Inside Oceanside: Walmart is here, yet again

Those who support the arrival of Oceanside’s fourth Walmart at the corner of Mission Avenue and Horne Street point out how wonderful it will be that all the locals who live in the downtown “Townsite” area will finally have access to fresh fruits and vegetables this Walmart grocery outlet will provide. 

Of course these locals are already being served by the full service El Super supermarket a couple blocks away, which happens to have a quality meat department and a bountiful produce department.

Nevertheless. Walmart is coming! Yippee! And it will bring us jobs and bags of sales tax (even though edible groceries aren’t taxable…oh well).

Anyway. Hurray Walmart! Where there was once an empty building, we can now celebrate a thriving new business.

Oh yeah…and liquor, beer and wine will be sold right across the street from Oceanside High School.

The adjacent 99-Cent store does not sell potent potables of any kind. They once wanted to sell beer and wine. But that plan was rightfully shot down.

But if you’re Walmart, come on down! Oceanside will give you anything you want up to and including keys to the city, four stores and the right to sell liquor next to a high school!

Carlsbad may be rude to you. They don’t want you period. But dadgum, as far as we’re concerned, you can think of us as your gravy train by the sea!

“I will personally file a protest against it,” says one business owner who said this week she would protest against Walmart selling liquor.

Only problem with that is that the window to protest has already closed. You see, according to Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) administrator Melissa Ryan, there was an ABC posting of a planned liquor license that went up Aug. 30. As she explained, that 30-day period to protest has come and gone.

Also, Erica Leary, program manager for the aggressive North Coastal Prevention Coalition (NCPC) says her group would have certainly considered weighing in about the ABC license if her group had have known.

“This is disappointing,” says Leary. “If we had’ve known about it sooner we would have been active in finding out what the public thinks.”

Walmart may have gotten a free pass because of the fenced-off construction area directly in front of the store that has been there for months. The ABC posting was there, but apparently it was not visible to the average person. And no one said anything. No letters, no media alerts. Just your standard sign obscured by a construction area.

In my opinion, this is the biggest problem here. Maybe it is OK for Walmart to peddle vodka in plastic bottles and tall cans of King Cobra rotgut malt liquor adjacent to OHS. Maybe it’s not OK. But at least there should have been public discussion and public awareness of this controversial component to Walmart’s business model. It doesn’t seem like Walmart or the city of Oceanside did its due diligence as far as letting us know.Please let me offer up the opinions of two of the most high profile members of the Oceanside Unified School District board of trustees. Mike Blessing, who happens to also be former Deputy City Manager, says he has no reservations. “If Trader Joe’s was going into that spot would anyone have a concern?”

His OUSD colleague Janet Bledsoe Lacy has a law office just a few doors west of the Mission Square Shopping Plaza, which will house the new Walmart. She says the presence of a Walmart grocery outlet will be a “boost to the community…it will be an ideal location to provide fresh food to the local residents who need it.” She says she is sure that Walmart will properly I.D. everyone who buys Walmart booze.

(Time out: Take it from an OHS grad that knew how to mix Friday night football with Boones Farm. The biggest problem isn’t that a kid buys booze directly from a sales clerk. We simply got some random guy hanging around a store to go in and buy it for us. Is Walmart addressing this reality)?

But not everyone is in support of a wet Walmart at Mission and Horne.

“We don’t need the liquor,” says Maria Russell of the Eastside Neighborhood Association, which focuses on improving the neighborhoods north of Mission Avenue and east of Horne Street. “We have kids right across the street. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t even understand why a Walmart is even going in there. Isn’t this location supposed to be close to tourism? Couldn’t we have gone with something more higher end?”

And then there is Joan Bockman, president of the OCNA (Oceanside Coastal Neighborhood Assn. The OCNA is dedicated to preserving the quality of life for residents who live in the area bounded by Mission Avenue, Interstate 5, Oceanside Boulevard, and the beach.

“The coastal area is over-served for convenience and package liquor sales. Oceanside is out of scale compared to other cities. We are way over the top with 7-Elevens, convenient stores, liquor stores and drive-thrus.

“Another question, is Walmart just an overgrown 7-Eleven? While they provide groceries, the high school purchases are more likely to be junk. Look at the food trucks on Garfield and Division (streets). They were supposed to bring fresh vegetables and fruit into the neighborhoods. They are over 75 percent junk food with a few oranges and vegetables in the corner. The promise was not kept. This is a bigger issue with all the supermarkets but some have been given special access and may not deserve it. The Thursday morning farmers market (downtown) is keeping the promise.”

OCNA’s Bockman makes it clear she is not a prohibitionist. “We welcome the various restaurants, tasting rooms and microbreweries, since that is a different experience. We do not need any more take away uses.”

The ABC has yet to make the decision as to what kind of liquor license will be awarded the new Walmart. But after speaking with City Manager Peter Weiss and Oceanside Police Capt. Tom Aguigui, it seems that the city/OPD will not protest against the granting of a liquor license of some kind to the Walmart grocery outlet.

Aguigui says he is just now reviewing his final recommendations to the ABC, regarding security and cut-off times. The ABC has the ultimate say in all liquor licenses.

According to section 23789(d) of the state Business and Professions Code, the ABC is specifically authorized to refuse the issuance of any retail license for premises located within at least 600 feet of schools.

OHS is 500 feet from the new Walmart.

“I’m still puzzled as to why this didn’t come up for review before the planning commission or city council,” says NCPC’s Leary.

Oceanside born and raised, Ken Leighton is an Oceanside business owner. He may be reached at


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