Updated at the bottom with Walmart telling us work will begin on the store in summer. Opponents of Walmart vow a “major fight” over the planned market. First posted at 5:44 p.m. Friday.

Los Angeles, a big labor town when it comes to grocery store workers, has been notoriously hostile to Walmart, the big-box store with non-union employees.

But a report indicates that the Arkansas retailer is trying to sneak in under the radar by opening a small grocery store on the edge of Chinatown.

The blog Frying Pan News says:

Permit applications have been submitted for a Walmart store in downtown Los Angeles' historic Chinatown, laying the groundwork for the giant retailer's first grocery operation in one of the country's largest and most lucrative markets.

Permit applications were filed with the L.A. City Department of Building and Safety late last year. Some have already been approved. Two well-placed sources in city government, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed this morning to Frying Pan News that the applications were submitted by Walmart.

The L.A. Business Journal (via Curbed LA) seems to corroborate the story of a Walmart at 701 Sunset Boulevard in the Grand Plaza senior housing complex.

The Frying Pan says the move …

… sets the stage for a major battle with the region's community, labor, faith and small business groups, which in 2004 handed Walmart one of its biggest setbacks, defeating a proposed superstore in the L.A.-adjacent city of Inglewood.

The local grocery workers union is current fighting efforts by Walmart to set up shop in Burbank.

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[Update at 9:55 p.m. Saturday]: Steven Restivo of Walmart sent this statement to the Weekly:

We're finding that the more people learn FACTS about the company, the more they see the value in brining a Walmart store to their community. For example, our wages and benefits are competitive with a majority of our California competitors and our stores are often magnets for growth and development. We're proud of the contributions we make in communities across the country – from creating jobs and generating tax revenue to helping customers save and contributing to local non-profits – and look forward to engaging with downtown residents to listen, answer questions and share information about our company.

Our new Walmart Neighborhood Market will serve as a new option for customers who want access to a broad assortment of affordable groceries. Plus, the opportunity to revive the vacant property is in line with our sustainability goals and will help deliver an added economic boost to the area. We expect to start work this summer.

Not to be out done, Gina Palencar of LAANE (Los Angeles Alliance for A New Economy), a pro-jobs, pro-union group, also sent us a statement. In it LAANE argues that Walmart was trying to subvert L.A.'s anti-big-box ordinance that was enacted in 2004 after the mega-chain tried to open a store in Inglewood:

Walmart plans to open a small-format grocery store in order to avoid an existing L.A. City superstore ordinance. The law, passed in 2004, enables the city to weigh numerous factors, such as job quality and business loss, in deciding whether to allow big box developments to proceed.

L.A.'s superstore ordinance was enacted following Walmart's failed attempt to open a superstore in the city of Inglewood. Despite spending more than $1 million on a ballot initiative to circumvent the public review process, Walmart was soundly defeated by a coalition of small businesses, clergy, community groups, and unions.

The organization claims credit for leading the fight against Walmart's incursion into Inglewood, and it warns that the chain store is in for a “major fight” even though the smaller-format store seems to be legit as far as City Hall goes.

LAANE executive director Roxana Tynan:

The Chinatown store will continue Walmart's track record of perpetuating poverty jobs in low-income communities in Los Angeles. We are committed to protecting good jobs for residents in all communities.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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