North Valley Coalition Newsletter, May 2004
On May 1, 2004 a protest was held at the dump to object to the further destruction of oak resources at Sunshine Canyon and the many proposed projects in this area. According to the Department of Forestry, at one time this area had the richest oak forest in the County. Thousands of oaks have been felled at Sunshine and thousands more are proposed for destruction in projects now in the approval process such as Las Lomas, and the commercial development on the Antelope Valley Freeway (14) from the I-5 to its San Fernando Road exit in Newhall . We were joined in our gathering by friends from Santa Clarita, where growth and development are rapidly removing oak communities. We handed out information to passing cars and a flyer requesting truckers to use sites where recycling occurs. These vanishing oak trees clean our air, hold and store our water, cool our climate and lift us with their beauty.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL HALL OF SHAME AWARD
At the same rally, we presented our annual “Stumpy” trophy and inducted the recipient into the “Environmental Hall of Shame”. Unfortunately there were many candidates. This year we felt it important to recognize that our oak woodlands are under assault from those who would seek quick profits and inflict future devastation. As a result, we inducted the “irresponsible developers” and “waste companies” who are incrementally destroying oaks and wetlands and putting profits over the gift we might give to future generations through protecting these irreplaceable woodlands.
THE PATRIOT OIL BENEFIT TRUST OF 2002
This trust fund was established between Patriot Oil and the North Valley Coalition and requires us to undertake projects that benefit the immediate neighborhood and it prohibits us from spending the trust money fighting political causes (in other words, fighting BFI). Of course, the Coalition will never back away from our commitment to protecting the community, but that part we must do on our own dime. The term “dime” sadly reflects the state of our treasury. We have attempted to be good stewards of the trust funds and have spent them in the following way: First, we are providing protection to the areas around O’Melveny Park, Bee Canyon Park, Van Gogh School from vandalism, graffiti and gang activity by using a security patrol service that we have hired. Additional patrols are now being added that will lock the gates and patrol inside O’Melveny. Second, we have purchased a bulletin board-kiosk for Bee Canyon Park. Third, we have purchased an automatic-dialer contact system for the use of the school, the Neighborhood Council and other organizations who might want to make use of it. If you have suggestions for projects in the immediate vicinity of the oil operations, please contact us and we will consider them.
PARK TRAILS BLOCKED
The SoCal Gas Company has constructed a fence which blocks trails between O’Melveny Park (Mission Peak) and East Canyon. Bob Haueter of Supervisor Antonovich’s office has been working with the NVC to make sure that the promised realignment of the trails by the gas company is carried out. JUST IN…. Jim Parks (some names just fit) of County Parks called Mary Edwards and said that he guarantees that the trails will be reopened no later than the end of June.
Most of the volunteers that work for the Coalition feel very awkward about asking for money. When we approach the subject at a meeting and ask if anyone is interested in fund raising, for the first time that night everyone is silent and hands remain folded in laps. The sorry fact is that we are bad fund raisers and, as a result, we are desperately short of funds. You have been most generous in the past and we fully understand that some of the court losses have been disheartening to all of us. We believe, however, that much of our hard work has resulted in a level of oversight that has, in turn, resulted in the Sunshine Canyon dump now being described as the “most heavily regulated landfill in the United States.” Having a full time inspector on site has caused the inspector’s written violations to be addressed immediately. Our fights for a double liner, additional wetlands and tree mitigations, on the City side expansion have all been successful. BFI is now pushing to re-write the County permit, and we must be there to see that the conditions are strengthened, rather than eroded. The Coalition is responding to projects all over the city which affect the quality of life for everyone. This is a daunting task which is undertaken entirely by volunteers and no paid staff. We need your help. All contributions, in any amount, are deeply appreciated. Please use the form that follows. Thank you….
Many of you became part of our mailing list before e-mails were a common form of communication. If we don’t already have it, we would like to have your e-mail address to be able to contact you quickly with urgent matters. If you don’t mind being contacted in this way, please send it to us on the enclosed form.
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RED BAG WASTE
There is a condition in BFI’s permit that prohibits untreated bio-hazardous medical waste from entering the facility. This illegal red bag waste is often spotted after the truck that brought it has driven away. When it is discovered, the inspector is required to call the State and request that they send out someone to open the bags. In the past year or so the State has responded to only 11 of the 222 requests by the inspector to examine the contents. The inspector has been frustrated in his attempts to dispose of this waste in a responsible manner. At the Citizen Advisory Committee – County side meeting May 13, 2004 the State representatives agreed that the State will work with the inspector (County Department of Health), and BFI to develop a protocol for the handling and disposition of these potentially dangerous materials.
100 VIOLATIONS AND COUNTING
The dump has now received over 100 violations in the County. These will now be posted on the thermometer at the corner of Balboa and Rinaldi. We will recognize this sad occasion at a gathering with black balloons, mourning attire and black arm bands. No operator should be allowed to expand in light of this sorry record.
NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL WORKING FOR YOU
The Granada Hills North Neighborhood Council (GHNNC) is an active force in our area. As many of you have noticed the children’s playground at Bee Canyon has been shut down for many months due to new safety requirements. In order to bring back this much used playground, the GHNNC matched funds with Councilman Greig Smith’s office to bring back the playground expeditiously.
