A court-ordered injunction issued Thursday against a planned Walmart in Burbank could sideline the project and force the city to prove the world's largest retailer won't cause significant harm to local roadways and businesses.
Walmart had been planning to renovate the former Great Indoors site adjacent to the Empire Center in time to open in mid- to late 2013, but the Los Angeles County Superior Court injunction on Thursday effectively stops all work until the claims raised in a lawsuit filed by three Burbank residents earlier this year are settled.
The injunction also forces the city to suspend its approval of building permits issued to Walmart pending a trial.
Rachel Wall, a Walmart spokeswoman, called the ruling “shortsighted” because it delays the company in providing jobs, tax revenues and “more affordable shopping options.” The company, she added, was reviewing its legal options.
In his decision, Judge Robert O'Brien wrote that the city failed to show that completion of street improvements mandated by an ordinance wasn't required before the building permits were issued.
At the hearing, attorneys for Burbank argued that there is “substantial compliance” on the street improvements, but O'Brien said those claims needed to be determined at trial.
He added that as it stood, the city appeared to have a weak case.
City spokesman Drew Sugars said the city was “extremely disappointed” with the ruling, adding that city officials believe issuing the permits was appropriate.
“The preliminary ruling, however, does not predetermine the outcome since the [injunction], we believe, clearly recognizes the city's ability to bring forth further evidence during the trial,” he added.
Shanna Ingalsbee, who with Katherine Olson and Yvette Ziraldo filed the lawsuit in an attempt to block Walmart, said the decision is a victory for residents and businesses in Burbank.
The trio are represented by attorney Gideon Kracov, who is also legal counsel for United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 770.
“We're happy we can shine a light on Walmart's actions and the need to follow the development rules in our community,” Ingalsbee said in a statement. “We hope this ruling gives our city the time necessary to seriously consider the significant negative impacts we feel Walmart would have on our city businesses and residents.”
Follow Mark on Twitter @LAMarkKellam