The city of Los Angeles closed the Lopez Canyon Landfill an hour early Wednesday to thwart a group of northeast San Fernando Valley residents who had hoped to stop a parade of garbage trucks by forming a human barrier across the dump entrance.
However, about 70 northeast Valley residents, undaunted by the 3:10 p.m. closure, continued their protest of a proposed doubling of the capacity of the city's only public dump.
"We did close the landfill. That's what's important," said Lewis Snow, vice president of the Lake View Terrace Home Owners Assn.
Michael Miller, assistant city sanitation director, said that he ordered the gates locked early because "we didn't want to have any confrontation with the people. . . . The refuse vehicles usually come earlier than that anyway, but we warned any stragglers to go elsewhere."
More than half of the estimated 6,000 tons of garbage Los Angeles produces daily ends up at Lopez Canyon, opened as a county landfill in 1975. The rest goes to private dumps such as Sunshine Canyon Landfill, Bradley West Landfill and Calabasas Landfill, where Miller diverted trucks Wednesday.
Plans now under review at City Hall call for expanding the landfill's capacity and extending its life 13 years beyond the 1992 closure date. Bureau of Sanitation officials say that without the expansion, Lopez Canyon will be full in six months.
Residents of the communities nearest the landfill say any expansion violates past agreements and promises.
"We moved out here three years ago with the knowledge that this would be closed down in 1992," said Lorene Ortiz, who lives in Lake View Terrace. "Now they want to knock down the hill in front of our house to expand it. . . . It's just not acceptable."
Councilman Ernani Bernardi and one of the challengers for his 7th District seat, Jules S. Bagneris III, participated in Wednesday's sit-in.
When Rob Zapple, member of the Kagel Canyon Civic Assn., called for the ouster of several Bureau of Sanitation employees--including Miller and Director Delwin A. Biagi--Bernardi told him that his anger was misplaced.
"If you go after staff people, you are wasting your time," Bernardi said. "The people you go after are the mayor and the City Council."
But Bagneris, who claims the councilman has not done enough to block the expansion effort, threw the issue back at Bernardi.
"You are the elected representative. You go before the City Council," Bagneris said.
Bernardi chided Bagneris for "scaring these people to death" by describing a city proposal to add potentially toxic sewer sludge to the substances the landfill will accept.
"The sludge is out," Bernardi said. "There is a commitment from the city that there is to be no sludge."
Miller said, however, that the city still hopes to get City Council approval for the sludge to go to Lopez Canyon, instead of to expensive private dumps.
"There has been no formal decision either way on the sludge," Miller said.