The Council will also be sponsoring the North Valley Emergency Preparedness and Safety Fair on Saturday, June 26, 2004 at Kennedy High School. This promises to be an exciting day for the whole family with many exhibits, safety tips, family emergency plan making, valuable free literature and prizes.
The Planning and Land Use Committee of the GHNNC is also making recommendations involving proposed developments, cell towers, new businesses and churches, signage and a host of other issues. Check the GHNNC web site for updates and sign up to be a stakeholder.
BOARD OF PUBLIC WORKS
On Wednesday, April 7, 2004 the Oak Tree Permit for the removal of 510 oak trees was once again on the Board of Public Works calendar being carried over from March 31, 2004. The number of trees to be removed on the agenda had been raised from 510 to 940. The Board had previously ordered a recount of the trees in light of discrepancies and prior public testimony.
At the end of the hearing BFI was granted their Oak Tree Permit for the removal of 940 oaks after the City Attorney opined that they could only consider the permit and nothing else, and that they had no power or discretion to consider or place conditions on the permit. The Board refused to hear environmentalists who poked holes in their mitigation plans, and decried the loss of trees, birds, and wildlife. They also refused to hear serious issues raised by the NVC regarding BFI’s misrepresentations regarding when they knew that there were more than the 510 oaks that they originally applied for or if they had a surreptitious plan to start clearing trees immediately which would endanger birds during the current nesting season, or that oaks planted as mitigation on City land for the loss of County oaks were in danger. They also failed to condition their approval to insure that BFI had obtained all the necessary permits and satisfied all requirements of the Q-Conditions and the Mitigation Monitoring Replacement Plan (MMRP). It should be noted that the Board of Public Works has never denied an applicant in the past.
As predicted to the Board by the NVC, BFI immediately attempted to start clearing the native and non-native species the very next morning starting with the willows in the stream bed and endangering the nesting birds (as we said they would). Still not satisfied with gaining their permit and the destruction of the land, BFI now is contesting how much they have to pay the City for their Oak Tree Permit.
On an upbeat note, Supervisor Antonovich and County Planning issued a warning to BFI that the County mitigation trees located on City land are protected, and if BFI touches them they will be in violation of their County operating permit.
CITIZENS ADVISORY COMMITTEE SUNSHINE CANYON LANDFILL – CITY EXPANSION
This Citizens Advisory Committee was recently appointed by Councilman Greig Smith to provide oversight and as a watchdog for the community for the City expansion. All appointees were local residents consisting of Robert Norris, Wayne Aller, Mary Edwards, Anne Ziliak, Mollie Molle, Louise Oliver, Ralph Kroy, and Wayde Hunter. Among their first actions were to question the accuracy of the oak tree permit for 510 oaks, and to attend a Technical Advisory Committee meeting on the status of BFI permits for expansion. As a result they were asked by the Councilman’s office to observe the new oak tree survey by the City’s consultant (C2REM) as ordered by the Board of Public Works. CAC members were present for the entire survey and spent four days on the landfill climbing steep hills, encountering hungry ticks, poison oak, and mercifully only one rattlesnake. Given the terrain and time constraints involved, the CAC believed that a fair and accurate count was taken and submitted by Mr. Jack Keener’s in C2 REM’s report to the Board of Public Works. Although the oak tree count was lower than the 940 oaks that was finally approved, the count of native and non-native trees that must be replaced was substantially higher.
The CAC normally meets on the second Thursday each month at the North Valley Jewish Community Center, 16162 Rinaldi Street, Granada Hills at 9:30 a.m. Notices of meetings are posted in Bee Canyon Park, O’Melveny Park, and the Knollwood Pharmacy. The public is welcome.
REGIONAL WATER BOARD QUALITY CONTROL BOARD – LOS ANGELES REGION
At the December 4, 2003 meeting, the Board voted 4 to 2 to approve the “dump’s” expansion back into the City. Historically, the Board has never denied a permit to any landfill, however, given the testimony by the public, City officials, and politicians representing the San Fernando Valley, they did not appear comfortable approving BFI’s Waste Discharge Permit. BFI has been required to install a double composite liner; a far cry from the 2-feet of clay and 60-mil liner they had proposed, and a step up from the 4-feet of clay and 80-mil liner originally recommended by the Board’s staff.
Additionally, the Board required that the health studies, the results of testing by Councilman Smith’s office be brought back before the Board to review, amend or possibly revoke the permit if there is sufficient evidence that the landfill poses a risk to public water quality. The NVC has filed an appeal with the State Water Resources Board to the decision to approve the expansion. BFI also filed an appeal but only because they don’t want to spend the money for a double liner, and because they are afraid that the reopener clauses might expose them to other requirements or closure. We are still waiting for a decision.
In April 2004, the Board at another hearing ended up adopting the 401 Water Quality Certification for Sunshine Canyon Landfill with minor modifications and a condition that calls for BFI to create/restore wetlands of approximately 2 acres in Bull Creek behind the Knollwood shopping area. A proposed limitation of $100,000 and a 1-year limit for expenditure was removed.