti-commerce. By asking staff for clarification on the "regional/sub-regional" definition, he said, it would allow the property owner Temkin a "clean slate" to reapply in the future.

Some observers believe Henson's name recognition and long-time service will earn him another four years, but after Tuesday's vote, the chamber's long knives may be out for him June 5. However, Henson was sacrosanct as he left City Hall. "I may be done, but I did the right thing."


  1. Henson, Peixoto, Sweeney and Quirk will not be re-elected. I voted for them before because they told me how they wanted to bring in BIG business to Hayward. I am sorry I ever brought my restaurant business here to Hayward. Keep in mind that anchor stores provide the traffic that I need for my small restaurant. Poor judgement Henson, Quirk, Peixoto, Sweeney.....good riddens to you. You are anti-business.

  2. Quirk is running for State Assembly. He isn't up for re-election. He will likely move on to the assembly.

  3. This is another point that Hayward is anti business. Why is a city of such size as Hayward so Anti business? is it the Good Ol' boy mentality? they dont want anyone new making a splash? Henson stated during the meeting look at all the business he brought to hayward, Safeways, costco, movie theater. Ok safeway UFCW store, Costco another Union store, movie theater about to shut down because lack of traffic. The logic for his decision was based not off of sub regional / regional it might be based off of personal vendetta as he mentioned he lived near arkansas where Walmart is based. Hayward deserves new blood, Candidates like Greg Jones, Ralph Farias, Peter Bufete, may be green but they have enthusiasm AND an Eager mentality to help grow our city. Hayward Has been ran by the majority of typical Hayward non growth Mentality. I hope everyone goes out June 5th and casts their vote to Change, no pun intended, our city's economic disaster

  4. Henson cast his vote the way he saw fit on a zoning issue that happened to involve Walmart. All this whining about Hayward being anti-business is ridiculous. But it does bring out an obvious conflict between workers and the business community. The Chamber apparently thinks that ANY rules or regulations that apply to business are too restrictive. It's a good thing that the Chamber doesn't decide whether or not people should have the protection of minimum wages, workers compensation, over-time laws, child labor restrictions and safety in the workplace. Despite the business community's promise to "bring out the long knives" against him, working families in Hayward will work for Henson's re-election with enthusiasm.

  5. more union jobs!!!

  6. Get the bums out in June 5. No more incumbents at Hayward city council. We need new blood that is pro-business for Hayward. With out business there are no jobs. Unions need to wake up and smell reality. The economy needs new businesses in Hayward.

  7. HHMMMM, "Anonymous" huh? Where are you writing from? Temkin's town of Seattle or Walmart's Bentonville? You don't live here so pipe down.

  8. People and government of Hayward : Congratulations ! Operation successful! Patient dead !

  9. Amen to Mike's sentiments! Once Walmart provides livable wages, then we can re-engage on this topic. Bravo Olden!

  10. As a resident of Hayward, I'm proud to read this headline. Not once, but two times has this city stopped Walmart. For whatever's heir reasoning, these leaders made their decisions to stop them, I thank you.

  11. Wal-Mart isn't going to provide livable wages. If you wish for livable wages then you be better off advocating for government reform that requires such a wage. Stopping Wal-Mart doesn't stop their corrupt business practices it just keeps an anchor store out of Hayward that may have graver consequences in bringing down local stores on the property that needed that large business to stay viable. How long does Hayward have to wait to get a new business in there?

  12. I think the unions of hayward should rent the empty building and provide jobs to the unemployed with livable wages. This they must do since they seem to have the answer to stop business from flourishing in Hayward.

  13. If we want Hayward to become an economic viable city we need to throw the city council out. We need new blood in the city council. Jones, Farias, Bufete need to get in there.

  14. Nobody can live off of minimum wage. Fuck walmart

  15. We need to recall Sweeney. Hayward deserves a better mayor. He does not see that Hayward needs jobs.

  16. Jobs was not the issue before the Council. The issue was whether a zoning decision by the Planning Commission should be overturned. The Council fortunately made the right decision.

    That their decision was the right one is made apparent by the Chamber of Commerce's own ad campaign against Ed Mendall, the Council candidate and Planning Commission member who put forth a courageous vote to prevent an improper use of this property.

    What did the CoC's smear mailer say? “Al Mendall didn’t listen to Hayward’s seniors and mobile home residents.” There it is, ladies and gents! The Chamber admits the proposed Wal-Mart project was meant for City residents, then they go to other forums and claim that the project meets standards for a regional business. They're just lying, folks.

    However, if you want to go there in the discussion about jobs, we can say this. Hayward doesn't need bad jobs. Hayward needs the jobs that, at the least, workers at major grocers in Hayward have. These are jobs that manage to place them in the middle class, if sometimes just barely.

    This project would have allowed Wal-Mart to move in its substandard wage, unaffordable benefit package from the retail worker to the grocery worker. If the Council had allowed this to happen, we could had said a rueful "I told you so" when even more money was sucked from City coffers in order to finance our State health system, a system which creaks due to its need to provide a massive subsidy for the Wal-Mart business model, which refuses to provide real health care benefits to whatever phony metaphor the Corporation uses for "employee" these days.

    A corporation so rich that all six Walton children are among the 40 richest Americans is forcing Alameda County and the State of California to provide all health care for a vast majority of its workforce. It's an obscenity.

  17. I agree with getting new blood in the Hayward city council. So how can we star a recall drive against Mayor Sweeny?