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Eager Buyers Not Put Off by Dump in Neighborhood

Times Staff Writer

At a time when many Lake View Terrace residents are fighting a proposed expansion of the Lopez Canyon Landfill, 57 families are moving into a tract of homes built in the shadow of the dump’s towering slope.

The neighborhood is called Casa Linda, which means “pretty house” in Spanish, and is about 100 feet from the main entrance to the dump, where 400 fat, brown garbage trucks haul in 6,000 tons of trash each day.

The tract of 2-story stucco houses has been sold out since spring, and the developer boasts of a 70-family waiting list.

Why? Because the price is right.

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‘Doesn’t Bother Us’

“Where else could we get a four-bedroom house for $128,000?” asked Sandy McCoy, 29. “We discussed the dump expansion but decided it wasn’t a consideration. It doesn’t bother us. It’s the house that mattered most.”

The three- to five-bedroom Casa Linda homes range in price from $106,000 to $140,950--a bargain compared to $268,900, which was the average price of a house sold in the San Fernando Valley in October, according to the San Fernando Valley Board of Realtors.

“If you can come up with something anywhere in the San Fernando Valley for under $150,000 in a single-family home, you will sell it,” said Casa Linda developer Frank Thompson, president of Frank Thompson Group of Woodland Hills.

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Thompson argues that the home buyers’ eagerness shows that “the landfill is not as onerous a thing as people in the existing neighborhood would have you think.”

What Casa Linda home buyers could not have known last spring when they signed up to buy houses was that the city Bureau of Sanitation would propose in August to dramatically increase the size and operation of the dump.

Originally, Lopez Canyon Landfill was slated to close in the early 1990s. But city officials want to keep it open until 2005 and bury an additional 26 million tons of solid waste in a new section of the landfill property. In addition, the city is seeking to dispose of 1,200 tons a day of sewage sludge, a muddy waste product from sewage treatment facilities. No sewage sludge currently is dumped at the landfill.

The number of trucks hauling waste to the dump would double to 800 daily under the city’s expansion plan. A wider road would be built to accommodate those trucks.

Massive excavation of a new canyon would bring the dumping within half a mile of the Casa Linda tract, said Mal Toy, director of solid waste management for the bureau. Currently, the dump site is more than a mile away from the homes.

Little Impact Seen

A draft environmental report, prepared by private consultants for the sanitation bureau, generally stated that the expansion will have insignificant impact on the community’s water and air quality, residents’ health and traffic.

However, the report stated that there would be a “significant increase in noise” in the area because of the proposed doubling of truck traffic.

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The report will be critiqued for accuracy in the weeks to come by environmental and governmental agencies, Lake View Terrace residents and politicians.

Los Angeles City Councilman Ernani Bernardi, who represents the East Valley, said he is highly skeptical of the report’s assessments and plans to study it carefully.

After the public comment period, the city must respond to concerns voiced by residents and governmental officials. The landfill expansion plans then would go to the Los Angeles City Council for a vote.

But for such homeowners as Sandy McCoy--whose new home has mauve carpet, mauve grout between the hallway floor tiles and mauve flowers on the no-wax kitchen floor--the prospect of a bigger dump is not worrisome.

‘Our First Home’

“This is our first home and we love it,” she said. “It’s spacious. It’s well-insulated.”

Others are trying to ignore the proximity of the landfill.

“I can’t see the trucks, I don’t hear them, I can’t smell anything,” said Mitch Roberts, 29, an automobile mechanic whose view of the haul road is blocked by a neighbor’s roof. “We do have a lot of gulls and crows circling, but that’s about it.”

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Maureen Fischer, 45, said she “sort of likes the idea that it is here. It’s kind of nice to live near a hillside.”

Before purchasing the houses, buyers were required to sign a document confirming that they knew the “Lopez Canyon Sanitary Landfill is to the northeast” of their homes.

Buyers of 18 houses closest to the dump signed a more lengthy document stating they understood that their property was adjacent to the main hauling road used by hundreds of trucks each day, Thompson said.

Bureau of Sanitation officials are not pleased with the housing development and wish that it had never been built. They see in Casa Linda a cadre of angry neighbors in the making. They fear that residents may complain loudly once the novelty of home ownership wears off.

Toy said sanitation officials learned that the houses were being built when employees noticed lots being etched out by bulldozers. By then, it was too late to stop the construction, he said. Thompson had already been granted city building permits.

“If he had come to us early in the game, we in the bureau would have taken some action to avert the placement of homes there,” Toy said, adding that the city had hoped to purchase the Casa Linda property as a buffer between the landfill and an older neighborhood below the new homes.

The bureau could have protested the construction to the city Planning Department, which granted a zone change to allow the homes to be built, Toy said.

All Legal, Builder Says

Thompson, however, said once he has the proper approvals, the “developer does not have the responsibility to notify every single person in City Hall.”

Toy predicted that the new residents “are going to be mildly shocked” if the expansion is approved. “There is going to be a goodly amount of construction action with heavy equipment. There will be noise and dust.”

Several residents, who were not aware of the proposal, expressed varying degrees of concern when informed of the plan.

“I really don’t think it will affect us,” said Peter Jaeger, 37, a respiratory therapist.

Carol Shorts, 28, who lives next door to Jaeger, said: “It’s not that bad now, but I certainly don’t want it to get worse. What do you do? This house was a good deal for us. You can’t have everything.”

Rob Zapple, a Lake View Terrace activist who is fighting the expansion proposal, urges his new neighbors to join the protest.

“The poor owners of those homes are going to be in serious shape” if the expansion is approved, Zapple said. “You feel so much excitement when you buy a new house. I have to believe they are going through a certain amount of denial right now.”


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