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Scope Limited : Bill to Ban Homes Near Dump Sites Is Watered Down

Times Staff Writer

Lobbying by builders and real estate interests dealt a blow Tuesday to efforts to prevent the building of homes and other community structures near garbage dumps.

A state Senate committee approved a watered-down version of legislation that would place some limits on new homes within 2,000 feet of landfills in the San Fernando Valley area.

But state Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Tarzana) was forced to scale back his initial proposal, which sought a ban on new homes within half a mile of existing or proposed dumps anywhere in the state. Robbins narrowed the focus to landfills in the Valley area, including a proposed dump in Elsmere Canyon in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Under the revised proposal, the city of Los Angeles or Los Angeles County would be required only to hold a public hearing when homes, hospitals, schools or day-care centers were proposed within 2,000 feet of an operating or proposed landfill. If safety and health risks had been addressed by the builder, local governments could approve construction.

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The state Senate Housing and Urban Affairs Committee approved the revised bill by a 5-1 vote, sending it to the full Senate.

Robbins predicted that by forcing local governments to hold a special hearing, residents would be alerted and given “an opportunity to raise opposition.”

Councilman’s Request

The bill was introduced at the request of Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson to protect Elsmere and Towsley canyons from “encroachment by residential uses.” Los Angeles is considering both canyons for possible landfills.

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Greig Smith, a Bernson aide, said the goal for the measure was also to prevent new dumps from eliciting the kind of community opposition that led to the closure of Mission Canyon Landfill in the Sepulveda Pass and that threatens to block the proposed expansion of the Lopez Canyon dump in the north Valley. Smith said he hoped the revised legislation would nonetheless be strong enough to prevent construction of homes around Elsmere Canyon.

But Robbins’ proposal sparked objections from the California Building Industry Assn., the County Supervisors Assn. of California and the California Assn. of Realtors.

Jack Shelby, lobbyist for the real estate association, said his group opposed the measure because it would place an unfair burden on landowners by restricting land use around dumps.

Other critics maintained that current environmental reviews provide adequate safeguards and that it is not necessary to hold separate hearings on projects near dumps. After Tuesday’s hearing, they said it was unclear whether they would continue to oppose the amended version of the bill.

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“The scope of his mischief has been dramatically reduced,” said Donald Collin, lobbyist for the Building Industry Assn.


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