SAN DIEGO -- Residents of San Diego’s Sherman Heights neighborhood were shocked to find demolition crews demolishing part of one of the neighborhood’s most iconic buildings Tuesday.
Bulldozers tore down a corner of the nearly century-old Farmers Market Building on Imperial Avenue six weeks after Walmart announced plans to convert the building into one of its stores.
But several of the neighborhood’s residents said they had no idea the company’s plans called for tearing down part of the building, whose bright pink silos –- remnants of its days as a livestock feed warehouse -- tower over the neighborhood and are unmistakable from Interstate-5.
“I feel betrayed,” said Remy Bermudez, a neighborhood activist. “I feel betrayed by City Hall. I feel betrayed by Walmart.”
She said that at recent community meetings, Walmart officials had mentioned only plans to renovate the building and to tear down interior walls and the roof, but not the structure.
“They didn’t say anything about tearing the building down, ever,” said Esther Peretto. “They said they were going to use the space, which makes you think the building, not the land.”
In the 80s, the sprawling warehouse was converted into a market that housed produce and food stalls, mostly catering to the neighborhood's Latino population. But that market struggled in recent years until only a few vendors remained, and finally closed. Walmart announced it had lease the building on March 1.
As a crowd grew outside the chain link fence that now surrounds the property on Tuesday, an investigator from the city’s Development Services Department showed up.
Victor Nunez had come to ensure the demolition crew was following city permits. He said the company may well have permits that allow the demolition, but he couldn’t immediately say whether that was the case.
He said contractors are required to post their permits for public view. But there were none in sight, so he said he’d be back Wednesday morning.
Calls to Walmart’s San Diego spokesman and the contractor doing the demolition work were not returned by late Tuesday evening.
Activists planned a protest early Wednesday morning to try to stop future demolition.