ENCINITAS — Walmart held its grand opening for its new Encinitas store Wednesday. Store manager Lisa Rivera said this is the first new Walmart in San Diego in 7 years, and 90 percent of the store’s roughly 250 employees are new hires.
Before opening, customers waited to shop outside, and residents with “Dump Stocks” bumper stickers on their cars protested in the parking lot.
Walmart moved into a vacant space that was previously occupied by Home Depot.
Walmart walled off 8,664 square feet of the 104,759-square-foot building to comply with parking permit requirements, which state there must be five parking spaces per 1,000 square feet.
Deputy Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Mayor Jerome Stocks were on hand to celebrate the new Walmart. Speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Stocks said the new Walmart will bring revenue to Encinitas.
“Obviously as a municipal mayor, I’m interested in the tax revenue this store will be providing to the city,” Stocks said. “That’s what pays for our public safety, our parks and all of our other great programs that we do.”
He also said the Encinitas Walmart is critical to residents who want more shopping choices.
“But more importantly, or at least just as importantly, this store represents an opportunity to allow Encinitas residents to have greater competition,” Stocks added.
Sherry Hodges, a candidate running against Rocky Chavez for the 76th district state Assembly seat, also offered her support for the store, calling it a victory for “free enterprise.”
Protestors had a different take on Walmart coming to Encinitas.
Cyrus Kamada, a resident for 35 years, said he isn’t “strictly anti-Walmart.” But said he’s frustrated with city councilmembers who didn’t allow for a more open dialogue when Walmart first approached Encinitas. He believes citizens and city employees who express unpopular views could face retribution.
“With the current council majority there’s a culture of fear and reprisal,” Kamada said.
One concerned resident, who did not want to be identified, also bemoaned the lack of transparency. Additionally, she said she would have preferred a movie theater in the building to give local families more entertainment options.
Last year, Ultrastar Theaters expressed interest in the space. But Home Depot, still the building’s leaseholder despite the location closing several years ago, reached a lease deal with Walmart.
Walmart acquired a permit to renovate Walmart last September. Since then, many residents have argued the store will increase traffic on Leucadia Boulevard and hurt locally owned businesses in the area.
Delia Garcia, a spokesperson for Walmart, believes Walmart will actually buoy small businesses in the area.
“In communities across California and the country, we see hundreds of examples of small businesses that are located near a Walmart store and that are thriving because of it,” Garcia said.
Encinitas Walmart sells groceries, electronics, apparel and has a photo service counter and pharmacy. Other stores near the Walmart include a Starbucks and REI.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Walmart presented six grants totaling $12,500 to local groups, including $5,000 to the Magdalena Ecke YMCA and $1,500 to the Boys and Girls Club of San Dieguito.
Encinitas Walmart is at 1550 Leucadia Blvd.