L.A. Compromises With Private Dump on Permit Extensions
Faced with the possible closure of Los Angeles’ only city-owned dump, City Council members unanimously agreed Wednesday to a compromise with operators of a privately owned landfill that may help that facility stay open for several more years.
City Council members said they had little choice but to agree to an extension for the Sunshine Canyon Landfill in the San Fernando Valley--despite resistance by city zoning and planning officials.
State-imposed limits on operations at the city’s Lopez Canyon Landfill had pushed city officials into a corner last week when they learned that the dump that accepts two-thirds of the city’s trash may have to reduce operations or shut down.
Sunshine Canyon is a standby for some of those 4,000 tons of daily trash.
“The city of Los Angeles is under the gun,” Councilwoman Joy Picus said. “This does help us meet our needs and give us time to plan for the future.”
The council’s decision satisfied representatives of the private landfill’s owner, Browning-Ferris Industries, which had predicted that at least a temporary closure of its dump would follow if the city refused to extend a December deadline for several changes and improvements.
“This is something we can live with,” said attorney Christopher Funk, who represented Browning-Ferris.
The key to the compromise was a six-month extension of the deadline--from December, 1989, to June, 1990--for Browning-Ferris to move its trash disposal to a northern area of the dump, away from homes in neighboring Granada Hills, as required last year by the city zoning administrator’s office. The extension will be reviewed monthly by the city.
Funk said the extra time is needed to apply for the necessary city, regional and state permits and to prepare the northern area.
In order for the dump to remain open through the end of its 1991 permit, the company still must comply with other requirements by December, including applying for permission to keep the height of trash heaps at 1,724 feet and keeping litter and dust out of residential areas.
Several homeowners said they fear that the compromise paves the way for future Sunshine Canyon expansion onto adjacent land outside city limits that is owned by Browning-Ferris. Funk, the company’s attorney, said that if the expansion ultimately is allowed, it would provide enough space for about 35 more years of dumping.
“The feeling I get is we didn’t completely win, but we got a little bit,” said Mariko Gueringer, an opponent of the dump who lives a mile from the landfill.
But Councilman Hal Bernson, who proposed the compromise even though he ultimately wants to see the dump closed, said Wednesday’s outcome could have been much worse for landfill opponents. Originally Browning-Ferris had appealed the entire zoning administrator’s ruling, saying the company should not have to comply with any of the restrictions.
“There was a good opportunity to lose this whole thing, in light of Lopez,” Bernson said.
Opponents also complained that they were outgunned by lobbyists hired by Browning-Ferris, who have been manning phone banks to generate community support and meeting with council members for more than a year.
“We’re talking about a few hundred dollars versus quite a few thousand dollars,” said Don Mullally, a Sierra Club member and Granada Hills resident.
During the council meeting, about 50 people wore anti-Browning-Ferris buttons. Most of them were Granada Hills residents and environmentalists.
A nearly equal number of landfill supporters filled the other side of the council chambers wearing “YES Sunshine Canyon” stickers. They ranged from Browning-Ferris attorneys to the dump’s security guard and two women from South-Central Los Angeles who said they feared that limiting the landfill would increase illegal dumping in their neighborhoods.
Later, Browning-Ferris spokesman Mark Ryavec said the two women were among those contacted by Browning-Ferris representatives during the company’s lobbying effort.
Complaints by Neighbors
City action against Sunshine Canyon Landfill began in September, 1988, after Bernson asked zoning officials to investigate neighbors’ complaints, including airborne dust and litter.
In testimony before the council Wednesday, company attorney Linda Bozung suggested that zoning officials were unfairly influenced in their earlier rulings by photographs supplied by the community, supposedly showing clouds of dust from the dump.
She described the photos as out of focus and out of date. “They show what can very well be haze,” Bozung said.
But Mullally, who works as senior gardener at nearby O’Melveny Park, said that when winds blow off the Santa Susana Mountains, the park air is filled with clouds of dust and “at times windblown trash comes down almost like a snowstorm.”