LOS ANGELES — The fight to keep retail supercenters out of California is heating up.

This story first appeared in the January 27, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In a far from unexpected move, Wal-Mart is taking the fight to the courts, filing a petition Monday to challenge an Alameda County ordinance that effectively prohibits the building of retail supercenters.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant’s filing with the Superior Court of California challenges ordinance number 2004-41, the “Large Scale Retail Ordinance,” which was passed in response to the company’s plans to open a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

While not referring to Wal-Mart specifically, the ordinance prohibits retailers with sales floor areas exceeding 100,000 square feet from devoting more than 10 percent of it to nontaxable merchandise. This includes groceries and drugs.

According to a statement from Wal-Mart, the petition asserts three violations in the ordinance’s enactment. The ordinance, said Wal-Mart, fails to comply with the California Environment Quality Act, resulting from the county’s failure to evaluate all environment consequences of the action. The company believes the county exceeded its authority by imposing “unusual and unnecessary restrictions” on a business and also believes the county failed to adhere to proper procedures while enacting the ordinance.

“This ordinance is anticompetitive and anticonsumer, and the consumers of Alameda — our customers — deserve the right to choose where they are allowed to shop,” said Amy Hill, a Wal-Mart spokesperson in a statement.

Wal-Mart asserts that its average supercenter generates $4.5 million in annual sales-tax revenue and creates between 400 and 500 jobs. More than 1,500 supercenters are already in operation across the country and the company intends to open the first of 40 California supercenters in March in La Quinta.