At least one Ceres resident believes the abandoned Walmart building at Mitchell and Hatch roads is becoming just another example of Ceres blight.
The store closed its store to relocate to the Walmart Supercenter at Service and Mitchell roads in November.
David Yonan told the Ceres City Council on April 25 that “it seems like the Walmart Corporation has kind of left us with what’s slowly but surely turning into a homeless encampment.”
“All those cars you see in the old Walmart parking lot, they’re not waiting for the store to open,” Yonan told councilmembers. “There are people living in those cars.”
He also complained that along Hatch Road in front of the Walmart property one can see shopping carts with homeless people lying on the grassy landscape strips.
“A lot of them move back and forth between the lawn area by McDonald’s and the parking lot.”
He asked if the city attorney could address the situation with Walmart. Yonan also said police have done a great job when called “but not knowing how long this is going to go on – it could go on for years before that place gets filled – seems like the police have more important things with real crime than addressing a social issue of the homeless going into the parking lot.”
Yonan wondered if Walmart could reimburse the city for mitigating the problems or “put a six-foot chain-link fence around the entire facility so that people can’t get in and out.”
Mayor Javier Lopez replied: “I know that this is not just happening at Kmart (he meant Walmart). We’re doing everything we can to help mitigate this.”
The city sent employees out to check out the lot and did not find any homeless camp but they did find trash. Community Development Director Christopher Hoem said that he contacted Walmart and they will be cleaning up trash.
As a condition of approval when the city approved the new store in September 2011, Walmart agreed to a “Reuse Strategic Plan,” which calls for Walmart to post a $25,000 maintenance bond to keep the building free from blight as well as incentives for the corporation to quickly find new uses for the old building.
Hoem said the city would exercise that bond option “as soon as they stop working with us in good faith.”
The city continues to work with Walmart to find a new tenant for the building but it’s difficult, Hoem said, because the company doesn’t want a direct competitor to its Supercenter.