Tijuana city officials have ordered a temporary halt to construction of a Walmart store in Playas de Tijuana after several community groups objected to the way contractors were disposing of debris as they cleared land at the site.
The order to stop construction was issued by the city's department of urban development on August 1, following complaints by a coalition of community groups opposed to the project. The groups claim contractors are destroying delicate habitat by dumping debris in unauthorized areas.
Esteban Yee Barba, Tijuana's secretary of urban development, said in an interview with El Sol de Tijuana that the stop-work order was indefinite until Walmart contractors repaired the damage they had already caused and began disposing of debris in areas already specified in the licenses they obtained to do the work.
The construction company properly applied for and received permits to grade the area and prepare the site for construction, but the license issued by the city clearly specified where the debris was to be deposited, Yee said. Instead, said Yee, the construction company decided to use a vacant lot to dump the debris.
Opponents of the project said the dumping was covering up delicate native vegetation that could be destroyed if the work continued. Yee seemed optimistic that the project would move forward once Walmart corrected the problem, despite the opposition from community groups.
Yee said the improper dumping of the debris is the only irregularity tied to the project; however, opponents have claimed the permits were obtained without proper environmental studies.
"I have heard that the community of Playas is against this, but the growth of the city and new guidelines of the federal government speak of another thing," Yee said. While city officials are willing to work with opponents of the Walmart in Playas, "it is a project important for the city that is going to generate jobs, which cannot be stopped so easily."
According to national statistics, Walmart currently employees around 15,000 workers across Mexico. Opponents of the Playas Walmart — which, if completed, would become the city's fourth — have cited several reasons not to build it. They say it would have deadly economic consequences for some nearby small businesses, worsen already serious traffic congestion in the area, and damage delicate habitat.
The site is next to an already existing shopping center with a large Calimax grocery store, offices of the federal electricity commission, a Starbucks coffee shop, a Blockbuster video store, a Domino's Pizza franchise, and several small restaurants and offices. Across the street, a new Dairy Queen is getting ready to open.