Odor Not the Only Problem, GM Neighbors Say

At the northern edge of the sprawling General Motors plant in Van Nuys is a pleasant neighborhood of neat bungalows and tidy lawns.

But lately, residents of Lorne Street and Tilden Avenue have been paying through the nose for living so close to the industrial giant.

Since late last month, strong chemical odors from a new GM auto-painting process at times have spoiled the suburban ambiance. The problem has prompted the South Coast Air Quality Management District to cite GM for pollution violations. The company has begun raising rooftop vent stacks in hopes of diluting the fumes.

A visit to the neighborhood, however, shows that the difficulty of living in the lap of an industrial giant is not easily reduced to a single problem such as odor.

‘Noise Is Worse’

“My personal opinion is that the noise is worse than the smell,” said David Widdison, a Lorne Street resident whose backyard borders a company parking lot.


Widdison is one of those who moved to the block in 1949 when the tract of houses was built. Although the GM plant arrived two years earlier, residents say it has been greatly expanded and today dominates the landscape to a much greater degree than it did then.

Maurice Miller, 72, a Tilden Avenue resident with a respiratory ailment, said he also bought his home in 1949, “before this plant was near as big as it is.”

For Miller, a solution to the odor problem will only be a start.

‘There Is Litter’

Miller’s backyard borders the gate through which workers pass, bumper-to-bumper, at the beginning and end of two different shifts each day. The plant employs about 5,000.

There is noise and there is litter. “I have picked up as many as seven . . . bottles after a night shift,” Miller said.