SAN FRANCISCO -- A state appellate court has reversed a Contra Costa Superior Court decision that halted Walmart's aims of expanding its Antioch store into the East Bay's first Supercenter.
In its decision Tuesday, appellate judges agreed that the Antioch City Council correctly applied its development plan when approving the retailers expansion in September 2010 without looking at environmental issues.
Walmart is preparing to move forward with its expansion plans, Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia said in an email.
"The appellate court's decision allowing the expansion of the Antioch Walmart is a win for local customers who will benefit from the addition of affordable, fresh groceries and healthy food options," Garcia said.
The expansion also means job growth and new business opportunities for local suppliers, she said, noting it could mean an additional 85 jobs.
Officials with California Healthy Communities Network, the coalition of environmental and labor groups that filed the initial suit against Walmart and the city, say they are considering further legal action. That means taking the case to state Supreme Court.
If it is not appealed, Antioch can issue building permits once Walmart submits drawings and documents that comply with the conditions of approval and city building code.
Only Walmart appealed the Superior Court's decision; Antioch opted not to join the retailer's efforts.
Walmart first approached
In both 2007 and 2010, Antioch required Walmart to review the environmental effects of building the Supercenter, twice rejecting its environmental documents in split decisions. In 2010, a majority of the council agreed with opponents that the study underestimated potential economic and environmental effects in the area.
The council reversed its decision after legal counsel for Walmart and the city argued that it could not consider environmental issues in a design review application, citing a state appellate court case involving a San Diego redevelopment project, and said that Walmart's expansion was allowed in the original approval for Williamson Ranch Plaza in 1998.
The Contra Costa judge disagreed last fall, saying that Antioch had required environmental studies in the past and could not change its interpretation of its laws.
The 1st Appellate Court reversed that in a 14-page ruling released Tuesday.
"The city's conclusion that the Design Review Board has only limited discretion in this regard was not clearly erroneous or unauthorized. ... It appears the city simply assumed (it) required a supplemental environmental review, without regard to whether the (board) possessed the necessary discretion to act on the information in such reports," according to the court's ruling.
Phil Tucker, project director for California Healthy Communities Network, said he was surprised by the court's decision.
"To me, it's almost an aberration," Tucker said. "At this point, we still feel very much that we were right in our decision to file an action against the City Council's decision and their actions were inappropriate."
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
This week's court decision is the latest development in Walmart's years-long effort to expand its Antioch store into the East Bay's first Supercenter.
Here is a timeline:
January 2000 -- Walmart opens 134,000-square-foot store at Lone Tree Way and Hillcrest Avenue.
June 2004 -- Walmart announces intention to expand store by 72,980 square feet and turn it into a 24-hour Supercenter; city says it must study traffic and noise effects.
Sept. 20, 2006 -- Planning Commission approves environmental study; appeal is filed.
October 2006 -- City Council hears arguments for and against expansion, and delays decision.
February 2007 -- City Council rejects Walmart's plans for 64,980-square-foot expansion.
January 2010 -- Walmart submits new plans to Antioch, calling for 33,575-square-foot expansion and no 24-hour operations; city says it must study environmental effects.
May 2010 -- Planning Commission approves Walmart expansion plans; decision is appealed to City Council.
July 2010 -- City Council rejects Walmart expansion, citing economic concerns.
August 2010 -- Proposal brought back to council after city legal counsel determines that environmental review is not needed for expansion.
Sept. 28, 2010 -- City Council approves Walmart expansion
October 2010 -- Walmart opponents file lawsuit over city decision.
Oct. 13, 2011 -- Contra Costa Superior Court sides with Walmart opponents, effectively reversing city decision.
January 2012 -- Walmart files appeal with state Court of Appeals
Nov. 27, 2012 -- Appellate court reverses Contra Costa Superior Court ruling, allowing Walmart expansion to proceed