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Search for 2 More Trash Plant Sites OKd : Council Acts to Deflect Criticism of Lindsay on LANCER Project

Times Staff Writer

Casting a political life jacket to one of its members, the Los Angeles City Council on Friday ordered the search to begin for Westside and San Fernando Valley sites for huge trash-burning plants--a move designed to deflect some of the criticism veteran Councilman Gilbert Lindsay has taken for the decision to place the first such plant in his Central City district.

“This is the hottest thing that’s ever been before this council in the 23 years I’ve been here,” Lindsay complained to his colleagues, as he urged the hunt for additional sites to begin immediately.

Lindsay is a supporter of the proposed $235-million trash incinerator at 41st and Alameda streets, the first of three energy-generating trash plants the city says it needs. However, the proposal--dubbed LANCER for Los Angeles City Energy Recovery project--has run into a storm of protests from a broad-based coalition of neighborhood and environmental groups.

Health Risks

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In addition to concerns about health risks that some experts say may result from the plant’s emissions, community groups have complained about the selection of a low-income area of the city for the first plant.

Gwen Cordova, a spokeswoman for the South-Central Organizing Committee, a coalition of church groups, said late Friday that City Council assurances that it may “be doing it someplace else” do not address “why you need to put it in South-Central.”

The council, which is still evaluating health questions associated with the incinerators, previously indicated that it intends to build additional plants on the Westside and in the Valley. Friday’s 14-0 vote, the first formal step in that direction, requires preliminary identification of two more sites within 90 days.

Councilman Robert Farrell, whose South-Central district adjoins Lindsay’s, said finding other sites will show inner-city residents that South-Central Los Angeles is not viewed as the only “place to deal with trash.”

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However, Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents part of the Westside, where opposition to such a facility is likely to be fierce, expressed concerns.

“I’m a little puzzled why we’re going out to search for sites for Lancer II and Lancer III, when you haven’t had (final) approval of Lancer I yet,” he said.

However, Yaroslavsky supported Lindsay’s motion, after receiving assurances that the action was “strictly exploratory.”

In another LANCER action, the council opened the door to higher legal costs for negotiating a construction and operating agreement for the first plant. In May, the council placed a $150,000 cap on the fees that three selected law firms could charge the city.

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However, the firms subsequently declined to guarantee that an agreement with New Jersey-based Ogden Martin Corp., the proposed builder of the plant, could be reached for that amount.

The council voted Friday to allow the firms to seek additional payments, although city staff and representatives of the law firms insisted that it may not be necessary.

Some council members had warned last month that the legal costs would rise after the council chose to involve three law firms. A special committee of senior city administrators had strongly recommended a single, New York law firm for the job, saying it was superior in experience.

Insisting that local and minority attorneys be given a share of the work, however, the council added to the contract two politically well-connected Los Angeles law firms that had been ranked lower. One was Finley, Kumble, Wagner, Heine, Underberg, Manley & Casey, a major City Hall campaign contributor that employs Councilman David Cunningham’s son. The other was Ochoa & Sillas, which includes Herman Sillas, a former U.S. attorney in Sacramento and one of the highest ranking Mexican-Americans in the Jimmy Carter Administration.

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Richard Sigal, a partner in the lead New York law firm of Hawkins, Delafield & Wood, said Friday that the refusal to accept the $150,000 cap was not due to adding the other law firms. He said it was because of the unpredictability of reaching agreements in a complex and highly technical project.


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