An injunction that had prevented Walmart from starting work on a new store adjacent to the Empire Center has been lifted, but the outcome of a lawsuit filed by three residents to force a number of street improvements before a store can open looms on the horizon.
On Wednesday, a state appellate court lifted an injunction issued by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in August 2012 that halted construction on a new Walmart until the outcome of the lawsuit filed in May 2012.
In an email Thursday, Walmart spokeswoman Rachel Hall said that despite the lifting of the injunction, the retailer was awaiting a verdict in the lawsuit, which claims city officials erred in granting building permits for the store because they did not adequately address traffic and parking impacts to the surrounding area.
"We look forward to the final trial court decision, so that we can move forward with our plans to support this community and open the store that the majority of the community clearly supports," Hall said.
Both sides in the lawsuit have until July 12 to submit post-trial briefs in the case, with the judge's decision expected within two to three months after that.
Gideon Kracov — the attorney representing plaintiffs Shanna Ingalsbee, Katherine Olson and Yvette Ziraldo — noted that the appellate court lifted the injunction because the potential harm — the increased traffic impacts — would not occur until the store opened, which was unlikely to happen until after a ruling on the lawsuit.
That trial for the lawsuit concluded on Wednesday in a Santa Monica courtroom after attorneys for Burbank and Walmart argued that city officials had no choice but to issue the building permits since the project met municipal code.
Katherine Jenson, representing the city, said that under that interpretation, the city was not obligated to complete traffic mitigation measures — such as adding left turn lanes on streets around the proposed Walmart — before issuing the building permits.
"The city may never need to implement those, and still be in consistent with its obligations," she said. "The language the petitioners are relying on doesn't really make sense."