Frustrated by opposition to its plan to reopen the Mission Canyon landfill and fill two other canyons in the Santa Monica Mountains with municipal garbage, the County Board of Supervisors has asked the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to help it find a site.
Supervisor Deane Dana, whose district encompasses the county-owned canyons, said Tuesday that the board wants the conservancy to help find an alternative landfill site inside the Los Angeles city limits.
Dana said he was responding in part to a bill introduced last week by Assemblyman Terry Friedman (D-Los Angeles) that would place Mission, Rustic and Sullivan canyons at the top of a priority list of land sought being by the conservancy for a long-envisioned state and national park system.
The request for help, which was approved by a 4-0 vote with Supervisor Kenneth Hahn absent, prompted mixed reactions from officials of the conservancy and the city.
Joseph Edmiston, executive director of the conservancy, said the request will give his agency a chance to negotiate instead of fighting the county.
"The county is a formidable enemy, but rather than saying, 'Off with their heads!' to us, this offer from the county at least gives us a chance to talk," Edmiston said.
Criticism From Braude
However, the county's move was criticized by Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude, a longtime advocate for the parklands who has been fighting the county for nearly a decade on its proposal to reopen Mission Canyon.
"The Dana motion is ridiculous," Braude said. "What does the conservancy know about the disposal of garbage? It is illustrative of naivete, lack of sophistication and oversimplified politics that Dana should make such a recommendation."
In his arguments to the board, Dana said it is only fair that the conservancy, which is standing in the way of the county's plan, offer to help.
"If it is important enough to have these canyons acquired by a state agency for a parkland, then it should be equally important to have suitable replacement locations identified as well," Dana said.
The conservancy owns about 9,600 acres of the 56,000 acres already preserved for parklands, but hopes to buy thousands of additional acres throughout the mountains. The bulk of the parklands is owned by the national and state park systems.
The county closed the partially filled Mission Canyon landfill in 1965 after a developer offered to let the county fill a series of nearby canyons, where the developer later built Mountaingate Golf Course. County officials accepted the opportunity and decided to save the rest of Mission Canyon for later use.
But in the following years, the city allowed luxury homes, private schools and religious institutions to be built on the canyon's rim.
Twice since 1977, the City Council has rejected the county's request to reopen the canyon, spurred by opposition from residents of 150 homes in the area. The county needs a permit from the city because the canyons are inside the city limits.
Edmiston said he does not expect Mission Canyon, or pristine Rustic and Sullivan canyons, ever to be approved for use as landfills.
He said he hopes the conservancy can suggest other possibilities, but declined to say what they might be.
City and conservancy officials have said the county Sanitation Districts want to use the canyons only because they already own them and would have to spend millions of dollars to buy land elsewhere.
"If the county Sanitation Districts didn't own these canyons, do you think that this is a place they would ever choose for a landfill? Hell no," Edmiston said Tuesday.
However, county officials, particularly Supervisor Pete Schabarum, have for months argued that the city should accept a landfill inside the city limits because so many landfills already exist in county territory.
Braude said that position is "territorial nonsense. They're acting like we're a foreign country, as if we're not all working for the same public benefit."